What is a Cannabis Lawyer?
As more states legalize cannabis for medical or recreational use, or both, the industry has exploded. A new area of legal specialty has arisen to meet the demand. Cannabis lawyers work with business owners in this new industry.
They help their clients start and run their businesses while complying with the law, get the right licensing and permits, limit liability, pay taxes, and in other related legal issues that arise from selling a drug still considered illegal under federal law.
These lawyers are not just experts in the laws that govern cannabis growing, possession, use, and sale of marijuana in states where these activities are legal. Cannabis lawyers also have a background in several areas of law that apply to business owners: business law, contract law, intellectual property laws, criminal law, administrative law, zoning laws, and the tax code.
When Do I Need a Cannabis Lawyer?
Most people involved in the cannabis industry will need a lawyer. Whether your operations include medical, recreational, or both, a lawyer provides important guidance and advice. Hire a cannabis lawyer in these situations:
- You’re thinking of starting a medicinal or recreational cannabis business.
- You have a cannabis company but haven’t consulted with a lawyer yet.
- The state or local government has denied your application for a license to sell cannabis.
- You need to renew your license.
- You’re worried that your business is not following the laws correctly.
- You have an employment law concern.
- A customer is suing you.
- Another business is using your brand names or logos.
- The state or local government is trying to shut your cannabis business.
What Can a Cannabis Lawyer Do for Me?
A cannabis lawyer, like other business lawyers, does several things for their clients. They have expertise in many areas of the law and understand business. Choose a cannabis lawyer to work with who can provide these services:
- Provide business structuring advice
Starting any business requires planning, and that includes how to structure it. Legal structures for businesses can be complicated, and a lawyer will advise you on the best option and how to do it.
- Secure a license
Cannabis laws and requirements vary by state. Your lawyer will know the applicable laws and ensure you get the right license, permit, and any other documents necessary to begin business operations.
- Avoid costly mistakes
The cannabis industry is tightly regulated, and the costs are high, even when you do everything by the book. If you make a mistake in the process of getting licensed or when operating, you can end up with hefty fines or even criminal charges.
- Protect your intellectual property
A lawyer will help you protect your logo, business name, and products from anyone trying to steal or misuse them.
- Limit your liability
All businesses face liability issues, but a cannabis operation has even more risks and liabilities. A cannabis lawyer understands all the potential liabilities and can advise you on ways to minimize risk.
- Navigate taxes
Taxes for cannabis businesses can be tricky because the federal government still considers it an illegal substance. You need a lawyer who understands cannabis laws and the tax code to make sure you file taxes correctly and don’t underpay or pay too much.
Hiring a Cannabis Lawyer
The cannabis industry is rapidly growing, but it’s still new. This makes finding a good lawyer a little more challenging. Look for firms specializing in cannabis and interview them before choosing someone to hire. Important questions to ask include:
- How long have you been working with cannabis clients?
- Do you have referrals or testimonials from clients?
- Have you worked with clients like me in the past?
- Who in the firm will be working with me most of the time?
- How do you stay up to date on changing industry laws and regulations?
- How concerned should I be with federal laws outlawing marijuana?
- What are your fees?
Because the laws that apply to cannabis dispensaries are state and local, start with lawyers and firms in your area. They should be in the state and a part of your region, county, or city if possible. Businesses face local zoning laws and permits as well as those at the state level.
How to Work with Your Lawyer
Starting a business is a risky venture, especially in this industry. Finding the right lawyer to work with you is the first step to taking some risk out of dispensing cannabis legally. The next is to develop a good working relationship with your lawyer and to be a good client.
This means sharing all the information about your business and any legal issues with your lawyer. Be honest about everything, even if you think you may have broken the law or made a mistake. They cannot help you without all the details.
Meet with your lawyer regularly, be communicative and easy to reach, and ask plenty of questions to stay informed about your business and the choice you need to make. Follow your lawyer’s advice for the best outcomes for your business.
Working with a cannabis lawyer is a smart move when getting into this tricky, complicated industry. There is money to be made but also plenty of mistakes. Let a lawyer guide your choices and limit your risk.