Every now and then in this industry I have been caught off guard with pleasant surprises and this was one of those times. I was at a small cannabis conference and bumped into a lawyer, somehow we got into this conversation about the Omar Khadr $10 million dollar payout situation, and eventually we discussed other cannabis related topics. Turns out this lawyer had some interesting insights and was a former combat officer, former prosecutor and a big advocate for victim’s rights.
Today, we are here with Philip Millar! Philip you have definitely had an interesting career, why did you decide to get into law and specifically the cannabis industry space?
I call myself a lawyer ‘by accident’ which resulted in a unique style to my provision of legal services, perhaps even unorthodox some might say. I lost my eyesight in one eye while serving in the Army and they thankfully sponsored me to go to law school. By the time I was finishing law school, the Army in its wisdom decided it should medically release me, I was disappointed as I still wanted to serve but in the end gladly took a job as an Assistant Crown Attorney feeling this could be an extension of serving the community. Originally this was a satisfying job, but in short order it became clear to me that the system is very punitive to those who have no assets or power and I found myself convicting people who maybe wouldn’t have been convicted if they had a good lawyer and what really started offending me was this need of people in the system to send people to jail who were suffering from addictions and mental health issues. I couldn’t put my heart and soul into it any longer and decided to go out on my own after a brief stint in a big firm. The big law firm environment was simply something so antithetical to my previous life surrounded by Special Forces soldiers that I could not stay. Law environments can be very dysfunctional and I could not tolerate the fake-ness and posturing so started my own firm. I enjoyed the thrill of starting a business and becoming a fighter for the underdog!
How did you become an advocate for patient’s rights for cannabis?
Mostly, through my work advocating for Veterans in the early years. Veterans were coming back from overseas missions with serious PTSD and were being mistreated in my view by a medical system that focused on harmful prescription drugs that ended up hurting the vets and led to suicides and avoidable interactions with the police. Once we started getting vets access to the right strains of Medical Marijuana we saw an end to suicides and a big improvement on their lives. From then on I became passionate about helping those who have served us get the medicine they deserved and needed. This passion quickly extended to others in the community, first responders, injured workers and the sick. In my law firm, we became the pioneers fighting for and securing funding for Car Accident victims getting full coverage from insurance companies and this has become a high-growth area and a success I am very proud of because from this penetration into insurance coverage we have expanded coverage sources to WSIB cases and some benefit packages. This venture spun off into the company that brought us together, Medical Marijuana Consulting. MMC is now at the forefront of fighting for and getting coverage and access to medical cannabis.
As you have stated in our previous conversations, there is a lot of things wrong with the legalization of cannabis, what do you think would be the quickest problem to solve and what would you propose as a solution?
Firstly, one of the biggest problem popping up daily is employee issues where dinosaurs who don’t understand cannabis are firing people legitimately using it medically. There’s not a day that goes by now where I am not writing a letter to a company threatening them with legal action for discriminating against their employee for use of cannabis. Sometimes this employee has transitioned off of 6 Percocet’s a day and use CBD oil and some hammerhead boss wants to fire them, I love writing those letters and usually follow up with a phone call to the president to inform them of how misguided their policy is! Secondly, how do we distribute Medical Marijuana safely and legally? Right, the dispensary advocates are fighting for survival and the maintenance of a very lucrative cash market. My main concern lies in the medical implications as those who need medicine go to a dispensary and get a product that isn’t what it proposes to be or is contaminated. Every restaurant you go into has a safety inspection notice, people with MS are chasing edible that has no oversite as to the conditions they are manufactured in, I see people dispensing every day with no gloves in unhygienic conditions and it concerns me.
What do you think of the current Liberal’s plan to dispense cannabis via the LCBO?
I think OPSEU did a good job lobbying to secure these jobs by first coming out in support and getting involved in the process. Whether or not I think a CCBO will be effective is another question, to me it seems as though we know cannabis needs to be legalized but the decision makers are scared so will overregulate it in an abundance of caution. This will lead to inefficiency of delivery and won't deal with the black market in the dispensaries.
Do you see any complications to the recreational legalization that will happen in July 2018?
I see a very heavy crackdown coming on dispensaries purchasing illegal cannabis from people with prescriptions under the ACMPR, there is widespread fraud going on and there are too many of your readers who think they are out of harm’s way. My sources say the heat is coming down hard on these guys, and in many ways I think it is appropriate, they are making hundreds of thousands of dollars under the table and there is no oversight. To me the number concern is to assure the public that we can do this safely, that might result in some delays, but we should keep a perspective, we are one of the first countries in the world to make this move!
Thanks Philip for your time! And congratulations on being nominated for the 2017 Cannabis Crusader Award! For those of you who don’t know, Philip was nominated for his work advocating for First Nations coverage and for securing sources of funding thru insurance companies, as well as fighting employers who discriminate against employees who use Medical Marijuana.