More than 150 attorneys, including many from the San Francisco Bay Area, will be in Denver on Friday for the National Cannabis Bar Association’s first Cannabis Law Institute.
The two-day event at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law will put a spotlight on the business of marijuana law, a reflection of new client opportunities for firms that want a piece of the legalized recreational and medical industry.
“We wanted to make the event applicable to everybody,” said Chris Davis, executive director of the Oakland-based cannabis bar. “Our attendees really span the spectrum.”
Topics at the event will focus on the evaluation of legal risks for marijuana business clients, intellectual property protection, federal taxation concerns and the ethics of representing cannabis operations.
Attendees will also be keeping an eye on events in Washington. A U.S. Senate committee on Thursday voted to renew an annual budget bill rider, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, that bars the U.S. Justice Department from spending money on prosecuting medical marijuana dispensaries operating legally at the state level. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had asked congressional leaders in May not to extend the ban.
Sessions was also expected to soon release a report that would include recommended changes to federal marijuana policies. In a statement released late Wednesday, however, Sessions said he will act on the report’s recommendations on a “rolling basis.” He did not detail the report’s findings, according to The Hill.
“It’s important that cannabis lawyers be talking to each other,” Portland attorney Leland Berger, a board member on the NCBA, recently said on the Cannabis Industry Voice podcast. “It’s important that we provide education so that the quality of service is high. It’s also important because … in some jurisdictions, the fact of practicing or wanting to practice in this area is problematic.”
The bar association is monitoring the case against San Diego attorney Jessica McElfresh, who faces felony charges in connection with the alleged operation of a hash oil and manufacturing and distribution operation run by a client. The case hinges on an email between McElfresh and her client, a communication that McElfresh’s supporters say should be protected by attorney-client privilege.
“Our concern as an organization is the chilling effect this prosecution could have [on] cannabis attorneys who advise on compliance issues,” Berger said.
Speakers and panelists at the conference include Robert Raich, the Oakland attorney who has argued two marijuana legalization cases before the U.S. Supreme Court; Henry Wykowski, the veteran medical dispensary attorney from San Francisco’s Wykowski & Associates; Lara DeCaro, a business attorney and mediator from Leland, Parachini, Steinberg, Matzger & Melnick in San Francisco and Matt Hausman, associate area counsel for the IRS office of chief counsel.
The National Cannabis Bar Association was launched in 2015 and currently has about 250 members.