In an article posted earlier today by the South China Morning Post, Vancouver correspondent Ian Young reported that something other than veggies was growing in the community garden at Vancouver City Hall.
As of Monday morning (April 24), the plants stood roughly 20 centimetres high. They were found in grey planters near the centre of the garden. (See the photographs in Young's original story here.)
Young contacted UBC botany professor Jonathan Page to confirm that the plants were indeed cannabis, though it's uncertain whether they were hemp—the version of the plant often used in textiles and a host of other applications—or the flower-bearing version of the plant known as marijuana, which contains higher levels of THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the high one feels after consumption.
Despite the perceived grey area around laws in Vancouver, growing cannabis outside of Canada's federally licensed program is still illegal and considered so by the Vancouver Police Department.
City staff were notified of the plants. When the Straight visited the garden this afternoon, no cannabis could be seen in the grey planters indicated in Young’s photographs.
Though no one is sure where the plants came from, the Straight called cannabis activist Dana Larsen, whose OverGrow Canada campaign has seen approximately five million cannabis seeds mailed across the country and given away at 4/20 rallies to those interested in participating.
The campaign calls on "all freedom-loving Canadians to grow a cannabis victory garden" and, in instructions posted on OverGrow Canada's website, Larsen suggests that these seeds be planted "at City Hall, in front of the local police station, in storefront planters, and other highly visible places."
"I hope [the plants] are from our campaign, but I know we're not the only ones with the same idea," Larsen told the Straight by phone this afternoon. "Regardless, if they're my seeds or someone else's, I hope that it keeps happening."
He added that it's unfortunate to see the effort spent to remove them so quickly, but said he was glad to hear that the plants got some attention.
For Larsen, the initiative to see cannabis grown in outdoor gardens and public spaces is all part of his goal to normalize the plant.
"I want to live in a country where you see cannabis growing in somebody's front yard, and it's not a big deal," he said.
Larsen acknowledged concerns from parents and politicians about plants growing in areas where children play, but debunked the idea that cannabis plants can be harmful.
"People always worry about playgrounds and schools, but the truth is cannabis is fine for a playground—there's no harm from it growing as a plant, and there are far more toxic, dangerous plants at elementary schools around the country than anything cannabis ever could be," Larsen said. "I don't see any harm in cannabis plants growing in places where any other plants can grow."
This year's OverGrow Canada campaign has come to a close, but Larsen said anyone interested in receiving seeds as part of the 2018 campaign can pre-register now.