Cannabis the focus of new law practice

marijuanaA Los Angeles-based law partner from a prominent firm is launching a cannabis-centered practice, a signal that marijuana has become big business.

“Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is formally launching a cannabis practice in the latest sign that Big Law views this once-illicit market as a serious growth opportunity,” reported Bloomberg Law’s Big Law Business.

The practice will draw on the expertise of more than 12 partners from six offices, the site explained.

“At least a dozen other large law firms have launched cannabis industry practices with cannabis now legal for recreational use in 11 states and the District of Columbia. The firm said another 33 states permit its use for medical purposes,” Big Law Business reported.

Some analysts predict that the marijuana market will grow to $75 billion in the next 21 years, the article noted.

 

California marijuana retailer sued by former chief financial officer

Image: MedMen Chief Executive Adam Bierman as reported by Los Angeles Times. Photo Credit:  Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times.

Image: MedMen Chief Executive Adam Bierman as reported by Los Angeles Times. Photo Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times.

MedMen, a major marijuana industry operator in California with 1,243 employees, faces a lawsuit by its former chief financial officer, the L.A. Times reports.

“As California’s marijuana industry works to project an image of mainstream respectability, one of its best-known companies has come under attack by a former insider,” the newspaper reports.

MedMen Enterprises Inc. is trying to bring pot sales into the mainstream by providing sleek, comfortable stores in high-profile locations, and its strategy often is said to emulate the Apple store model.

The marijuana retailer is being sued by its former chief financial officer, James Parker, “who alleges the Culver City firm forced him out for objecting to a variety of alleged misdeeds at the company, whose stock became publicly traded last year.” A MedMen official denies the allegations.

Parker’s suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court following his departure from the firm on Nov. 5.

“After earlier rounds of private funding, MedMen went public last May through a reverse takeover — MedMen bought an existing Canadian public company — that enabled MedMen’s stock to be listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange,” the L.A. Times reports. “Although California and more than two dozen other states allow medicinal or adult recreational use of marijuana, cannabis remains illegal under U.S. federal law and thus the major U.S. stock exchanges will not list cannabis firms that operate in the United States.”

Courts Monitor publisher thinks that the newly emerging cannabis industry can learn a thing or two from the alcohol industry

Sara Corcoran is correspondent, contributing editor, and founding publisher of the National Courts Monitor & California Courts Monitor.

Sara Corcoran is a correspondent, contributing editor, and founding publisher of the National Courts Monitor & California Courts Monitor.

Sara Corcoran, the Courts Monitor publisher, thinks that the newly emerging cannabis industry can learn a thing or two from the alcohol industry. For example, as the repeal of alcohol prohibition turns 85 years old, the feuds between the “beer and wine” crowd and the “distilled spirits” companies could easily be repeated as cannabis regulation takes shape amid conflicted industry sectors. She is published at CityWatch LA, the regionally prominent Los Angeles-based opinion-and-politics website here.
 

Judge: Florida’s ban on smokable medical marijuana is unconstitutional

 

Photo credit: Orlando Weekly, 5/2/18

Photo credit: Orlando Weekly, 5/2/18

A state-imposed ban on smokable medical marijuana is unconstitutional, a Florida judge has ruled.

Leon County circuit court Judge Karen Gievers on June 5 upheld her May 25 ruling, ending a stay in this back-and-forth dispute.

“The state’s Department of Health had filed an appeal of Gievers’ original ruling, which automatically put it on hold,” The Associated Press reported. “Even with the stay being lifted, smokable medical marijuana will not immediately be available for sale at treatment centers.  That’s because the Department of Health must come up with rules for cultivation and distribution, which could take several months.”

Orlando Weekly noted that an appeals court had temporarily blocked a Tampa businessman from growing marijuana as he sought to prevent a relapse of lung cancer. The 1st District Court of Appeal had reinstated a stay of Gievers’s May 25 ruling. The circuit court’s ruling had cleared Joe Redner to grow his own marijuana for a treatment known as “juicing,” Orlando Weekly reported.

 

Criminal records cleared for some Californians convicted on pot charges

Those convicted of marijuana-related infractions could receive a clean slate in California, based on a trend in some jurisdictions.

“Thousands of people with misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession dating back 40 years will have their criminal records cleared, the San Francisco district attorney’s office said Wednesday,” The New York Times reported in January. “San Diego is also forgiving old convictions,”

National Public Radio reported, “Nine states now have laws related to expunging or reducing marijuana convictions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures but marijuana is still illegal under federal law. And not everyone in California is high on the idea of legalization. Jill Replogle, of member station KPCC, reported earlier this month that ’73 percent of cities and counties in California currently ban commercial cannabis businesses.’”

But a few communities are seeking to erase criminal records for those convicted on marijuana charges. The New York Times noted, “George Gascón, San Francisco’s district attorney, said his office would automatically erase convictions there, which total about 3,000. An additional 4,900 felony marijuana charges will be examined by prosecutors to determine if they should be retroactively reduced to misdemeanors. San Diego has identified 4,700 cases, both felonies and misdemeanors, that will be cleared or downgraded.”

RICO law used to target marijuana businesses

herb-2915337_640An anti-mobster law, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, has emerged as a tool to fight marijuana-related businesses, including a case in Massachusetts citing “pungent odors” caused by consumption of the substance, among other negative effects.

