As the marijuana industry continues to grow and professionalize in the US, lawyers and law firms with expertise in the evolving landscape of state and federal cannabis laws have become indispensable to marijuana entrepreneurs. Marijuana Referral’s comprehensive directory of marijuana lawyers and cannabis law firms makes this expertise accessible for your business. But what exactly does a cannabis business attorney do and how can they help your marijuana company? And what qualities and experience should you look out for when choosing the right marijuana law firm for your business?

Do I need a marijuana lawyer?

All businesses are conditioned by the legal environment in which they operate, so drawing on the knowledge and experience of a legal expert puts you in a stronger position to make decisions and take action in the best interests of your company. This is especially true for marijuana businesses since the legal industry is still nascent and operates in a gray zone between state and federal law. Laws and regulations differ significantly between states, as well as between jurisdictions in the same state. Keeping on top of this as a cannabis business owner is extremely challenging, so to remain on the right side of the law while making the best use of the legal means at your disposal you need a marijuana lawyer.

How can a cannabis attorney help you?

As the industry is still relatively new, most cannabis lawyers started out in different practice fields. Most often, cannabis lawyers originally specialized in commercial law, intellectual property and real estate, among others. They can then bring this background knowledge and experience into the marijuana space to help cannabis business owners manage various legal challenges. Here are some of the ways in which a cannabis attorney can help a marijuana business.

1. Business establishment and licensing

A cannabis business attorney can help you with the first step of actually forming your company as a legal entity, as well as advising on how to structure it in such a way that will prove advantageous. Next, they can guide you through the process of obtaining the license necessary to legally operate as a marijuana business. From dealing with the state cannabis regulator, advising on the best strategy to increase the likelihood of securing license approval, and re-submitting an application if it is denied at the first attempt, a cannabis lawyer can take on all these necessary tasks.

2. Drafting, reviewing and finalizing contracts

Business agreements must ensure that you and your business are protected and not in violation of any laws or exposed to any potential liabilities. Vaguely written contracts with a supplier or a buyer could put you at risk of a lawsuit or unexpected costs. To avoid this, business agreements must be clear and enforceable, with terms that are fair and favorable to your interests. A marijuana attorney with experience in commercial law is well-placed to help you draft, negotiate, and put pen to paper on such agreements.

3. Protecting intellectual property

Many marijuana cultivators and processors produce unique strains of cannabis that they would like to ensure their competitors don’t use for their own business. A marijuana lawyer can help you protect your unique cannabis products by filing the necessary paperwork with the US Patent and Trademark Office. In case of disputes with other businesses over your patent or trademark, your cannabis lawyer can represent your business’s interest for exclusive, protected use of that product.

4. Securing real estate

Marijuana businesses face more restrictions on where they can locate their premises than businesses in traditional, well-established industries, even in states that have legalized cannabis. Some jurisdictions in legal cannabis states still prohibit marijuana businesses from operating in their county or municipality, while some state laws put a limit on numbers within a given area. A cannabis lawyer will be aware of such restrictions, ensuring you don’t waste time or money on premises you can’t legally use. They can also advise on the language and provisions of real estate lease or sales agreements, highlighting any problematic aspects that you may need to reconsider.

5. Tax and regulatory compliance

From seed to sale, marijuana business activity is taxed and the amount that must be paid is calculated and assessed according to state and local tax laws that are in force. Failing to comply with your tax obligations, even out of ignorance, can result in hefty civil and criminal penalties. A marijuana attorney with a background in tax affairs can help ensure you remain in line with the relevant cannabis tax ordinances, and can even advise on how you structure your business or organize its activities to lessen your tax burden. Similarly, you have to ensure your marijuana business complies with all relevant regulations. The state cannabis regulator may inspect your premises to make sure you’re following the rules, and they have the authority to impose fines or even shut your business down should you run afoul of these. A marijuana attorney can help ensure you satisfy all regulatory requirements, and can represent your case should non-compliance issues arise.

What to look for when choosing a cannabis law firm?

It’s unlikely that any one lawyer can handle all the legal needs of your cannabis business. Different facets, whether real estate, licensing or tax affairs, demand different competences. As such, it is advisable to work with a team of lawyers through a law firm that has collective cannabis industry expertise. Though the industry is still emerging, there are many law firms that now specialize in servicing cannabis businesses. Don’t just take the word of the law firm at face value though. It’s crucial to look into the actual experience of the attorneys to ensure they have a proven track record demonstrating their familiarity with local and state regulations, as well as federal law. You can do this with a simple internet search, and then follow up on the most promising leads for more detailed information. To get started, Marijuana Referral’s resource of cannabis attorneys is a good way to find the legal expertise your business needs.

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Attorney Joe Ray Skrha provides legal representation to Kenai, AK residents for DUI/DWI, personal injury, drug charges, wrongful death, domestic violence, and medical malpractice cases.