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Only a few years ago, legal matters involving marijuana existed almost exclusively within the realm of criminal law. However, state actions to legalize marijuana have created a full-blown cannabis industry that encompasses growers, distributors, and ancillary product manufacturers and services.

How Is the Cannabis Industry Unique?

While most states have legalized marijuana in varying degrees, federal law still considers pot to be a Schedule 1 controlled substance. The result is a complicated regulatory landscape that presents businesses with a certain degree of risk. The cannabis industry may also place higher entrance costs on prospective businesses. Even though many states have legalized marijuana, they might still place restrictions on licenses and require high application fees. They also might require extensive and expensive security measures to ensure that marijuana doesn't end up on the black market.

Generally, the industry is divided into two spheres: "plant touching" and "ancillary." As its name implies, "plant touching" companies include growers, distributors and dealers, and "ancillary" companies include a broad range of businesses, including equipment manufacturers and food and beverage products.

How Can a Cannabis Lawyer Help Me?

In one sense, a cannabis lawyer is not different from a lawyer in other businesses or industries. A cannabis lawyer's work might include drafting contracts, negotiating deals, and providing advice on compliance issues. Lawyers in the cannabis industry, however, must also have the know-how to navigate its complicated regulatory terrain. In addition, the price tag for entrance into the cannabis industry can be high, so retaining an experienced and qualified lawyer at early stage can reduce the financial risk and potential criminal liability.

A few other specific areas where a cannabis lawyer is essential:

  • Patent and trademark protection. Because marijuana is illegal under federal law, obtaining protection from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is difficult. Ancillary products, however, can be trademarked, and a business can file an "intent-to-use" application for a new strain in hopes that federal legalization will be granted within three years.
  • Taxes. Internal Revenue Services rules are hard on cannabis-related companies, and a cannabis tax lawyer can help in devising strategies to deal with them.
  • Leases and contracts. Rental and lease agreements need to be carefully drafted to limit liability, and the same is true with business contracts involving other cannabis companies.

If you're interested in entering the rapidly growing cannabis industry with a business, use LawInfo to search for an attorney in your area.

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