Lawyers are beginning to specialize in the cannabis industry


Kyle Kuhn, Contributing Writer

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington state, many lawyers have started to venture into the cannabis industry to help business owners navigate the new laws and regulations.

Neil Juneja, founder of Gleam Law in Seattle, wrote in an email interview that 75 percent of the firm’s practice is now devoted to marijuana law. He that wrote he believes more firms will follow the trend, noting that the marijuana industry is the fastest growing sector of the Washington state economy.

Gleam Law has a particular expertise in intellectual property — that is, patents, trademarks and copyrights — but also practices entertainment and lighting law.

Marijuana specialties emerging from within large law firms

Juneja wrote that firms may not have marijuana-specific branding, such as Seattle’s Canna Law Group, but marijuana practice groups are beginning to emerge in large law firms.

Canna Law Group is a marijuana-specific practice within the Harris Moure law firm. Canna’s lawyers represent medical and recreational marijuana businesses in nine states but are rooted in Seattle. Canna focuses on corporate, compliance, intellectual property and consumer product issues.

Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, speculated that the agency has been dealing with more lawyers in regard to Initiative 502 (I-502), but the WSLCB doesn’t keep records on such statistics.

Marijuana is just another business, lawyer says

John Ufkes, an attorney in Ellensburg, Wash., said he doesn’t think there will be huge growth in marijuana practices until more states such as California and New Mexico legalize recreational use. Ufkes said marijuana is easier to grow in those states’ climates, which could cause a boom in the industry.

“It’s a business that’s like many other businesses,” Ufkes said.

Lawyers who specialize in certain kinds of law, such as real estate, business and licensing documents — all of which the cannabis industry deals with — will still be the best for those situations. Ufkes himself doesn’t practice marijuana law but has helped Kittitas County change its rules regarding land use for I-502.

Juneja said it’s important to find attorneys who have both substantial experience in I-502 as well as experience in general law. Marijuana lawyers will have a better knowledge of which way the wind is blowing in the Washington Legislature, he wrote.