How do people become involved in the cannabis community? It turns out everyone has a unique personal journey. Each week, cannabis professionals, activists, and others will tell their stories in their own words. This essay comes from Tiffany Wu, an attorney with Harris Moure in San Francisco, California who focuses on cannabis law.
These days I feel as if I live, breathe, and sleep cannabis law and regulation. I spend my days working with clients in the cannabis industry and many weekends attending events and participating in discussions advocating for the legalization of cannabis in California. While I began working in the cannabis industry over a year ago, my passion for the cause began much earlier.
The seeds were planted when I was a law student at Harvard University. I studied the Controlled Substances Act and was surprised to learn that marijuana is a Schedule I drug, which means it, "has no currently accepted medical use" in the U.S., and therefore it is illegal to even conduct legitimate scientific research on its uses. To claim that marijuana has no medical uses went against tangible proof that I'd seen and heard personally, and for me this was an enlightening lesson that laws could be wrong but also that they could be changed.
Prison sentences for low-level offenses 'unconscionable'
My passion for the cause grew as I volunteered to work with prisoners in disciplinary hearings and saw firsthand the injustice that often occurs in our criminal justice system. Considering the harsh realities of prison life and the often unfair treatment which leads to the loss of basic rights and extended prison sentences, I found it unconscionable that hundreds of thousands of people each year are arrested for low-level drug offenses such as the possession of marijuana.
After graduating and spending time working in the federal government followed by time working on large technology deals in Silicon Valley, I decided to take the skills I had developed as a lawyer to fight for the change I wanted to see. I quit my law firm position and began working with individuals and companies in the cannabis industry to help build their businesses and support their rights. My belief is that those in the cannabis industry deserve the same treatment and same level of professional reinforcement as any other industry in the United States.
Through my work in the cannabis industry, I've met many amazing and inspiring people. Earlier this year, I joined the Canna Law Group, a cannabis-focused practice group of the law firm of Harris Moure that includes attorneys licensed in legal marijuana states across the country.
To me, the movement to legalize cannabis is about fighting for fair treatment under the laws so that those who need cannabis can have access and those who choose to use it will not be unfairly punished. As we move forward in 2016 and beyond, I am grateful to be a part of this movement and hopeful for the future of cannabis in the United States.