American lawyer in BarcelonaI spent last weekend in Barcelona attending Spannabis. Our Barcelona lawyers constantly get inquiries from serious international businesspeople wanting to start a cannabis social club or some other sort of cannabis business in Spain. And with more than 200 medical marijuana social clubs in Barcelona alone, I wanted to go there to meet with key industry players to learn more about what is going on with marijuana in Catalonia’s capital city and in the rest of Spain.

Barcelona and medical marijuana felt to me like some combination of California, Oregon, and Washington seven years ago. Namely, it feels like an unregulated, quasi-commercial gray market chalk full of “collective” non-profits and rotating patient members, unclear laws and inconsistent enforcement of those laws. For a breakdown on the current medical marijuana laws in Spain and in Barcelona, go here. This unclear and pioneer atmosphere was also in full force at Spannabis, which was in many respects just like pretty much every other marijuana trade show/expo I’ve attended in the United States: light on serious education about marijuana laws and regulations and heavy on promoting marijuana consumption and on seeking to preserve the counter-culture. But with cannabis cups and consuming events dwindling in the U.S. from increasing state marijuana regulations, I would be remiss if I did not mention how the Spannabis fairgrounds managed to maintain a steady cloud of overhanging marijuana smoke from its more than 3,000 attendees who openly and consistently consumed despite the presence of law enforcement.

Spannabis had only a single panel on the legality and rules surrounding Barcelona’s (mostly medical) marijuana social clubs and the panelist gave little detail or explanation about the law that enables cannabis clubs to operate. That panel was made up of one criminal defense attorney telling attendees about the national and local government’s conflicting policy positions on health and law enforcement and the rights of individuals to consume cannabis for medical use. Needless to say, since our cannabis lawyers represent the business side, I didn’t this panel very helpful. More importantly, this panel served as just another indication that Barcelona and Spain as a whole have just not yet really “arrived” yet as destinations for those seeking to form and operate a cannabis business fully compliant with local (in this case Barcelona), provincial (Catalonia) and federal (Spain) laws. Fortunately, our Spain lawyers mostly focus on representing ancillary cannabis businesses and CBD businesses, along with the standard fare of helping foreign companies in all industries seeking to form a business in Spain and make a go of things there.

But as many in the industry there were quick and emphatic about telling me, the cannabis scene in Barcelona and in Spain is slowing maturing and slowing getting “more legal.” As we wrote just last week, the regional Parliament of Catalonia has proposed reforms in line with a 2014 initiative advocated by Regulacion Responsible in advance of the 2014 Spain national elections. The initiative’s aim was to create a framework for the national reform of cannabis laws to permit regions like Catalonia and cities like Barcelona to set their own cannabis policies. Though the 2016 legislative initiative stalled, it has recently reemerged and anticipation is building for a revised version of this bill that would mean increased regulation for legalized marijuana businesses on a regional basis. Given the inconsistent enforcement of current laws (within both Catalonia and Spain) and the lack of meaningful or comprehensive business regulations, such reforms cannot come soon enough to better protect and give more structure to those cultivating and distributing marijuana for and to patients. Patients would also benefit from such regulation as it would increase both transparency around the sourcing of cannabis products and cannabis quality assurance standards.

Even though marijuana social clubs in Spain exist in a risk-laden gray area, it’s clear that manufacturing and distributing CBD is a popular and, more importantly, legal practice in Spain and Barcelona (in contrast to the United States). Indeed, the majority of booths on the exhibitor floor at Spannabis focused on hemp seeds (there was even a company there from Humboldt County) and CBD-based products. Manufacturing and distributing cannabis paraphernalia or equipment used for consuming, cultivating or handling are also legal and ancillary companies are alive and well in Barcelona, just like in most of the U.S. This is why foreign investors looking at Spain are mostly focusing on financing, starting, managing or assisting ancillary companies and not so much on marijuana social clubs, all of which are non-profit because of existing laws prohibiting commercial “trafficking.” The Arcview Group (well-known for angel investments in ancillary marijuana businesses) held an investor meeting in Barcelona for the first time last week.

Barcelona’s medical marijuana marketplace remains immature and risky (these were the words used by many of those with whom I spoke while I was in Spain), but it no doubt has tremendous potential. Once local governments in Spain are given the freedom (and they might soon) to take the reigns on cannabis regulation and to create a better business atmosphere for cultivators, manufacturers, and distributors, Barcelona will no doubt quickly become a major marijuana city in terms of popularity, investment, and access. The lawyers in our Barcelona office can hardly wait.


