British Columbia

Marijuana patients hope police won't enforce new pot laws

Medical marijuana users in B.C. are hoping police do not enforce new Health Canada regulations that only allow marijuana to be purchased from licensed producers.

New Health Canada regulations require pot growers and sellers to obtain licenses by April 1

Pot patients fear financial pain

CBC News Vancouver at 6

7 years ago
Joanne Crowther says she can't afford to pay a licensed producer 2:24

Medical marijuana users in B.C. are hoping police do not enforce new Health Canada regulations that only allow marijuana to be purchased from licensed producers.

Starting April 1, Canada's 38,000 pot patients will have to purchase their weed at market rates from approved online producers. 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 which 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 22,000 medical grow operations across the country that will become illegal in 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 most dispensaries alone. When asked, the police said they will continue to adjust resources to accommodate the new laws.