Over the last five years of publishing High! Canada Magazine, we have met so many wonderful and inspiring people within the Canadian cannabis community and industry as a whole. These are people who stepped up in a big way to challenge stigma and fight for the rights of the plant and the people. Through their actions and through their unwavering support of cannabis, they have shaped the current state of cannabis in Canada today.
In our opinion the following people should be celebrated and honored for helping to really move perception of cannabis in Canada forward in so many different ways. From Master Growers to cannabis lawyers and so many different types of people in between - the Canadian cannabis industry has seen the rise of some of this proud Canadian generation’s thought leaders and world changers.
Here are some of our favorite Canadian Cannabis Heroes, Advocates, Visionaries
and of course Rebels. To check out the rest of our list please download your FREE copy of High! Canada Magazine here
Mr. John Conroy is a Barrister and Solicitor who graduated from the University of British Columbia Law School in 1971 and was called to the Bar of British Columbia in 1972. He has his own law firm, Conroy & Company, based in Abbotsford, British Columbia and his practice is primarily as Defence counsel in criminal matters with an additional focus on sentencing and post-sentencing matters which involves an extensive administrative law and constitutional law practice.
From 1975 - 1980 he was the Director of Abbotsford Community Legal Services. From 1980 - 1990 he was the Director of British Columbia Prison Legal Services. He was the Chairman of the Committee on Corrections & Institutions of the Canadian Bar Association (B.C. branch) from 1978-1979. He was a Member and then Chair, CBA National Task Force on Imprisonment and Release from 1985 – 1988. He was the Chairman of the Committee on Imprisonment and Release of the National Criminal Justice Section of the Canadian Bar Association from 1988 to 2001. He is a Member of the Board of the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law.
In 1992 Mr. Conroy was awarded the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation for significant contributions to Canada, community and fellow Canadians. In January 1996 Mr. Conroy was appointed Queen's Counsel. In August 2005 he was awarded the Gold medal of the International Society for the Reform of the Criminal Law in recognition of his contribution to the goals of the Society. In 2012 he received the Queens Diamond Jubilee medal. He was awarded the 2014 Liberty Award by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association for Excellence in Legal Advocacy. In 2015 he received from the Office of the Correctional Investigator for Canada, the Ed McIsaac Human Rights in Corrections Award.
Notable cases have included the Steinhauser Hostage taking at the BC Pen (1977), the Squamish 5, (1983) and numerous high-profile Cannabis community persons and cases.
On the Cannabis issue, Mr. Conroy has been involved in numerous cannabis cases since 1972 and incorporated, the National Organization for the Reform of the Marihuana Laws in Canada (NORMLCANADA) in 1977, the BC Compassion Club Society in 1997 and was counsel to numerous well-known members in the cannabis community. He appeared for Randy Caine at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada, in R v. David Malmo–Levine; R v. Caine www.canlii.org/ca/cas/scc/2003/2003scc74.html challenging Cannabis prohibition generally and as co-counsel with Kirk Tousaw in R v. Smith 2015 SCC 34.
www.canlii.org/en/ca/scc/doc/2015/2015scc34/2015scc34.html that found the restriction to dried marihuana by medical patients was unreasonable and held such patients can possess Cannabis in any of its forms.
He was lead counsel in the recent medical marihuana case, Allard v Canada that determined the previous medical marihuana regulations to be unconstitutional as limiting ‘reasonable access’ by medically approved patients to their medicine and led to the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) that now form Part 14 of the Cannabis Act Regulations. He also appeared as counsel in the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) PHS Community Services Society et al and VANDU v. AG Canada and Minister of Health,2011 SCC 44 www.scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/7960/index.doc that kept open the Vancouver supervised injection site.
He has appeared on the Cannabis issue as well as Prison issues and other criminal law matters before numerous and various Canada Parliamentary and Senate Committees.
