01/29/2014 10:51 EST | Updated 03/31/2014 05:59 EDT

Marijuana Patients Hope Police Won't Enforce New Pot Laws

Brian Lawson rolls his marijuana cigarette at the BC Marijuana Party Headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010. Vancouver is in the marijuana-friendly corner of Canada, and it's hard to miss. Hastings Street alone has several stores that sell marijuana seeds, and the BC Marijuana Party Headquarters is a veritable weed smoker's den. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Medical marijuana users in B.C. are hoping new Health Canada regulations requiring cannabis producers and sellers to obtain licenses will not be enforced by police. 

Starting April 1, Canada's 38 thousand pot patients will have to purchase their weed from approved online retailers. So far, only five companies across the country are allowed to legally grow and sell marijuana. As a result, there is growing concern that there will be cannabis shortage under the new regime, and that the price of it will skyrocket.

Medical marijuana user Joanne Crowther says that's a risk she cannot afford.

"I could die if I don't have my medical marijuana and I don't take my oil every day," she told CBC News.

Crowther was diagnosed with large-B vascular lymphoma three years ago. When chemotherapy and hospital treatment failed, she was referred to palliative care in renal failure.

"When they sent me home to die, my liver was less than 30 per cent, which they say once it hits 30 per cent it will never heal. It's now 100 per cent." 

Six weeks after she started taking concentrated marijuana oil capsules, she went into remission. It's a recovery her oncologist calls "miraculous." 

But new Health Canada regulations mean she and other pot patients will have to pay about seven dollars per gram of prescribed marijuana. Crowther says she cannot afford what could amount to $3,100 a month.

"I'm fighting for my life. I want to live and the government wants to kill me," she says.

Crowther believes a lot of people in her position will either go to jail for growing their own unlicensed marijuana or die because they cannot afford legal weed.

"I'm going to become a criminal. I'm going to grow my own pot. I'm going to make my oil. If they want to charge me ... they basically are going to write my death sentence, because if they throw me in jail I will not be able to get the oil, my cancer will come back, and I will die," says Crowther.

Many patients and compassion club dispensaries that grow their own medical marijuana are hoping police do not have the enforcement resources to shut down the 20 thousand medical grow operations that will become illegal come April.

"Nobody wants to go to jail, but we're doing this work because it's important and if we don't do it, no one else will. So we're gonna stick around and do this as long as we can," said Jim Leslie with Nations Best Weed Society in Vancouver.

Leslie says he is confident police will be tolerant and that his dispensary will still be able to offer patients more options than the dried herb allowed under the new law — including capsules, concentrates, tinctures and even frozen raw cannabis popsicles for kids with cancer and epilepsy. 

In the past, the Vancouver Police Department has left dispensaries pretty well alone. It says it will continue to adjust resources to accommodate the new laws.

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