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If you don’t know the name John Conroy1, you must be a newbie to the Canadian cannabis community. Based in British Columbia, Conroy has been working as a lawyer for more than 40 years, spending a hefty amount of his time with clients in the cannabis scene. He also helped incorporate NORML Canada in 1977.

Most notably, he was lead counsel in the medical cannabis case, Allard v Canada that determined the previous medical cannabis regulations to be unconstitutional and led to the current Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).

He’s won numerous awards, such as the Gold medal of the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law in recognition of his contribution to the goals of the Society and the 2014 Liberty Award by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association for Excellence in Legal Advocacy.

Cannvas.Me interviewed the esteemed lawyer to learn more about why he’s advocated for cannabis reform, why he’s taken a stance to support dispensaries in Vancouver and other critical issues to the cannabis community.

Going way back, why did you decide to get into law as opposed to any other career path?

I actually got a degree in physical education from UBC but I always had an interest in law and some friends encouraged me to apply. I’ve always found law interesting and fascinating. But it’s a lot of work and requires a lot of memorization and I quite enjoyed it. Then again, maybe I got into law because I had three brothers and we always argued.

What has been the most challenging part of your job?

Being a trial lawyer is a stressful occupation and you have to be properly prepared to cross-examine witnesses. Case by case you never know what is going to happen and that can add to the stress. But I’m proud to have been part of a Canadian system that made cannabis legal.

From a legal perspective, how do you think Canada has done in rolling out recreational cannabis legalization? What wrinkles need to be ironed out?

The most important wrinkle is the impact on medical patients. They aren’t getting a consistent supply from licensed producers. Along with that, the federal government continues to have an unwarranted fear of what might happen if dispensaries and compassion clubs help patients, and there are some ridiculous restrictions on cannabis compared to regulating alcohol or tobacco.

Recently, you’ve been public with your fight to help Vancouver dispensary owners who are facing a legal battle with the City about being forced to close to make way for legal storefronts.Where does that issue stand now?

We have an appeal pending. Many of these dispensaries are clearly medical-focused, not recreational, and we’re saying federal legislation doesn’t have jurisdiction on this issue. We may progress to a federal court case seeking a declaration that compassion clubs are part of reasonable access for medically approved patients, in order to compel the feds to legislate for such dispensaries bearing in mind the license to sell cannabis for medical purposes is allowed under the Cannabis Act. 

References:
  1. http://johnconroy.com/
  2. https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/b-c-lawyer-says-medical-marijuana-users-have-right-to-buy-pot-just-like-others

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