Jamie Shaw is 'the' Canadian Cannabis superhero. She is the Director of Communications and Culture at Shelter. She is also a Director of the BC Independent Cannabis Association and a founding partner of Groundwork Consulting.
She is currently spearheading a parliamentary petition asking the government to exempt medical cannabis dispensaries from provincial retail rules, and to immediately review the state of medical cannabis access. She has previously served as Chief Communications and Culture Officer for Pasha Brands, Government Relations for Indigenous Bloom, and Government Relations Director for MMJ Canada. She is also former director of the BC Compassion Club Society (BCCCS), and served three terms on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD), two and a half of those as President. Her successful lobbying in Vancouver on behalf of those organizations led the city to implement licensing for dispensaries under prohibition, and the creation of a second class of license that ended up being based heavily on the BCCCS, and requiring membership in CAMCD. She lobbied successfully for and consulted on dispensary regulations in other BC cities as well. Her testimony in the Allard trial was deemed “very important” by the judge in the final ruling. She lobbied for the existence of micro-cultivation licenses and private retail in Ontario. She was co-founder of the first Canadian chapter of Women Grow, and serves on the Board or as Advisor to various cannabis organizations, such as NICHE Canada, and Growtech Labs. She is a co-author of the Lift Cannabis Retail Training Course, the first of its kind in Canada, and her writing can often be found on various cannabis sites.
Don Briere is the owner of Weeds Glass and Gifts and has a long history on B.C.'s cannabis front pre-legalization and has been busy transitioning into his post legalization incarnation. A staple in the press as a very vocal spokesperson for both patients and community access - Don is a force to be reckoned with and considered by many to be the loving Uncle of cannabis in Canada.
Favourite quote “We are standing up and speaking out because we want to see action from this. We want to know why they are continuously trying to oppress us when there are more significant matters at hand. We work within the community and you can see the people who have the courage to stand up for this, they are truly there for democracy.”
Chuck Varabioff is a cannabis visionary with an ear to what people are really looking for. Once on the front lines in Vancouver, loudly fighting for the right of the patient, the plant and the independent cannabis retailer by providing reasonable access to medicinal cannabis to clients visiting his BC Pain Society location. Over the last five years, Chuck has grown out his Cannafest Classic Rock festival in Grand Forks, BC into a world class music festival - exploding in 2020 as the all new Titans of Rock Festival. Chuck is one of those lucky few who have been able to successfully transition into the legal market and now owns Grand Forks Cannabis which is the first fully legal cannabis store that Grand Forks has had.
Favorite Quote “I don’t feel like I was doing anything illegal, but I know, in the eyes of the law, what I was doing wasn’t lawful, according to the Criminal Code,” Varabioff said, about running the store in East Vancouver.
Georges E. Routhier brings an extensive and distinguished career background to his current role as Chief Executive Officer for PipeDreemz Inc.
Georges has 30 years of experience in leading companies through start-up, turnaround and growth modes. A “make it happen” expert who gets the job done, Georges has earned numerous accolades and awards for his accomplishments from companies and governments such as Hewlett Packard, Unisys Corp., Alcan, DuPont, the Canadian Armed Forces and the Government of Canada. Georges has held senior management positions in a variety of engineering firms and high-tech companies, including Digital Equipment, Unisys Corporation, E Matters LLC and Pioneer-Standard Inc.
Georges’ discovery of the benefits of medical marijuana was precipitated by an illness in his family. His resulting passion for growing world-class medical cannabis has empowered him to help many patients from the previous Marihuana Medical Access Regulation (MMAR) program. His experience as an MMAR-licensed patient and licensed designated grower has shaped and driven his ambition create the leading marijuana consulting company in Canada.
