On September 12, 2022, the Real Estate, Condemnation, and Trust Committee of the ABA’s Litigation Section hosted a Regional CLE Program at the offices of Greenberg Traurig, LLC, in Chicago. The program focused on cannabis law. Throughout the course of the day, speakers participated in panels on a variety of topics, including those directed at business considerations, legislative history (including discussion of upcoming legislation or referenda which could expand legalization to new states), litigation trends, employment considerations, ethical issues, and real estate specific challenges to operating in the cannabis space. Speakers included members of academia, in-house counsel for cannabis businesses, and lawyers in private practice experienced with cannabis law.
The conference—unlike many CLE presentations—involved lively debate from both the panelists and attendees, reflecting the deep commitment and passionate interest the participants have for this emerging area of the law. While it would be impossible to fully summarize the information presented at the conference, here are some high-level takeaways.
One of the biggest legal and business challenges to starting or operating in the cannabis space is the necessity for businesses to operate outside any federally regulated financing or banking institutions, since cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. As a result, many businesses are forced to structure themselves to segregate “plant-touching” activities (cultivation, production, manufacturing, and sales) from other activities (marketing, branding, and HR), to broaden the opportunities to obtain financing for at least some business activities. Furthermore, businesses may find it easier to get financing from smaller, state-chartered institutions, such as credit unions, as opposed to federally chartered institutions.