“There is no such thing as business as usual in cannabis.” — Laura Bianchi

Being adaptable to change is an essential skill. For individuals, risk tolerance and comfort levels span the spectrum from avoidance to reckless abandon, with most clustered somewhere in the middle. Everyone can understand feeling uncomfortable and unsure even while you’re excited to jump in to ride the wave of something new and the lure of investment opportunities. For example, we were both successful corporate business attorneys. We began advising individuals and businesses in the cannabis industry in 2010 when Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Program was implemented and it became legal. It was controversial, especially in the staunchly traditional field of law and its ethical code of conduct.

“We learned about the cannabis industry by being in it.” — Justin Brandt

Combining our corporate and business experience to focus on cannabis clients made perfect sense to us, but it came with risks. Navigating the storm of stigmas and stereotypes attached to cannabis involved uncomfortable ramifications up to and including potential suspension of our legal licenses or disbarment. Just like in any business decision or litigation, we did an early risk-benefit analysis, so we knew where to invest our financial, professional, and emotional resources. While others worried we were risking everything we’d worked so hard to achieve, we were comfortable that we were on solid ground. We’ve been able to maintain a healthy balance in our lives in a variety of ways that helped us reduce stress, regroup, and face each day with enthusiasm and purpose. In the years since that first strategically calculated leap of faith, we’ve facilitated many of the industry’s largest corporate transactions nationally.

It’s why we grew to love working in the cannabis industry. It was uncharted territory, and there is no such thing as business as usual. We are paving a path forward and shaping the future of a plant that offers incredible economic, health and wellness benefits that have too long been ignored. This work isn’t easy and it’s not for the faint of heart. But that’s what makes it so fun. Our clients feel the same way. They know they can trust our experience. They’re comfortable enough to pick up the phone and call us to run an idea past us or for a simple gut check anytime. We tell it like it is, and present real solutions. Our job is to proactively ensure that each strategic step considers, serves, and enhances the overall goals and long-term health of your business.

From applications and startup through operations to expansion and exit and beyond, we’re there to create and manage the legal solutions that serve your best interests.

How to Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Today, with rapidly expanding legalization, emerging markets, and increasingly sophisticated actors in play, the cannabis industry is more dynamic than ever. Knowledge and experience are catalysts for change. We approach risk head-on. In fact, it’s our firm’s mantra: Be enterprising. Be decisive. Be brilliant. These are the guiding principles we follow to minimize risks and maximize results for our clients. But first, it’s important for clients and investors in the industry to understand and become comfortable with the risks of the uniquely volatile and challenging cannabis industry.

  1. Be Prepared for Change. When you’re prepared, and expecting change, you’re less likely to panic. The inherent complexities in the cannabis industry are considerable, ranging from federal to state to local levels, and covering everything from seed to sale to ancillary businesses. After more than a decade in the field and even more in corporate, business, and real estate law, we’ve learned that in cannabis something is always changing somewhere. It almost always has a ripple effect, especially for multi-state operators. The most essential advice we give to cannabis clients and industry hopefuls is to understand there is no business as usual in cannabis. The industry is always changing, so being prepared for all sorts of contingencies is a must and a mindset.
  1. Let the Right People Sweat the Details. Entrepreneurs, investors, brands, and other cannabis industry stakeholders will continue to encounter industry-specific challenges that require the guidance of experienced counsel. No one can afford to lose sight of the details, which is especially true for cannabis. Imagine waking up to find your business has been shut down for compliance violations. You might find an old arrest for a cannabis-related offense with or without a conviction bars you from operating in the industry. Or your business gets deemed essential overnight in the midst of a growing pandemic. All of these things and more can happen. Any would shake your comfort level with risk on some level, especially if you’re not prepared, or your legal counsel is inexperienced in the realities of the industry. Choose the right team to provide legal counsel and serve as your strategic business partners, and empower them to do the worrying for you so you can focus on your core business.
  1. Take a Holistic Approach. Being in business requires some level of tolerance for risk. Owning or investing in a business of any size factors into your personal life and finances, but it’s especially necessary to consider risks in cannabis. Miscalculating or underestimating the risks could spell failure, straining you, your business and even your family. Without the right growth and exit strategies and estate and succession planning in place, one event can leave your business, family, and partners without protection. That’s why we offer a wide range of general counsel services for individuals, businesses and corporations, so clients are covered from every legal angle. Clients trust us to take charge, act as bold legal advocates and guides, and to get the job done right.
  1. Know the Operational Risks. Three critical risk factors that impact cannabis companies at an operational level are theft, product tampering, and adjusting to compliance regulations. Since there are all sorts of business types and different legal needs spanning different states and ever-changing regulatory requirements, we also provide a wide range of in-house general counsel services to assist clients with the day to day legal necessities, transactions, and compliance. These include employment law, real estate transactions, operations, and corporate and business litigation when circumstances call for bold action.

Each of these steps will go a long way to easing your mind and enhancing your comfort level in an industry that’s characterized by constant change.