Marijuana prohibition's days are numbered, according to attorneys from one of America's top marijuana law groups.
"We are very close to the end of federal marijuana prohibition, so I think it’s safe to assume that marijuana will be legal at the federal level five years from now, which will inevitably bring about significant changes within the industry," predicts Emily A. Burns of Green Light Law Group. Based in Portland, Oregon, Green Light Law is lending its 30+ years of expertise in corporate, securities, real estate and litigation matters to help new cannabis businesses understand and navigate the complexities involved in the marijuana industry of today and tomorrow.
Here's what the future of the cannabis sector might look like, according to Burns and Bradley Blommer, J.D. - Green Light's Litigation and Real Estate Attorney.
Tell us about your typical day.
Brad Blommer: With a four year old and 15 month old, my day often begins at two or three in the morning with a crying baby. If we are lucky and get to sleep through the night, the day begins with coffee and a mad scramble to get the kids dressed and ready for pre-school.
Once I’m in the office, each day is a mix of working on client matters, managing the firm, and focusing on marketing efforts. We have a wonderful mix of clients who are involved in a wide range of areas in the cannabis industry. One day, I’ll be helping a client decide which corporate entity is best to start a new business. The next day, I’ll be helping a business owner resolve a dispute with the other owners. We are really lucky to work with so many great people.
What's one prediction you have for the marijuana industry five years from now?
Emily A. Burns: We are very close to the end of federal marijuana prohibition, so I think it’s safe to assume that marijuana will be legal at the federal level five years from now, which will inevitably bring about significant changes within the industry. Legalization at the federal level will eliminate existing inefficiencies within the industry, so firms can achieve greater economies of scale, which means lower prices for consumers.
In addition to greater efficiency and lower prices, firms will begin to focus on specific segments within the industry, refining products to satisfy market and consumer demands. Much of the industry’s future will depend upon medical and scientific research, but I predict a much bigger medical marijuana market, as we begin to discover the true potential of medical cannabis.
What is one change you'd like to see happen in the cannabis industry?
Emily A. Burns: In order to avoid the fate of Big Tobacco, the industry must be more transparent and honest regarding the benefits and consequences of cannabis use and legalization. The negative stigmas and stereotypes surrounding cannabis consumption will not end with federal legalization, so we should not dismiss legitimate concerns and criticisms of the industry.
The FDA recently sent warning letters to four CBD manufacturers who claimed CBD could cure cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other life-threatening illnesses. By using factually inaccurate and unproven health claims to promote CBD products, these companies only exacerbate existing concerns about the safety, legitimacy, and integrity of the cannabis industry. Cannabis is not a magical cure-all, and the industry is not immune from shoddy and deceptive business practices, but this doesn’t change the fact that marijuana prohibition is a terrible policy. However, if the industry fails to acknowledge the numerous “known-unknowns” related to legalization and cannabis use, the reputation of the industry as a whole will suffer in the long run.
What's the biggest misconception about the marijuana industry?
Brad Blommer: I think one of the biggest misconceptions people have about the industry is that it’s made up of a bunch of unsophisticated “stoners.” This misconception is changing quickly, but having grown up on the east coast, I know a lot of people back there who don’t take the people in the industry seriously. Here on the west coast, the perception is much different.
Do you have a message for Donald Trump or Jeff Sessions? What would that message be?
Emily A. Burns: It’s funny you ask because I had a dream the other night that I met Donald Trump and convinced him to legalize cannabis! My friends and I were attending some (unknown) event, and Donald Trump showed up unexpectedly, but no one at the event was interested in meeting or speaking to him, so I decided it was the perfect opportunity to talk with him about legalization.
I went up and introduced myself, and told him that the U.S. was “losing out” to foreign nations like Canada by failing to legalize cannabis at the federal level (we ALL know how much that man hates to lose!). I said legalization would create jobs, benefit the U.S. economy, and generate tax revenue, and I also mentioned the latest polls showing record-high U.S. support for legalization. Even though our conversation only lasted a few minutes, I had somehow convinced him to support legalization.
So if you can't wait five years for legalization, try fast-tracking reform by telling Trump that America's getting shown up by the Canadians.
Editor's note: Since conducting this interview, Emily A. Burns has transitioned to working with Offit Kurman Attorneys at Law on the East Coast.