Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pennsylvania legal publication notes "Medical Cannabis Is the Next Boom" and asks "but When Will It Bust?"

As a law professor, I am always distinctly interesting in stories about how marijuana reform is impacting the legal profession. Consequently, this new article from a Pennsylvania legal newspaper, headlined ""Medical Cannabis Is the Next Boom, but When Will It Bust?", really caught my attention.  Here are excerpts:

With Pennsylvania well on its way toward implementing a medical marijuana program, dozens of lawyers in the state are preparing for an explosion of legal work related to cannabis. The blossoming industry is reminiscent of the surge in legal work that grew out of the Marcellus Shale play, which sparked up engagements for all kinds of firms almost a decade ago.

“Everyone wanted to be in it, there were people who carved out individual expertise … but the special area is here to stay,” said Steve Franko, a solo practitioner from Northeast Pennsylvania and member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s medical marijuana and hemp law committee. “It’s going to be, just like the [natural] gas was, a combination of people who have skills that maybe cross upon multiple areas.”...

Lawyers now getting into the medical marijuana space acknowledge that there may come a time when federal authorities decriminalize marijuana, decreasing the number of legal questions and the demand for cannabis-related legal consultations. But that’s a long way off, they said, as Pennsylvania is just starting to address the complicated effects of medical marijuana on numerous areas of law.

Andrew Sacks, head of both the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia bar association’s medical marijuana and hemp committees, said he has also heard lawyers compare medical cannabis to Pennsylvania’s gambling expansion, which created a rush of legal work several years ago, then saw a decline in work when casinos got their licenses.

But licensing is just the surface of medical marijuana law, said Sacks, a name partner at Philadelphia’s Sacks Weston Diamond. Lawyers in many other practices areas have an opportunity to get in on the action. “Everybody is searching the world, searching the country and cities to see what people have done in their specific area so they can become specific experts,” Sacks said. “People are gearing up to become the names in the category.”...

Things will really explode in the legal world “the second the first drip of medical marijuana gets sold,” Sacks said. When that happens, it won’t just create heath care and business issues, he said, but questions in a multitude of legal practices.

Kathryn Palladino, a criminal lawyer and subcommittee chair on the Philadelphia Bar’s medical marijuana committee, said she expects medical marijuana to become part of her day-to-day work, and it’s not just about clients breaking federal law to use it. DUI cases will raise questions about whether patients can drive after using marijuana, she said, and patients who are incarcerated may seek access to cannabis in prison. Patients on probation or parole who seek access to medical marijuana may risk violating parole. “It will only grow as the patients have access to the marijuana and we see some issues come up that the legislature hadn’t planned for,” Palladino said. And that’s just criminal law.

The new field of medical marijuana law will also touch on employment law, family law, education, intellectual property, licensing, life sciences, real estate, tax, workers’ compensation and zoning law, lawyers said. That’s one way that medical marijuana is different from the Marcellus Shale boom, Sacks said. Drilling and natural gas led to legal questions in five or so other areas of law, he said, but for legal cannabis, the collateral issues are more numerous.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2017/05/pennsylvania-legal-publication-notes-medical-cannabis-is-the-next-boom-and-asks-but-when-will-it-bus.html

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