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Offit Kurman launches medical marijuana practice group

‘The uniqueness from our perspective is that we have attorneys that do so many different types of law,’ says Offit Kurman’s Darren H. Weiss, left, a member of the firm’s new medical marijuana practice group. Jonathan R. Wachs, right, will head the nine-lawyer group. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

‘The uniqueness from our perspective is that we have attorneys that do so many different types of law,’ says Offit Kurman’s Darren H. Weiss, left, a member of the firm’s new medical marijuana practice group. Jonathan R. Wachs, right, will head the nine-lawyer group. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

The myriad regulatory and compliance issues that are involved in breaking into Maryland’s emerging medical marijuana industry are daunting for many businesses looking to gain a foothold in the market.

Attorneys at Offit Kurman have been fielding inquiries on the subject — some from those hoping to obtain a grower or dispensary license, and others from those less directly involved with the industry, such as bankers and insurance companies.

In response, Offit Kurman has launched a medical marijuana practice group, aiming to make the Maple Lawn-based firm a go-to resource for entrepreneurs and businesses seeking guidance on the industry.

“Our focus has been to provide compliance-related advice with an eye toward following industry regulations in Maryland,” said Jonathan R. Wachs, a principal who heads the nine-lawyer practice group. “I think that it’s important for people to keep current — it really is a shifting legislative and legal landscape for people looking to get into the industry.”

Offit Kurman has also launched an “affinity group” that hosts monthly discussions about medical marijuana issues for those interested in learning more about developments in the industry.

“We thought that since we were getting so many expressions of interest from different people connected to the firm, we should try to develop a task force or a discussion group or some method for pulling together different resources to address these questions,” said Wachs, who also heads the firm’s intellectual property group. “We started something similar within the food and beverage industry, and we thought, ‘The format works, so let’s take it to the new industry in Maryland as well.’”

When the application period for grower, processor and dispensary licenses ended last fall, the state’s Medical Cannabis Commission had received 882 license applications, most of which were requests for dispensary licenses, according to the commission.

The commission plans to announce the businesses that will receive “Stage 1” license approvals later this year, after which the businesses will have a year to complete preparations such as raising capital, seeking local zoning approval, installing equipment and hiring staff before requesting a final inspection by the commission.

For those businesses seeking legal guidance, the advantage of working with Offit Kurman lies in the range of areas of law in which firm attorneys practice, said Darren H. Weiss, a member of the firm’s new practice group. Entrepreneurs or companies with medical marijuana-related concerns can use the firm as a “one-stop shop” to seek answers to questions on employment law, intellectual property and other fields, he said.

“We have — under one roof, essentially — all of those things,” Weiss said. “The uniqueness from our perspective is that we have attorneys that do so many different types of law, contrary to those who have been in the [medical cannabis] space and are traditionally coming at it from a criminal defense background.”

The regional firm, which has offices in Maryland and five other nearby states, has expanded its medical marijuana practice to Pennsylvania as well, with the passage of a bill in that state last month that legalized medical marijuana, Weiss said.

“Prior to that point, there was no law. Now that there’s a law, there’s going to be a more sophisticated industry forming, but it’s really very new,” Weiss said.

On May 24, the firm will hold a seminar in its Philadelphia office geared toward introducing Pennsylvania business owners to the new law.

“As you hear from entrepreneurs who are getting into the industry, you’re hearing compelling stories of people who have said that medical cannabis has helped them recover from debilitating illnesses,” Wachs said. “If this industry develops the way the regulations contend it should, this’ll be a great benefit to patients throughout the state.”


About Lauren Kirkwood

Lauren Kirkwood covers the business of law beat at The Daily Record.