Rolling through the South Okanagan on a cannabis tour

Published on October 14, 2022 by Mark Brett

Photo: Mark Brett/the oz.
Passengers celebrate the Southern Okanagan Valley cannabis tour, put on by the oz.

Chartered cannabis cruising is a growing industry that’s blossoming in the Okanagan.

And it’s proving to be a big hit as passengers on a recent joint journey with Okanagan Cannabis Tours (OCT) and the oz. magazine will no doubt testify.

On this particularly sunny Saturday morning, a full compliment of guests got loaded onto the OCT bus in Kelowna for a day-long  tour of the South Okanagan.

Visits included several retail cannabis shops along the way in Kelowna and Penticton, a grow-op on Osoyoos Indian Band land and a sensory experience like no other just outside Kaleden.

There was even a special break for refreshments and more munchies at the District Wine Village near Oliver.

Photo: Mark Brett/the oz.
Dawn Chojnacki is all smiles after luncch at the District Wine Village.

First stop was Kelowna’s Prime Cannabis location and learning a bit about the history of the leaf in the Okanagan from a man who used to grow large outdoor plots in the hills of Okanagan Valley and Kootenays prior to legalization.

Like several of the other visits to retail locations there were special swag bags that included everything from hats and T-shirts to essentials like rolling papers and lighters.

There was even a bag of popcorn for the trip to Penticton, crunching and the occasional bursts of laughter being the predominant sounds for the next 60 kilometres.

Next stop was Cannabis Cottage in Penticton where tour guide and OCT founder Anne Marie Locas, along with Mariana Wolff of Cannabis Cottage, gave the low down on terpenes in cannabis.

That included a chance to taste and smell in non-THC infused specimens, although a couple of passengers did have some infused products of their own to sample.

Photo: Mark Brett/the oz.
Publisher of the oz. David Wylie (centre) tries a non-infused sample gummy from Wyld at the Cannabis Cottage in Penticton.

Back on the bus, Stan Chojnacki of Victoria confided in this reporter, saying in a lowered voice, “I’d recommend this to anyone for an education, but I’m just glad they gave us these pamphlets, I won’t be able to remember all this shit.”

He went on to explain the benefits of pot for the rest of the world if everyone just smoked a joint, which from his perspective at the time made perfect sense.

It was his wife Dawn who actually found this particular tour on the Internet.

“Normally when you come to the Okanagan you think of wine tours but this is like a new pioneering thing and we thought we’d check it out,” says Stan. “I’m personally a weed smoker and enjoy it in all its facets and I’m having a great time.”

While some compare the tours to that of the popular wine-tasting excursions, according the tour guide that’s not the case.

“Actually we’re really trying to do something different,” says Locas. “The wine tours pick you up and take you to the wineries and let the wineries do the work, but we have the educational component and we do something different at each location.”

She adds with a laugh: “And it’s a lot different; at the end of the wine tour, you have a lot of drunk people, but at the end of these tours, we just have a lot sleepy people.”

Photo: Mark Brett/the oz.
Anne Marie Locas works the Volcano.

Her passengers range from young (legal age) people to older folks, families and even non-users.

Graham Kushniruk, 52, of Kamloops and his son Jack, 27 of London, England, decided to make the trip a family outing.

“We certainly wouldn’t do something like this where we come from and we’ve learned some stuff as well,” says Graham. “I’ve had a few aches and pains and a girl at the store helped me and I think I’m converted.”

After lunch it was hop, skip and a jump next door to the Pineapple Buds and a tour of their water-based grow room with everyone fittingly dressed in all facets of PPEs, including hair and beard nets.

Photo: Mark Brett/the oz.
CEO Laine Keyes of Pineapple Buds explains the growing process to visitors.

“This is actually the first tour we’ve ever done and our biggest concern is someone might bring in a pest which would be disastrous,” says Pineapple CEO Laine Keyes. “We are going to set up a smaller room with windows where people can see what’s happening.

“It’s important because it’s the consumers that matter, they’re the ones you need to enjoy your product and you need to show them first-hand the process.”

With the afternoon waning it was back on the bus for the half-hour drive to the country setting of Green Mountain Health Alliance and Legit Exotics.

After signing off, each of the guests were invited to take part in a sensory evaluation program on how the pot they were given (21% THC) and another one that could only be described as WOW, affect each of their senses, before and after use.

Photo: Mark Brett/the oz.
Andras Geber samples some of Legit Exotic’s prime product.

Passenger Andras Geber stared out over the valley from the porch after his second joint and contemplated and contemplated and… well you get the picture, before writing down his own experience on the form.

“Even for a seasoned consumer like me this is quite a unique thing,” he says amidst a cloud of smoke. “It’s a great time, very educational – some of the things we already knew but it was presented in a great way.”

Although this particular region is not known for its volcanic activities, this particular day the tour operator did have a Volcano vaporizer of her own, which erupted regularly during the stay.

While the Green Mountain already has research and development government permission to grow and conduct the sensory portion of the project, master grower Jeff Thorne has higher goals.

“Moving forward we hope to have more of an agri-tourism scene where we can have a festival where people can celebrate legalization in this amazing setting with our organic cannabis,” says Thorne. “We just want to make it normal that people stop in here and get some premium cannabis on their way to their Airbnb in Penticton or that Osoyoos holiday.”

All too soon? It’s time to get back on the bus and the ride home courtesy designated driver Byron Stroud.

Exiting the bus back in Kelowna tour organizers got high fives from the riders as they left with noses turned towards the nearest burger joint.