Bloomberg reports, “While pot remains illegal under federal law, Massachusetts voters approved medical marijuana consumption in 2012 and recreational use in 2016; the latter will kick in next year. The drug is legal for at least one of the two purposes in 29 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. But that doesn’t mean everybody wants a weed business next door. That’s why the burgeoning $6 billion marijuana business in the U.S. should view the RICO suits as serious threats, says Sean O’Connor, faculty director of the Cannabis Law and Policy Project at the University of Washington School of Law. Even if all the litigation fails, he says, ‘it could have its intended impact.’

“A lawsuit against Healthy Pharms in Cambridge, Mass., argues the company “would operate in flagrant disregard of the federal law that categorizes cannabis as a controlled substance every bit as illegal as heroin or cocaine.”

A similar lawsuit, a nearly 3-year-old suit in Colorado, is scheduled to go to trial in July, reports Marijuana Business Daily.

“This is an existential threat to the industry,” said Brian Barnes, an attorney with Cooper & Kirk law firm, according to the MBD.

Valerio Romano, an attorney for one of the Massachusetts defendants, said “the real impact of RICO suits could be to simply scare entrepreneurs into quitting the marijuana business.”

Will Pot + RICO Challenge State’s Federalist Trend?

Marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn., in 2015. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

Marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn., in 2015. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

Writing in The Washington Post, legal commentator Jonathan H. Adler outlines both the context and challenges facing “legal” marijuana now that a law targeting gangsters is being used for civil resistance to state pot reforms. We’ve reported before that the federal 10th Circuit court has taken a stand and it’s significant.
 
Adler outlines the federal context, including how the U.S. Congress has linked marijuana to funding legislation, before going into the looming challenges.
 
He notes that “… a bigger potential threat [to state legalization efforts] comes from the fact that marijuana possession and distribution are predicate offenses under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). This means that those who produce or sell marijuana are potentially subject to civil RICO suits, whether or not such activities are legal under state law. So held the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit earlier this year. A federal judge once described RICO as “the monster that ate jurisprudence.” Barring real reform at the federal level, it could be the monster that ate marijuana federalism, too. Here again, an appropriations rider is insufficient.

 
Adler is arguing that the RICO use is a threat to the “federalism” model for state control. 
 
Opinion | Will marijuana make federalism go up in smoke?

Legal Pot Might Be Sued Out of Business

The original suit claimed that the aroma from a nearby marijuana grow made horse riding less pleasant.Thinkstock file photo

The original suit claimed that the aroma from a nearby marijuana grow made horse riding less pleasant.Thinkstock file photo

A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is raising eyebrows in the legal marijuana industry and the Denver weekly newspaper Westword warns that the litigation “… is based on federal racketeering laws, that anti-marijuana forces hope will help them destroy the marijuana industry here and throughout the country.”
At issue is an argument that a Colorado pot-growing operation damages neighboring property owners — they say their horse-riding experience is diminished by the smell from marijuana and other concerns, including construction. In its decision, the 10th Circuit effectively found that the plaintiffs’ use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statute had merit because the adjacent property violates federal laws against marijuana, which is specifically mentioned in the RICO laws.
Westwood breaks it down: “This ruling could be game-changing. If the Reillys and Safe Streets Alliance succeed, other individuals or groups would be able to file complaints against marijuana businesses using RICO on a scale so massive that the entire industry could sink under the weight of litigation — or so opponents hope.”
Read the story here:
How Bizarre Pot Smell Ruling Could Destroy Colorado’s Marijuana Industry

VICE: Pot History Made, Patent Granted For Plants, Litigation Sure To Follow

A marijuana grow operation in Colorado. (Photo via Pixabay)

A marijuana grow operation in Colorado. (Photo via Pixabay)

VICE has a deep-dive story about a history-making patent, granted last fall, for a very specific marijuana plant and its resulting THC content. It’s the first of its kind, but experts predict it represents a first step toward litigation. Says VICE: “… Patent No. 9095554 may be the opening salvo in a new series of legal battles over innovations in marijuana breeding [and] the prize could be nothing less than the commanding heights of an industry that’s projected to soon top $40 billion, with the exclusive rights to produce, sell, or license designer varieties of pot. Over the next few years, the contest could take the form of a gold rush for patents.

The excellent report includes comments from Reggie Gaudino, a Ph.D. in molecular genetics who works as director of intellectual property for Steep Hill Labs, a US firm that analyzes medical and recreational marijuana for compliance with public safety standards, who explains that “… a well-written patent is like a declaration of war — you write a patent in a way that covers those who can sue you, and those you can sue.”

And there’s this: Many small pot farmers are more scared of corporate competition than they are of criminal prosecution, according to Hilary Bricken, a Seattle lawyer who chairs the Canna Law Group of the firm Harris Moure, which supports marijuana businesses. “These people aren’t worried about the Department of Justice anymore,” said Bricken, who has represented cannabis enterprises in commercial litigation and has consulted on intellectual property issues. “Now they’re worried about Monsanto.”

As usual, VICE is a step ahead of most everyone else. Read the report here: A Patent for Cannabis Plants Is Already a Reality — and More Are Expected to Follow | VICE News