Washington Lawyer - April/May 2018 - 25
Maryland, which both permit medical marijuana
sale and use. The Virginia House of Delegates
recently approved legislation that would expand
the medical use of cannabis oil in the state. At
present, Virginians can only possess cannabis oil to
treat severe epilepsy.
"What I find so fascinating about
this area of the law is that you have
massive social change coinciding
with an opportunity for commerce."
Vicente Sederberg LLC
"What I find so fascinating about this area of the law
is that you have massive social change coinciding
with an opportunity for commerce," says Brian
Vicente, a leading cannabis expert and partner in
the Denver office of Vicente Sederberg LLC. "Some
law firms are hesitant to get into this field, but for
lawyers who are comfortable with the subject
matter, there is work to be done."
WITH A TWIST'
Cannabis lawyers say their clients include not just
dispensaries and cultivation centers, but also transportation companies, investors, laboratories, and
businesses that make products related to the
cannabis industry such as lotions, brownies,
grow lights, and fertilizer.
The Arcview Group projects that the legal market
for cannabis in the United States will continue to
thrive, reaching $24.5 billion by 2021.
As Klein puts it, "for the typical cannabis lawyer,
it's business law with a twist."
Brian Vicente, courtesy of VS Strategies; Shabnam Malek, courtesy
of Brand & Branch LLP
"If a client makes a cannabis-infused hard candy
and wants to grow their brand out of state, we help
them do so by negotiating licensing agreements,"
says Malek, president of the National Cannabis Bar
Association. "This allows a client to expand their
brand without transporting across state lines."
Despite the increasing number of states legalizing
cannabis, the federal government retains the ability
to prosecute individuals involved in growing and
Lawyers who practice cannabis law say their work
can run the gamut from litigation regarding land
use matters to drafting agreements between
vendors and producers. Vicente says lawyers at his
firm also help write cannabis-related business laws
and work on reform efforts throughout the country
and even abroad.
The legal cannabis market in the United States is
estimated to have grown by 33 percent since 2016,
reaching almost $10 billion in retail sales in 2017,
according to a study by Arcview Market Research,
in partnership with BDS Analytics.
Locally, Klein says, the cannabis market is starting
to bring business into the District of Columbia and
At Brand & Branch LLP, Malek and partner Amanda
Conley focus on how companies in the cannabis
industry can develop and protect their intellectual
property portfolios, grow their brand, and ensure
their products reach a variety of markets. The tricky
part, Malek says, is finding a legal way to grow a
brand into other states, given that cannabis can't
legally be transported out of state.
At present, the District allows adults to possess
two ounces or less of cannabis for recreational
use. But some local politicians, along with the D.C.
Department of Health, have argued for legalizing
the sale of recreational cannabis. Congress,
however, has thus far prevented the District from
beginning a recreational use program.
"If Congress would loosen its grip on us and
allow us to implement an adult-use program,
then presumably it would thrive here. It would
be a multi-million-dollar industry," Klein says.
"When medical marijuana takes hold in a state,
it creates jobs and investment opportunities," says
Jason Klein, a cannabis lawyer in the Washington,
D.C., office of Offit Kurman. "Once that state allows
for recreational use, it quickly creates more jobs and
more investment opportunities."
"It's like any practice where whatever the client needs
we get them to the right resource," Horn says.
Maryland has begun a "very robust medical
program," according to Klein, with about 25,000
patients and 14 cultivation centers. There are
more than 30 dispensaries as of press time, with
an anticipated increase to about 100 dispensaries.
The District's medical marijuana market is considerably smaller than Maryland's booming program,
Despite legal and professional concerns, attorneys
who have chosen to dedicate their practices to
cannabis law say their work is busy, diverse, and
challenging, not to mention financially rewarding.
OF CANNABIS MARKET
Horn says his firm has about 50 lawyers across
the country who work within the cannabis group,
coordinating on a variety of issues related to the
industry, including intellectual property, land use,
and administrative law.
"Think about all the things you need to do for any
start-up business, and then add some extra
concerns and needs because it is such a regulated
industry," Klein says. "So, you are answering questions like, how do we raise money? How do we hire
employees? How do we get this from being a plan
to an operational business? And then you address
whatever the state law requires for licensing and
"Our clients are potentially at
risk for federal prosecution, and,
depending on who you ask, so
Brand & Branch LLP
APRIL/MAY 2018 25