Hackensack-based Cole Schotz, anticipating that New Jersey lawmakers will at some point legalize the recreational use of marijuana, has started a cannabis law practice group to service clients involved in the pot industry.
The practice group is headed by Jordan Fisch, a partner in the firm’s New York office, and by Marc Press, a partner in Hackensack.
Other members of the group include partners Robert DiPisa and David Gold and Damian Albergo; Elizabeth Bogle and Samantha Epstein; and special counsel Geoffrey Weinstein.
A number of measures are pending in the state Legislature that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana, though no action has been taken. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has indicated his support for the move.
New Jersey already has legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Eight states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana use, while most other states permit the use of marijuana in varying THC levels for medical purposes. Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.
Fisch, in an interview, said forming a practice group focused on cannabis law was a sensible move.
“Several of us were already involved in various cannabis interest ventures and we though it would be a benefit to have a consolidated group,” Fisch said. “This is a rapidly changing practice area.”
In a statement, the firm said the practice group will focus on several areas of interest to the cannabis industry.
- Regulatory compliance, including the licensing and registration of cultivation and dispensary facilities.
- Raising capital through private and publicly issued equity and debt.
- Banking depository and payment relationships.
- Structuring of alternative energy sources for the operation of cultivation facilities, including solar, geothermal and co-generation facilities.
- Environmental review and compliance.
- The real estate acquisition, construction, financing, leasing, property management and zoning requirements for cannabis businesses.
- Health care and privacy issues in operating medical marijuana dispensaries
- Intellectual property, including IP protection and commercial licensing agreements.
- Employment practices for cannabis business owners.
- Tax and audit advice.
Fisch declined to say how many clients the firm represents that are involved in the cannabis industry.
For now, Fisch said the practice group will primarily focus on New Jersey, which he said appears to be moving closer toward complete legalization. The state Assembly Oversight, Regulatory and Federal Relations Committee heard testimony on the legalization issue on Monday but did not vote on any legislation.
Many of those testifying said the state would reap healthy tax revenues if the cannabis industry was legalized and regulated.
In New York, Fisch said, there appears to be little movement. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, he said, “doesn’t appear to be very keen” on legalization.
In January, Cuomo proposed that New York fund a study of the possible impact of legalizing recreational marijuana in the state.
Cuomo, in his budget address, proposed a study by the state Department of Health to determine the health and economic impacts of legalizing the drug, which is already legal for certain medical purposes in the state.
The proposed study would also determine the criminal justice impact and consequences to New York state from legalization occurring in neighboring states.
“New Jersey may legalize marijuana. Massachusetts already has. On the other hand, Attorney General [Jeffrey] Sessions says he’s going to end marijuana in every state. So you have the whole confluence of different information,” Cuomo said during his presentation to the Legislature. “I think we should fund [the Department of Health] to do a study. Let them work with state police and other agencies. Look at the health impact and economic impact,” he said during his address.
A number of firms with a presence in New Jersey have cannabis practice groups, including Connell Foley in Roseland; Philadelphia’s Fox Rothschild; Roseland’s Brach Eichler; Sills Cummis & Gross in Newark; Archer & Greiner in Haddonfield; Ansell Grimm & Aaron in Woodland Park; Saiber in Newark; Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti in Morristown; and the Cherry Hill office of Denver’s Hoban Law Group.