From Defense to Offense: The New Relationship Between Law and Cannabis

From Defense to Offense: The New Relationship Between Law and Cannabis

Not that long ago, when the words “law” and “marijuana” came up together in conversation, the discussion usually centered around incarceration. Times are changing, however, and with some form of cannabis now legal in 23 states, discussions of law and marijuana are increasingly focused on how to make money legally in the so-called “Green Rush” cannabis industry that has followed marijuana’s growing acceptance in society.

In perhaps the surest sign yet that work to normalize cannabis use in the U.S. is paying off, on June 10 the newly formed National Cannabis Bar Association (NCBA) announced its intention to help cannabis businesses navigate local and state laws now that marijuana production is a legal, regulated industry in many jurisdictions.

The NCBA’s founder and executive director, Shabnam Malek, summed up the need for an organization such as hers in the fledgling cannabis economy, saying:

“As more and more states decriminalize or legalize cannabis—and set up their own regulatory structures—the legal conditions cannabis industry clients and their attorneys face are likely to get even more complex before they get simpler.”

NCBA founding board members hail from six states, many of which are at the forefront of changes in the legal status of cannabis. Founders include lawyers from California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, New York and Florida. NCBA members will provide cannabis businesses the same kinds of services lawyers offer businesses in other industries, including helping them to negotiate contracts, manage assets and apply for licenses.

Other indicators of the changing status of cannabis are apparent in the legal profession. Some law schools are now offering instruction in marijuana business law, with Harvard recently putting on a seminar to teach tax-planning strategies for pot sellers. Conservative law firms who previously would not have touched cannabis are getting into the game.

To long-time users of cannabis not involved in the budding cannabis industry, the legalization and commodification of cannabis must seem like a mixed bag. However, if one takes the view that the more deeply rooted cannabis becomes in society, the harder it will be to reverse the strides that legalization proponents have made in recent years, the formation of a group such as the NCBA is surely a positive sign.

Speaking about the market for legal advice among businesses that have sprung up in the wake of cannabis law reform, NORML founder Keith Stroup said, “The need is only going to grow.”

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