Anyone who’s hiked Elk Mountain in Chilliwack knows it’s a long, winding ascent through lush forest culminating in a beautiful view of Cultus and the Fraser Valley in all directions.
And what those who’ve hiked elk also know is that there are some very steep, rocky and, depending on the time of year, marginally treacherous spots where even the nimble-footed need to be careful.
So an Ontario cannabis company’s suggestion that once at the top you should smoke a big fat joint before hiking down is “irresponsible at best,” according to the head of Chilliwack Search and Rescue (CSAR).
|Hikers ascend Elk Mountain in Chilliwack in November. Cultus Lake can be seen in the distance. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress file)|
“This is akin to a company advertising/promoting alcohol by utilizing images of people cheerfully engaged in outdoor activities,” according CSAR president and search manager Doug Fraser. “An individual’s safety in the outdoors is compromised if he/she is under the influence of marijuana, alcohol, or any other substance that impairs co-ordination, judgment, etc.”
Fraser was responding to a question about a publicity campaign The Progress received via email from a Toronto PR firm, promoting Peak Leaf Cannabis, the newest product of a large Ontario cannabis growing company.
The campaign pairs three B.C. hikes with three strains of Peak Leaf marijuana.
For Pender Hill on the Sunshine Coast, they suggest “Forest Rain”, ” mix of woody aromas and a trace of sweet herbs.” For Quarry Rock in North Vancouver, try sweet “Mountain Kush.”
For Elk Mountain, they suggest “Alpine Breeze.”
“Begin your hike with a steady incline through lush forest, culminating in a view of Chilliwack, Cultus Lake and the surrounding Fraser Valley,” said the email from downtown Toronto’s Veritas Communications. “Indulge in the tropical fruit aromas of Peak Leaf’s Alpine Breeze for a sweet break before you begin your descent.”
Asked if the campaign was well thought through, given the obviously problematic combination of intoxication and mountainous terrain, along with the danger of forest fires and the practical consideration that smoking is not permitted in City of Chilliwack parks, the PR firm responded.
”We are firmly committed to increasing consumer awareness about responsible cannabis use,” a company spokesperson said via email. “That means always consuming products safely, with full consideration for activities people may be engaged in and ensuring proper disposal after smoking.”
The outdoor hiking motif seems to be the core branding strategy for Peak Leaf Cannabis, which is just one brand of many owned by parent company CannTrust Holdings Inc., which is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. They say they produce 50,000 kilograms of cannabis a year in a 450,000-square-foot facility in the Niagara region, and cultivate and process in a 50,000-square-foot distribution centre in Vaughan. Peak Leaf is only available in B.C. and only through the provincially run B.C. Cannabis Stores.
“At Peak Leaf Cannabis, a brand exclusive to British Columbia, we believe reconnecting with the natural world is essential for reconnecting with yourself.”
But for Fraser who, along with his team, frequently deals with rescuing people who have made mistakes, and sometimes put themselves in difficult circumstances for lots of reasons, promoting smoking marijuana and hiking is just unsafe.
“There are plenty of examples of responsible businesses/corporations, but often I see companies choosing promotion of their product with little regard to public safety,” he said. “This lack of corporate responsibility is a concern. Sometimes this lack of awareness is simply innocent ignorance. Education is paramount. I’ve personally contacted a couple of local companies to suggest more responsible messaging.”