Monday, June 26, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions And The Cannabis Law Institute

On Monday, June 12th 2017, a letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions that highlights his opposition to medical cannabis became public.  While the Administration had previously given somewhat vague statements about their intentions relating to medical cannabis, this letter provides clear cut opposition to appropriations riders that prevent the Department of Justice from expending funds against medical cannabis activities. The letter requested that leaders of congress not restrict the Department of Justice’s funding in the prosecution of state medical cannabis laws.

Further, Sessions claims that it would be “unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the [Justice] Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”
Mr. Sessions is right about one thing. There is a drug epidemic. Except that epidemic has not resulted from cannabis, but rather from opioids. In the FY18 Budget Hearing for the Department of Justice, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein indicated that the death total from drug overdose for 2016 could be as high as 60,000 people with 60% of those deaths coming from prescription opioids.  No one has ever died from a medical cannabis overdose, largely in part due to how safe this from of medicine is.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a total of 29 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico now allow for comprehensive public medical cannabis programs.  Recently approved efforts in 17 states allow use of "low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD)" products for medical reasons in limited situations or as a legal defense. In March 2016, the estimated number of medical cannabis patients in the United States was 2,604,079; and now we are easily pushing that number close to having 3,230,867 citizens using medical cannabis under state approved laws.

The National Cannabis Bar Association

All of those medical cannabis patients, all of those producing the medicine for the medical industry and for all those in states with legalized adult-use and medical programs; these are all area’s that are going to need the crucial role of Cannabis Attorney’s to uphold, defend and protect these state rights.

Cannabis law is a fantastic but mine-filled practice area. For attorney’s who are looking for something different, where one can help forge the laws, culture, and trajectory of an entire industry, there is nothing like it. Nothing is boilerplate and everything requires creative thinking in protecting this safe plant and the people who depend upon it’s medicine. Cannabis law, like entertainment law, is an amalgamation of other practice areas, including medical law,  business law, administrative law, intellectual property, criminal law, employment law and tax law.

The National Cannabis Bar Association was formed in 2015 by a group of lawyers who saw a need to educate and connect with other cannabis industry lawyers for the purpose of providing excellent, ethical, and advanced legal assistance to this growing industry.

The Cannabis Law Institute, the seminal two-day cannabis industry legal education event produced by the National Cannabis Bar Association and co-sponsored by the University of Denver Sturm College of Law will be held on July 28-29, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. This event will convene the best minds and visionaries working in the legal cannabis industry for two days of legal education and two intimate evening networking events. The conference will feature many of the nation’s leading attorneys, academics, and politicians. The conference offers multiple tracks for practitioners, academics, and policy advocates. Courses range from introductory to advanced and include relevant information from Canadian attorneys.
Henry Wykowski, the lead attorney on the Harborside Health Center civil forfeiture case and one of the foremost business and tax attorneys in the country serving the cannabis industry, will be in conversation with Lara DeCaro discussing emerging issues in cannabis law.
Matt Houtsma of the IRS will keynote the lunch hour at the Cannabis Law Institute.
Two different sessions covering the Western US and the Eastern US:
Attorneys from around the country will discuss the status cannabis laws, both adult use and medical, in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, California--the West. Mitzi Vaughn, Kimberly Simms, and Leland Berger will cover the West.
The East is represented by Jeffrey McCourt, Dina Rollman, and Jason Klein.  Attorneys should attend these sessions to get a robust overview of the status of the laws in each state and a comparative view of the states.


The National Cannabis Bar Association is a non-partisan, non-profit organization formed in 2015 by a group of U.S. lawyers who saw a need to educate and connect with other cannabis industry attorneys for the purpose of providing excellent, ethical, and in advanced legal assistance to this growing industry. Our primary objectives are to educate and build community among lawyers serving the cannabis industry and to assist them in identifying the ethical guidelines that dictate their practices and business dealings within the industry. You can read more about the organization at
On the second day of the Institute, John Vardaman, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Hypur, Inc., will discuss money laundering and banking issues in the cannabis industry. John was instrumental in devising federal policy for enforcing Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and anti-money laundering (AML) laws while working at the Department of the Treasury and then at the Department of Justice. He also was involved in drafting the  DOJ guidance regarding financial crimes related to state legalization of cannabis, one of the few policies on the enforcement of federal law with respect to cannabis-related businesses. John was also instrumental in devising DOJ policy regarding the enforcement of laws governing the structuring of financial transactions.
View a full schedule of events and presentations here:

Single-day passes begin at only $399! Click here for more information and to purchase tickets and save now.

Check their website regularly or their Facebook page for updates on the schedule or contact us directly at for more information about this program. Register early for substantial savings. Admission includes lunch and reception on Friday, and breakfast and lunch plus a reception on Saturday.

*CLE credits available in California, Colorado, and New York. *Contact us for information on other jurisdictions.*

“A majority of states now have comprehensive medical marijuana laws on the books, and a supermajority of Americans support letting patients access cannabis without fear of arrest. It’s well past time for Congress to modernize federal law so that people with cancer, multiple sclerosis and PTSD don’t have to worry about Jeff Sessions sending in the DEA to arrest them or their suppliers," Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell said in a statement.