Georges’ entrepreneurial spirit and expert knowledge of medical marijuana led to his founding of PipeDreemz Inc. in 2012, in response to Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), now called “Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations”. Considered the premier consultant in licensing regulations and constructing facilities, PipeDreemz Inc. has helped over 100+ applicants navigate the complexities of the licensing process. PipeDreemz Inc. and currently has in excess of 190 million dollars under construction in six provinces. Georges continues to demonstrate and implement his expertise in the production of safe, quality products for medical marijuana patients. For more information visit www.pipedreemz.org
Dr. Av Singh, PhD, Pag
One of the brilliant minds working in Cannabis today. Dr. Av Singh is one of Canada’s leading authorities on organic agriculture. After completing his post-doc at the University of Minnesota on pasture-based livestock production, Singh worked at the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada and served as the Organic and Small-Scale Farming Specialist in Nova Scotia, for over 15 years, and recently held the Just Us! Chair in Small Farm Sustainability.
Dr. Singh has authored over 200 peer-reviewed papers, chapters, and extension articles and has been an invited speaker to over 500 workshops, conferences, symposia as well as guest-lecturing at over 30 universities in Canada, the US, the UK, and India. Av has had the privilege of visiting over 2000 farms across five continents which has shaped his extension of holistic, system-based design solutions. Emphasizing a union of traditional knowledge with science, Av works with growers to cultivate an appreciation of plant:soil interrelationships.
Currently, Av also serves as the Chief Agricultural Scientist with Green Gorilla (a Hemp and Cannabidiol Company) and formerly served as the Chief Agronomist with the American Cannabis Company.
Av is also serving as the Vice-President of the Canadian Organic Growers and is proud to be a member of Slow Food Canada, Food Secure Canada, Cannabis Certification Council, and the National Farmers’ Union. Av is also a faculty member at Earth University (Navdanya) in India where he delivers courses on agroecology and organic farming.
An amazing business woman with a compassionate eye on the future. She started in the Cannabis industry 5 years ago in Medical Cannabis as a Clinic Operations Manager.
“I was so excited to be part of this new history. Growing up smoking pot was never accepted by people. I had consumed “weed” and hash in high school but was this an opportunity to legally consume cannabis as a medication that would finally be accepted? I was happy to be a part of that.
Always hiding and feeling ashamed this may be accepted somehow in society. At that moment I was so proud to be Canadian. Legalization!
The 2nd Country in the world. This was a new frontier. Working in the clinics the nurses were spending a lot of time on education because everyone suddenly wanted to know about Cannabis as an alternative medicine. Working in the medical clinics allowed me an opportunity to advocate for patients and address the opioid crisis.
I was asked to be a subject matter expert for Durham College to help create an education platform for Cannabis. The program was developed Cannabis 101. Working on that project and developing and teaching the program was a remarkable experience. I was featured on CBC news and that was amazing to know that 6 million viewers saw that education was available that was a step in the right direction. Opportunities are unlike ever before.
I started switching my focus to Hemp CBD. Knowing that this industry so fast evolving but hemp just seemed less restrictive. I developed my company Halo Hemp Co. in 2016 Full Spectrum hemp derived products. I planned to put my products in every health store across Canada but with Legalization I became part of the Legacy market. I began to see all different aspects of improvement in people’s lives with Cannabis and Hemp. Just for the environmental benefits alone medicinal so much still unknown.
An opportunity to grow 50 acres of hemp 2 years ago in Stratford became available and I was turning 50 and I thought why not. I want to enter into the legal licensed market. I learned a lot from that experience. I learned I want to be a total seed to sale company I wanted to be accountable for products I put to market. Traveling and attending conferences meeting people seeing the progression of this industry has been amazing. I was so honored to be part of Pride this year the first hemp company in Pride that was an amazing day! Our team sponsored the MCC church float and launched our #bekind campaign!
I truly attribute success to all the supportive teams I have been a part of and the team I have now. Having an opportunity to be part of a OCS opening team was another amazing opportunity this year.
This season - 3 farms of small acres better genetics and a plan to scale up for 2020. Processing licensed products to market. Travelling to Europe and throughout the Caribbean to see what is going on globally has been true experience knowing that Canada is ahead of other countries is a positive of sign of great year to come.”
