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Marijuana Law Conferences Sprout Up

Oct. 21, 2016, 7:19 PM

Next month, Greenspoon Marder is holding its “First Annual Cannabis Law and Business Conference.”

With panel discussions on finance, land use and zoning, legalization vs. decriminalization, the firm is hoping to attract 200 attorneys and so-called “Ganjapreneurs” (in practice lingo) to its Nov. 4 conference in Florida — just a few days before voters there look at a ballot initiative to legal marijuana.

As it turns out, the Michigan State Bar is sponsoring a marijuana conference this week, which points to the continued growth of the estimated $5.4 billion marijuana industry . With recreational marijuana now legal in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia, and medical use permitted in 24 states and counting, a once taboo law practice is suddenly beginning to look crowded.

Other large firms including Fox Rothschild (85th in the AmLaw 200), Davis Wright Tremaine (104th), Stoel Rives (139th), and Thompson Coburn (146th) are growing their marijuana practices too.

“It’s the trend,” said Joshua Horn with Fox Rothschild in Philadelphia. “Our firm is very entrepreneurial, and this is as entrepreneurial as you can get.”

Fox Rothschild launched its cannabis law practice about a year ago under the umbrella of its regulated industries’ practice, but in late summer this year began marketing it on the firm’s web site.

Leaders at Greenspoon Marder, one of the newest entrants to the AmLaw 200,decided to jump in six months agoafter looking at the growth in the industry. If proposals on state ballots across the country are victorious next month, five more states, including California and Massachusetts will legalize recreational use of the drug, while three more will allow for medical cannabis.

“We recognized the magnitude and scale of what this practice will become,” said Gerald Greenspoon, co-managing director of the 181-attorney firm. “The regulatory scheme is different in each state, and it will require a lot of legal talent and legal manpower throughout the country as the industry matures. We expect to see more large firms involved.”

But it’s not waiting for the competition to arrive: The firm recently opened practices in San Diego and Denver to expand its marijuana-related business, or MRB client base. And this summer, the firmannounced that four of its lawyers joined the editorial board of the Cannabis Law Journal.

He said cannabis law has evolved from a criminal defense practice to a business regulatory practice. While Greenspoon Marder’s Florida conference appears to be more about marijuana law and how to run a marijuana business, the Michigan conference is more about the state’s Medical Marijuana Act.

Some of the large firm cannabis practices market the fact on their web site, while others reference it – lightly – under the “regulated products” practice area. Still others represent MRBs but do not publicly acknowledge it.

“I have colleagues at other large firms who’ve told me, ‘We’re never going to touch it,’” Horn said. Concerns about the federal-state conflict drive the “really large, white shoe firms” away from it, he said.

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