Seven years ago, before I moved from England to Vancouver, hiking and cannabis were two things that had no place in my life. I approached them both with the same level of trepidation. I thought hiking was for super-fit people who enjoyed getting up early and cannabis was for ‘stoners’ who didn’t like getting up at all. Now as a semi-fit hiker with an interest in the therapeutic potential of CBD, I can see that I had stereotyped both things.
I grew up in the UK where my early experience of cannabis was watching my friends smoke hash sprinkled onto tobacco like salt on fries – more of a seasoning than the main dish. So when I moved to Vancouver and heard about BC Bud, 420, and everything from grassroots activism to vegan gluten-free pot brownies, it seemed like a world away from my previous experience. But I still carried the stigma around like a backpack; feeling surprised when new friends mentioned they enjoyed cannabis.
“She referred to [her cannabis] as medicine. I resisted doing air quotes when she said it.”
It was during a multi-day hike (half the West Coast Trail, ouch) that I realized I was still clinging onto those old stereotypes like they were a clifftop ladder; I suppose ten hours of hiking a day, up and down ladders and across bogs, boulders and beaches, did the trick.
When carefully packing and repacking my 40lb pack, I included ‘essentials’ that had been suggested on numerous blogs: a small bottle of rum and chocolate, while my hiking mate opted for a more lightweight solution – some of her medical cannabis.
When we ended up having to wild camp after spectacularly misjudging how long it would take us to round the coastal path, a small steep rocky patch of beach was going to be our tent pitch for the night. Exhausted after climbing across fields of boulders and ducking under giant tree logs, we realized that we only had half a litre of water each… enough to drink but not enough to rehydrate our dinner.
Mildly worried about our predicament but half-excited about putting our emergency training into practice, we strung up our food, pitched our tent, and I drank rum whilst she had her cannabis, which she referred to as medicine. I resisted doing air quotes when she said it.
The next morning, she woke up after a calm night of sleep to find me lying awake and sore, having spent the night imagining that every branch snap was a cougar coming for a visit (spoiler alert: it was an otter). Somehow I was the paranoid one.
Seeing cannabis in a new light
After this, I opened up to the possibility that there was more to this plant than I had given it credit for and perhaps it could help me dial down my anxiety a notch… or 10.
Just like my journey from non-hiker to multi-day hiker helped me clear my mind by being very present in the moment (you have to be when you’re walking across a rooty bog or scaling slippery boulders), as I learned more about cannabis and more specifically, CBD, it looked like a pathway to a clearer mind for me.
For lots of people, consuming cannabis and being outdoors is a well-loved combination, especially for anyone seeking pain-relief. With non-medical cannabis set to be legalized on October 17th, there’s more discussion than ever about where, when, and how people are going to be consuming cannabis.
Post-legalization, it’s not going to be a cannabis free-for-all on our hiking trails. The federal Cannabis Act and BC’s Cannabis Control & Licensing Act makes it illegal to smoke or vape anywhere where smoking or vaping tobacco is currently prohibited such as beaches, parks and trails etc.
Always keep safety in mind, for yourself and the community
Consumption of cannabis is not allowed in any vehicles (including boats), whether you are a passenger or driving and whether the vehicle is moving or stationary. Police have added powers to stop drivers that they believe are impaired and can test for traces of THC.
These rules are strict and are there to ensure our safety, but i wonder if they fail to take into consideration the therapeutic value of cannabis?
It’s important that safety should always be a number one priority, for yourself and other people on the trails. Common sense is key, and regardless of your intentions with cannabis consumption, it’s important to be prepared for a hiking trip – plan your route, tell someone where you are going and take a buddy (or four). Fire bans exist across the province, so common sense (and the law) dictates that lighting up anything is a no-no in high-risk areas. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and leave no trace.
My humble opinion is that a vigorous hike is not the best place to experiment if you’re new to cannabis. I lean towards a high-CBD product to experience a decrease in stress without adding impairment into the mix. And always use the start low, go slow method, wait and be patient. It can take 30 minutes to two hours for ingested cannabis to take effect, and it’s a lot faster when smoking or vaping.
Perhaps it’s time to drop any stereotypes that you might be carrying around. Start the journey with education and a sense of wonder at the power of nature and see where the path will take you.
*If you’re cannabis curious and don’t know where to begin, download a copy of our free e-book – The Flower & Freedom Guide to Cannabis for Fitness.
By Amy Watkins