Who Takes the Biggest Risk, Marijuana Producers or Their Lawyers?

The marijuana industry and its ancillary businesses are one of the strongest markets in the United States and people are becoming comfortable with the idea of legal cannabis. The biggest risk to the industry is the federal government as marijuana is still federally illegal.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of lawyers in the U.S. in 2016 was $118,160.00. For a lot of people that may sound like a lot of money, but a practicing lawyer can commit a great deal of time and effort into their profession.

Lawyers in the burgeoning business are entering a legal gray zone where the drug is permitted for some purpose in most states but illegal under federal law — in the same controlled substances category as heroin. Missteps could lead to prosecution for conspiracy, money laundering or aiding and abetting drug dealers.

“Any lawyer that goes into this should be aware that a literal reading of federal law permits such a prosecution,” said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver marijuana policy law professor, whose research five years ago found lawyers more susceptible to being disbarred than criminally charged for cannabis-related work. “It probably makes sense for a lawyer to at least talk to a legal ethicist or get an opinion from a legal ethicist.”

Despite a few instances of lawyers being prosecuted in federal and state court — including a pending San Diego County case — more attorneys are jumping into cannabis law. Legal needs range from financing to permits, real estate, water law, intellectual property, contracts and banking.

Lawyers are stereotyped as stressed, willing to take on any case to make money sort of people. Do you think of lawyers in the cannabis industry as a version of ambulance chasers, or are they doing the noble thing?


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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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