Hitting the High Notes on 4-20
The Marijuana Industry Continues To Change and Evolve This April 20
Hitting the High Notes on 4-20
Once thought of as a counterculture holiday, April 20, 2021 now views cannabis in a very different light as states across the U.S. continue to legalize marijuana. And the legal industry has also evolved in response, with many law firms now offering comprehensive legal advice to dispensaries and growers in areas ranging from business and real estate transactions, contract law, regulatory compliance, equity structuring and capital formation for entrepreneurs and investors.
We recently talked with business litigation attorney Chris Gooch who has become a thought-leader in the booming marijuana industry.
With April 20 (“4-20”) quickly approaching, talk about the current state of marijuana in Arizona where Prop 207 legalized cannabis – and nationwide where states like New York are also adopting legalization trends.
In Arizona, it appears that the transition to implement Prop 207 has been remarkably smooth. This is mostly because the majority of “recreational” licenses went to existing “medical” license holders. This just gave those operators a new customer base and venue to distribute their products.
Nationally, we are seeing more states adopting some form of legalization, which is putting additional pressure or support for members of Congress to take some sort of action. The two options for national change here would be the “SAFE Banking Act” which would allow all of these businesses to establish and maintain banking relationships.
At the present time, regulations prohibit banks from allowing business relationships with cannabis companies because the product remains illegal at the Federal level and it is difficult because a significant amount of their transactions are in cash. The SAFE Act solves many of these problems and the industry would be treated much more like any other business. There was a push to include the act in the end of year COVID stimulus bill, but that failed. There is another attempt to have it added to some of the other large bills being introduced by the Democrats. The second major push, that would also solve these issues, would be removing the Schedule 2 designation – making cannabis legal nationally. As recently as this past March, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been making comments about his support for legalization. This, however, is contrasted by President Biden’s firm stance against it. President Biden recently dismissed at least one staffer who reported having past marijuana use.
As a business litigation attorney, do you think the stigma of Marijuana will ever go away, especially with so many opportunities for lawyers nationwide in what is basically a ‘new’ industry?
I think the stigma has largely gone away. In the very early years of legalization, there were many questions about the ethical boundaries for lawyers representing clients that may be engaged in business that is legal at the state level and illegal at the Federal level. Firms were also concerned that the fees collected from such work could be impounded by the Federal government, and whether collecting such fees could harm the firm’s banking relationships. Much of that is now water under the bridge and these clients are seen and treated as any other business client.
What are you currently reading – and watching (streaming)?
I am currently reading two books, one fiction and one non-fiction. The fiction book is in conjunction with a book club I belong to and it is an epic space opera called Iron Truth by SA Tholin. My non-fiction selection is The Craft: How the Freemasons Made the Modern World by John Dickie. It explores how freemasonry was involved in various stages of western history.
What failure sticks with you the most, and what did you learn from it?
There are probably too many to list, but I really try after a failure to get up, dust myself off, and see what lessons I can learn to improve myself going forward.
What advice would you give your younger self – or a young person contemplating a career in the legal field.
Don’t worry about reaching that level of Nirvana where you know it all, you never will know it all and you will continue to learn more about the practice of law every day.
Who is your hero – or the person who impacted your career the most?
This might be trite, but my late Father is certainly among my personal Pantheon of heroes. He smiled a lot, was friendly to everyone, and he always carved out time to “have fun.”
What’s your go-to Karaoke song?
There is none, but that is for a good reason. A number of years ago around the Christmas holidays, we were together as a larger family. We tried as a group to sing some carols and about halfway through the first carol, the family broke down in laughter because it became obvious that our family was not blessed with any particular vocal abilities.
You’re throwing a dinner party post-pandemic. Name the three people (from any time in human history) who you’d invite?
Because it is a party, I would want to invite both interesting and “fun” people, so my list would include:
Benjamin Franklin – He knew how to party and would probably have lots of interesting stories.
Theodore Roosevelt – He was loved by many and would probably be a good guest – also lots of good stories.
Snoop Dog – Snoop is a good cook (I own his cookbook), he hosts a dinner party cooking show with Martha Stewart and, well, he’s Snoop.
On 4-20 – and always – here’s to Chris Gooch and the innovative attorneys who are making an impact in the rapidly-evolving cannabis industry.
And to learn more about how Chris and the team in our business litigation practice group can assist in dispute prevention and resolution for your business, please click here.