Marijuana Business Magazine - March 2018

M arijuana business owners who don’t already have a lawyer need to get one ASAP. At the very least, you should know a lawyer who has been vetted so you can call that person. A lawyer can help ensure your business complies with local and state laws – and defend you in the event the feds knock on your door. How do you find an attorney who is both knowledgeable and coura- geous enough to stand up for clients against a deep-pocketed federal government? Ask lots of questions, advised cannabis attorney Michele Brooke of Brooke Law Group in Pasadena, California. “Marijuana business owners need to get from their lawyers an honest evaluation regarding their individual businesses,”Brooke said. One issue to ask about is attorney-client privilege, she said.That privilege is given to the clients and attorneys by law. But the law makes an exception in cases of crimes involving fraud – a category under which marijuana businesses could be prosecuted. But a good attorney, if ordered by the government or a court to provide docu- ments or information about a cannabis client, will fight that order and not give in – even if that lawyer risks landing in legal hot water, Brooke said. That means marijuana business owners seeking a lawyer – and perhaps those who already have legal representation – should ask attorneys what they would do if called to testify or served with a subpoena to produce client records. “Lawyers in this industry need to make up their mind that they’re going to be resilient and that they’re going to maintain client confi- dences at their own peril,”Brooke said. “Not every lawyer is willing to do that. Clients really need to make sure their lawyer is going to be loyal to them if a subpoena is issued and there are possible consequences.” Marijuana executives nervous about broaching the topic with a poten- tial attorney shouldn’t be. It’s a perfectly reasonable question for clients to ask lawyers, and lawyers know that, Brooke said. “You just raise it. Don’t bring any third parties in, just people who need to be in the room. You ask them what they would do if they were served with a federal subpoena for my records,” Brooke said. “You want to make sure you have the right person taking care of your case if it arises.” – Omar Sacirbey meet safety standards, among other demands. There are several other measures that marijuana business can undertake to reduce exposure to federal interference: • Make sure you have a knowledgeable lawyer. • Change your inventory practices. • Diversify product lines and develop backup business plans and exit strategies. • Build alliances with other local businesses and other institutions. • Educate landlords and banks about your business and the risks. “These are things that businesses should have been doing anyways,”Weiss said. It’s fair to say the cannabis industry has entered a “new normal” after the end of the Cole Memo. But the new normal is in many ways the same as the old normal – which is to say that until federal cannabis laws change, marijuana businesses need to take measures to reduce their risks while strengthen- ing their business positions. And while Sessions’ decision may not have been a fire but a fire alarm, his next move might unleash some- thing more serious. So it makes sense for businesses who haven’t taken such measures to start. Our special package in the following pages will help you prepare, if you haven’t done so already. It covers a range of topics – from raising funds and wooing investors, to pacify- ing landlords and banks.We also examine what it means for medical marijuana busi- nesses and look at the top U.S. attorneys who will be in charge of enforcing the law – and much more. The New Normal Michele Brooke is an attorney in Pasadena, California. LEGAL HELP LAWYERING UP San Francisco Cannabis Attorney Henry Wykowski is well known for defending marijuana businesses against federal authorities. Read a Q&A with him on Page 16. Rachel Gillette is an attorney with Greenspoon Marder in Denver. 60 • Marijuana Business Magazine • March 2018