Cannabis Lawyers
Happy New Year from all of us at Canna Law Blog!

We wish a happy new year to all of our readers! We will continue to write about cannabis law and business in 2017.

Please let us know with your comments below the topics you wish to see us cover in the upcoming year.


Cannabis lawyers

This was a HUGE year for cannabis and we had a great time covering it.

As 2016 comes to a close, we’d like to share some of our favorite/most popular blog posts of 2016:

  1.  Florida Legalizes Medical Marijuana, So No What? Here’s the 4-1-1
  2. California Legalizes Recreational Cannabis, So Now What? Here’s the 4-1-1
  3. BREAKING NEWS: Jeff Sessions Named as AG: Doom for Pot?
  4. The Top Ten Things You Need to Know to Start a Cannabis Business in Washington and Oregon
  5. Pesticide Testing of Cannabis Retailers
  6. Cannabis Industry Labor Laws
  7. Think You Are Selling “Legal” CBD Oil? DEA Says Think Again.
  8. Cannabis Branding and Trademarks With and Without Celebrities
  9. Oregon Medical Marijuana: The Wholesale Conundrum
  10. They Said It On Marijuana, Quotable Saturday, Part CXXXVIII (Barack Obama)

We would also like to thank all of our readers (both on here and on our Facebook page) and most emphatically state that we, the cannabis lawyers behind Canna Law Blog, are looking forward to continuing to write on legal cannabis here and to representing the leading cannabis businesses out there!

May your 2017 be a great year.


California cannabisWhat a long, strange road the election has been. After a wild and unpredictable night, marijuana may not be the first thing the media discusses in the election’s wake. Still, it cannot be overstated how successful the evening was for marijuana legalization. Cannabis ballot measures won in eight out of its nine races. This is unprecedented, and it shows the extent to which cannabis legalization is a bipartisan issue.

The below is a state-by-state rundown of where things ended up. For a comprehensive report on California cannabis and on what it will take to participate in its new adult-use cannabis industry, go here. And for the same on Florida’s new medical cannabis industry, go here.

Arizona — Lost — Proposition 205, which sought to legalize marijuana for all adults and license its production and sale, did not pass. Prop. 205 was pretty similar to legalization initiatives seen elsewhere, like Washington, Colorado, and California. Despite backing by the Marijuana Policy Project, Arizona apparently is not quite ready to go further than medical marijuana, which narrowly passed there in 2010.

Arkansas — Passed — Arkansas passed Issue 6, which legalizes medical marijuana for certain debilitating conditions.

California — Passed — This is the big kahuna. California, home to 12% of all Americans, passed Prop. 64, legalizing marijuana for all adults. The state is already working on regulations for its medical marijuana market, and both the medical and recreational markets are expected to go online some time in 2018. But if there is a straw that breaks that camel’s back federally, this is it.

Florida — Passed — Florida’s Amendment 2 passed overwhelmingly. With more than 70% of the vote, Florida got past its challenging 60% barrier on all citizens initiatives. Now, Florida will build a real commercial medical marijuana regime on top of its currently extremely limited high CBD program. Florida’s measure is broader than most state medical marijuana laws, including conditions like PTSD and gives physicians significant leeway in determining what to treat with medical marijuana.

Maine — Passed — Question 1 in Maine, a recreational marijuana initiative, was opposed by many in Maine’s government and business establishment as well as many in the medical marijuana community. However, it passed and Maine is now on the road to joining the other fully-legal cannabis states. 

Massachusetts — Passed — Massachusetts passed Question 4, legalizing recreational marijuana. This is another business licensing and taxation initiative, which follows the same basic structure as the other major recreational laws in the United States. 

Montana — Passed — I-182 will expand Montana’s medical marijuana program, turning it into more of a standard medical marijuana program, including allowing physicians to prescribe for PTSD and chronic pain.

Nevada — Passed — This one was close, but Nevada passed Question 2, legalizing recreational marijuana. Nevada’s medical marijuana business regime always felt like a precursor to recreational legalization, and the early investors in Nevada’s licensed medical businesses are now poised to take advantage and transition into the recreational market.

