Vol. 40, No. 1

Emerging field of cannabis law sparks new specialty bar

by Dan Kittay

Lawyers who focus their practice on a specific area of the law tend to seek out like-minded colleagues with whom they can network and find resources. If there is enough interest, a specialty bar association may be formed.

With the growing number of states having legalized some form of marijuana use or considering doing so, attorneys who deal with the laws surrounding the drug and its related businesses decided to create the National Cannabis Bar Association. Its first event was in June of this year.

“There were a number of us practicing in this field for several years, and we found it was hard to locate resources and support among our peers [and] hard to locate good cannabis attorneys,” says Lara L. DeCaro, a California-based lawyer who is a founding member and secretary of the bar. “We wanted to prepare a resource for cannabis attorneys to get together for social networking, education, and support.”

The group plans to focus on the business side of the marijuana industry rather than the criminal defense area, says Amanda Conley, bar treasurer, also from California. Information for lawyers on issues such as business formation, intellectual property protection, and contracts and agreements are the kinds of standard business concerns that NCBA will work most heavily on, says Conley.

“We found that NORML [the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws] has a great organization they’ve put together on the criminal side,” she adds, “but there was nothing that really filled that niche of bringing together business attorneys for the industry.”

Conley says the group’s launch event on June 30 in Denver attracted more than 300 people. Two months into existence at press time, the bar has 80 members, spread across 17 states. There is a lot of interest from law students as well.

Initial association events include upcoming CLE programs in Denver and Las Vegas, says Shabnam Malek, NCBA president and executive director, also from California. Also being planned are networking events in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, and possibly New York.