VANCOUVER — It's known as the marijuana capital of Canada, a haven for potheads, where grow-ops spring up at such a rate that police can't keep up with the multibillion-dollar industry that rivals tourism and forestry with its economic clout.
It's British Columbia, where the words "This bud's for you'' have nothing to do with beer.
Now, B.C.'s international reputation as a mecca for marijuana has been further solidified after Canadian and American law enforcement officials discovered a secret tunnel beneath the Canada-U.S. border to smuggle -- what else? -- pot.
Three B.C. men have been charged in Washington state with conspiracy to distribute and import marijuana after the tunnel -- longer than a football field and complete with ventilation and electricity -- was used to sneak across their first load of cannabis.
American officials have busted 33 cross-border tunnels between Mexico and Arizona but the one discovered last week was the first between Canada and the U.S., said Jeff Eig, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Seattle field division.
Construction of the north-south tunnel is a likely sign that increased enforcement by Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security since 9-11 is so effective that B.C. smugglers had to go underground, Eig said in an interview.
"It's something, certainly, that we're going to be looking at more aggressively,'' he said.
Marijuana activist Marc Emery, dubbed the Prince of Pot by American media, said the sophisticated tunnel will only inflate Vancouver's reputation for weed.
"It will remind Americans that we're producing pot and we're trying to get it to them in any way possible,'' he said.
"I was crushed to discover (the tunnel) had been discovered so early in its history,'' quipped Emery, who has twice made a run for mayor of Vancouver and is founder of the B.C. Marijuana party.
The pot politician, who has made millions with his marijuana seed business, also founded Cannabis Culture magazine and Internet-based Pot-TV.