North Dakota — Passed — This one is a little surprising, because there wasn’t much polling done in North Dakota. North Dakota has passed Measure 5, which is a limited measure legalizing marijuana for the treatment of specific conditions such as cancer, AIDS, and hepatitis C.

Overall, a very good night for cannabis, assuming that our new President does not seek to toughen federal laws regarding state-law cannabis.

imagesWe are proud and excited to announce that our lead Oregon attorney, Vince Sliwoski, has been appointed an Adjunct Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland. Starting in January, Vince will teach an upper level course on Cannabis Law and Policy to second and third year law students. You can read the law school’s announcement here and view the course description here.

Lewis & Clark describes Vince’s class as follows:

The legal status of cannabis is changing rapidly across the U.S. While cannabis remains a controlled substance federal law, a slight majority of states now have medical and recreational laws permitting some uses. At the same time, cannabinoids (components of cannabis plants that are separate from the psychoactive THC components) have potential for medical and therapeutic uses. There is also a renewed interest in the use of industrial hemp for cheap, resilient materials.

This class covers a wide range of legal issues confronting cannabis, marijuana, and hemp uses. In particular, it surveys the legal aspects of the emerging markets for these substances, using Oregon as its state-level focal point. Topics surveyed in this class include constitutional law, business law, intellectual property, tax, banking, bankruptcy, anti-trust and legal ethics. Expert practitioners in these areas will provide guest lectures to frame the issues for students, who will develop their paper topics under the guidance of the instructor.

With the advent of state level marijuana, the legal community has begun to respond to market demand, including on the critical issue of educating the next generation of industry attorneys. Our firm, Harris Bricken has served the industry since 2010 through our Canna Law Group and we are honored that Oregon’s best private law school has recognized our industry leadership by selecting Vince to teach this class.

We also cannot help but use this as an opportunity to reflect on how far the legal cannabis industry has come in the Northwest. When we first started practicing cannabis law six years ago, there were serious doubts regarding the legal ethics of our providing advice to cannabis businesses. We were of the strong view that if cannabis were to be state legal, state legal businesses deserved legal representation and that providing such representation would be — had to be — legal. But it took a formal ethics opinion from our state bar to confirm that. For more on the ethics of being cannabis lawyers, check out the following:

For us, this teaching position is further vindication of what we and other cannabis business attorneys do. On our Canna Law Blog Facebook Page, we often post articles that show how the legalization of cannabis is leading to the normalization of cannabis. We see Lewis & Clark’s appointing Vince to its faculty as another giant step forward towards normalization of cannabis, specifically in the legal arena. And we look forward to the day when such a class will be commonplace at law schools nationwide.

Though we are fine with taking the lead in this practice, we will admit that confirmation by our peers and the academy is very meaningful to us. We have always viewed it as part of our mission to help educate the next generation of cannabis lawyers. For that reason, all of our cannabis lawyers speak often in front of law students, lawyers and industry groups. In addition to Vince’s frequent presentation at law schools and legal events:

  • Robert McVay and Hilary Bricken have been guest lecturers at the University of Washington’s Cannabis Law and Policy Project and spoken at other law schools.
  • Alison Malsbury speaks often to lawyer groups and to law schools on cannabis intellectual property.
  • Tiffany Wu, who heads up our California cannabis practice, speaks and writes regularly on California’s new and evolving cannabis laws.
  • Nadja Vietz, who runs our Barcelona office (and is licensed to practice law in Spain, Germany and the United States), is a leader in the legalization movement in Spain and in Germany.
  • Daniel Shortt, our newest cannabis attorney in Seattle, has already presented before industry groups and in front of law school classes, and works closely with cannabis policy groups.

This ongoing education and outreach connects us to OUR community and helps spread the good word about the cannabis industry and how much better legalization is for everyone. Our first job is practicing law, but our second job is to help educate via this blog, our Facebook page, and by getting out, speaking and teaching.

As to the early word on enrollment for Vince’s Lewis & Clark class, we were not surprised to hear that the class filled in less than 30 minutes, with a long waiting list to boot. Good luck to Vince in teaching this class, and stay tuned for more coverage on educational opportunities provided by our attorneys in Oregon, Washington, California and elsewhere.

Cannabis and the environmentOur co-lead cannabis business attorney, Hilary Bricken, will be leading an all-star panel in Denver tomorrow discussing cannabis and the environment. On October 6, from 2:15 p.m. until 3:45 p.m. Hilary will be leading a panel at the American Bar Associations’ (ABA) Fall Conference entitled Cutting Through the Haze: Marijuana and the Environment. If you have already signed up for the ABA conference, this is the one event you do not want to miss.