Mike Mihelic: Playing sports on a professional level can have profound effects and no one knows that better than Mike.
After a career in the CFL, he turned over a new leaf as the CEO of Cannascribe Medical Marijuana Prescription Services. This venture was put together to help patients find physicians who could connect them with the medical marijuana they needed to alleviate a variety of symptoms
The path that brought him to becoming a patient advocate started with his own personal experiences with cannabis.
He played in the CFL for a decade with teams like the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger Cats. Approaching his last season in Hamilton, he was traded to Toronto where he went on to win the Grey cup with the Argonauts. Right from the beginning, he was driven to reach new heights in his chosen sport. That meant he had a large and comprehensive training schedule that included both on the field and off the field sessions.
He wanted to play professional football well before he attended college. Mike made it to the heights of professional football. He played in the Canadian football league for a decade for notable teams like the Hamilton Tiger Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He still points to the year he was traded to the Toronto Argonauts when they won the Grey Cup Championship as one of the most memorable high points in his football career.
Around 2007, Mike decided that it was time to leave that part of his life behind and he retired from football. Since then, he’s become interested in all the different uses for medical marijuana. Mike has researched how this substance can help certain kinds of people with a variety of different ailments ranging from arthritis to certain kinds of epilepsy.
One of the other missions he has through his company Cannascribe is educating various groups about this alternative to traditional prescribed medicines. His words have reached people in the general public, the health sector as well as governments and lawmakers.
He’s gone on record saying how exciting it is to be part of developing this product which can help people.
Abi Roach is the CEO of Hotbox Holdings Inc & Executive chair NORML Canada and excels at creating a path where no path exists...
Founder of Hotbox, Abi has been innovating the cannabis lifestyle & tourism industry for 20 years, with decades of retail operations. She has dedicated her life to the freedom of cannabis consumers and the normalization and now legalization of cannabis. Her experience includes creating and managing product and brand category selection and marketing, retail strategies and merchandising, team management, public relations, all within the Cannabis CPG realm. Abi has built a successful legacy brand in often ever changing and challenging landscapes as well as created innovating marketing concepts and product selling channels.
She pioneered advocacy work, leading to the shaping of cannabis business, into an evolved legal industry. Abi is also an advisory member to CAMH cannabis policy committee, cannabis tourism association. Dedicating her life to the freedom of cannabis consumers and the normalization (and now legalization) of cannabis. Abi is the newly appointed Executive Chair of NORML Canada and founding director of OCCRA & CFBA.
Randy Flemming is well-known and well-respected within the cannabis subculture of North America. Prior to serving as the first master grower at Organigram, Randy had been a recreational researcher of cannabis working towards a better understanding of the plant at all stages of its life cycle. Affectionately known as “The Pot Whisperer”, Randy contends that “humility” is the most important ingredient in cannabis cultivation acknowledging that the plant in a living soil knows what to do.
Randy served as the Director of Cultivation with the American Cannabis Company, where he continued to share innovative techniques helping producers to dramatically increase yields at lower costs while enhancing the cannabinoid and terpene profile.
Randy brings nearly 30 years of experience to his clients – covering all aspects of cannabis from breeding to propagation, cropping to curing, extraction to responsible consumption.
Knowledgeable in organic production methodology, Randy is comfortable using biological control for pests, but relies most heavily on a proactive management approach ensuring cleanliness, adequate fertility, temperature, and humidity as best practices to avoid disease and insects. Randy brings a commitment to growing the healthiest plant possible to both optimize the medicinal properties as well as recognizing that the end-consumer is wanting something that is life-giving.
Jenn Larry is Founder and President of CBD Strategy Group Inc., a commercial marketing, brand development, and business strategy firm helping cannabis brands thrive inside the box of regulation.