The ABA describes it as follows:

In November, 14 states will vote on whether to join 23 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing some form of marijuana. The legalization of adult use and medicinal marijuana presents unique issues of federalism and state/local control. Whether legal or not, protecting the environment in marijuana cultivation has become a critical challenge for state environmental regulation, with marijuana cultivation requiring significant water, energy, and land resources. This panel will offer a mix of perspectives on how states and the marijuana industry can use market and regulatory controls to drive sustainability in marijuana cultivation.

And here is where it gets great. The speakers of this panel are the following:

If you care about either cannabis or the environment (and who doesn’t), you should attend. We hope to see you there.

Oregon Cannabis business lawyer

As part of its monthly Hot Topics Cool Talks series, Oregon Business Magazine will on October 25, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., be hosting From Pinot to Pot: The Marijuana Market One Year After Legalization at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland.

Oregon Business describes this sure to be fantastic event as follows:

It’s been almost 12 months since the passage of Measure 91, and Oregon’s emergent cannabis industry is growing by leaps and bounds. New businesses open monthly, investors are swooping in and niche markets — from high-end boutiques to organics — are proliferating. So where does the industry go from here? Join marijuana entrepreneurs, investors and consultants for a lively conversation about market conditions and diversification, the shifting regulatory landscape and key players driving growth in the Oregon marijuana industry.

Our panelists will share stories and discuss the following questions:

• How are state and federal regulations impacting evolution of the market?
• How do you brand product, manage pricing and beat the competition?
• What are the biggest growth drivers?
• How are outsiders and big businesses reshaping the local industry?


The following four panelists will headline this event:

Linda Baker, Editor of Oregon Business Magazine will be the moderator.

Go here to register and get your tickets. To receive a 20% panelist discount, please email us at firm at

California cannabisThis week, the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation (BMCR) is holding its first pre-regulatory meeting for stakeholders to discuss topics related to the general licensing requirements for medical cannabis dispensaries, distributors, manufacturers, testing laboratories and transporters. The meetings will be held jointly with the Office of Medical Cannabis Safety (OMCS), which operates under the California Department of Public Health and is responsible for licensing manufacturers.

During each meeting, the agencies will provide updates on the development of medical cannabis regulations under the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA) and discuss issues relevant to all license types. Topics to be covered during each meeting include:

  • Owners and financial interest
  • Background checks
  • Priority for application review
  • Rehabilitation consideration factors
  • Local-government approval

Separate breakout sessions will be held for each license type. Since the breakout sessions occur at the same time, the agencies have asked that attendees only register for one session per meeting and have also asked stakeholders only register for one meeting location, which means anyone who is interested in multiple licenses types will have to pick one session to attend or send someone on your behalf.

For dispensaries, the breakout sessions will cover:

  • Subtypes of dispensary licenses
  • Employee requirements
  • Delivery requirements
  • Transaction limits

For distributors, the breakout sessions will cover:

  • Product quality assurance
  • Repurposing of medical cannabis
  • Labeling
  • Sample collection for testing purposes

For transporters, the breakout sessions will cover:

  • Shipping requirements
  • Transportation thresholds
  • Vehicle requirements

For manufacturers, the breakout sessions will cover:

  • Extraction methods
  • Minimizing incidental exposure
  • Variables in licensing fees
  • Standards or practices for quality and safety

For testing labs, the breakout sessions will cover:

  • Best practices for safety and quality
  • Analytes to test for
  • Variables in licensing fees
  • Practices or standards for statistically valid samples

Attendees will have several opportunities to provide input and the agencies state that they are interested in exploring any alternatives suggested. On their published agenda, the agencies also made sure to emphasize that any thoughts they share are not final and that neither licensing authority will be making any decisions on regulations during the meetings.

The stakeholder meetings will continue through September and October throughout California so there is still time to register, though several of the dates are already sold out. These pre-regulatory meetings are only the first step in the regulations process, however the agencies are currently still set on completing their rule-making by the end of 2017 with the goal to begin accepting applications on January 1, 2018. We will be following this process closely and will continue to provide updates as the agencies move forward, but for anyone hoping to get a state license under the new medical cannabis regulations this is the time to reassess your business plans and either provide your input or get ready to make some changes.