Ms. Larry is well known for her ability to forecast trends, and leverage business intelligence to lead change across organizations.
With a full time focus on Cannabis, Ms. Larry spends her time working with a variety of businesses across the Cannabis and hemp landscape. Jenn helps commercial, and not for profit companies navigate compliance and regulations helping to drive brand-to-market strategies and route-to-market plans. Jenn has spoken at over two dozen cannabis and hemp conferences, as well as hosting her own events across Canada.
Additionally, Jenn continues to work with media across North America and Europe to help educate the market on the legal requirements to operate successfully in the new world of Cannabis.
Currently Ms. Larry is an advisor at the National Institute of Cannabis Investors, as well as a mentor at Growtech Labs.
Deepak Anand is one of the most respected men in the entire Canadian cannabis industry. He is a recognized thought leader in the Canadian cannabis space and brings 15 years of leadership experience in the health, charitable/non-profit, and private sectors in Canada.
Mr. Anand is the Executive Director of the Canadian National Medical Marijuana Association (CNMMA). The CNMMA represents the nascent Medical Marijuana industry in Canada. Their members comprise of Applicant and Licensed Producers, Physicians, Patients as well as Businesses providing services to the industry in Canada. Their mission is to ensure that all Canadian patients who benefit from medical marijuana have access to the highest quality of product and services, to meet their specific health care needs in a safe, well- regulated environment. They seek to advocate for the sector, guide patients and educate Canadians about medical marijuana, be a resource for medical practioners, share best practices as well as be a resource for Health Canada.
Mr. Anand is also an Adjunct Professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) and has developed curriculum for Canada’s only University level course in the Cannabis industry specific to ACMPR regulations. Mr. Anand currently teaches their Introduction to Professional Management of Medical Marijuana Facilities in Canada course series.
Mr. Anand completed his Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from University of Vancouver Island in 2003 and have since been involved as a Quality Assurance person under pharmaceutical GMP as defined by Health Canada as for several pharmaceutical wholesale companies in the Vancouver area. In addition, he has served on the board of different Pharmaceutical Associations in Canada and the US through his work with mail order based distance delivery of medications in the 2 countries.
Mr. Anand brings this unique experience and knowledge with him to his current role as Executive Director of the CNMMA which has been extremely beneficial in their conversations & advocacy work on behalf of the sector with all the different stakeholders who are both public and private entities across the country.
Gerald Major is a Medical Cannabis patient, a volunteer patient advocate and an Arthritis Warrior. Gerald was diagnosed at 23 with Ankylosing Spondylitis and Psoriatic Arthritis both inflammatory Arthritis that cause painful fusion in the back and peripheral joints. Gerald was very active when growing up so Arthritis was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. “Arthritis affects all ages but somehow remains the invisible illness.” Gerald has had 10 surgeries in the last 9 years to repair or replace damaged joints. He struggles with many comorbidities related to Spondyloarthritis. “No one should have to go through the struggles of chronic illness alone, I’ve been there.”
Gerald is the President of Canadian’s for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, President of the Canadian Spondylitis Association, Medicinal My Way Ambassador and board member, board member and consumer group chair of the Arthritis Alliance of Canada, Best Medicine Coalition board member and member of Ontario Best Practice Research Initiative patient advisory committee. Gerald is frequently invited to share his story of Spondyloarthritis, Mental Health, Medical Cannabis and overall health by the health care community. Gerald has eliminated sleeping pills and significantly reduced his opioid prescriptions by way of Medical Cannabis. “I worry about those people who can’t afford to make a safer choice and I worry about our current opioid crisis and the people dying daily.” “I will not stop advocating until we have Universal Pharmacare inclusive of Medical Cannabis and no Canadian is ever left behind.”
Gerald’s Arthritis took him out of work 8 years ago where he was Senior Vice President of Operations for Citibank Hedge Fund Services North America. Gerald has a very supportive wife Anna and daughter Tessa.