For generations, marijuana was vilified in the United States and beyond. Major newspapers, movies, and politicians told lies about the drug, painting a picture of a deadly and addictive substance that would kill users with overdoses, convince them that they could fly out of windows, and lead them down the path to other even more dangerous drugs.
In reality, of course, there is virtually no danger in smoking marijuana. It’s effectively impossible to overdose on, has not been connected to any deadly diseases, and certainly does not prompt users to jump out of windows. So when marijuana became the safe drug of choice for users in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s, those enjoying it had nothing to fear from the plant. They did, however, have plenty to fear from the law.
Though laws varied by states, marijuana remained entirely illegal in the United States until quite recently. Its fans, of course, dreamed of a time that this would not be the case. They dreamed of legal marijuana: marijuana that you could grow freely, smoke anywhere, buy in packs at the grocery store like cigarettes.
Marijuana legalization has come to many states, and will soon come to others – in fact, its legalization in huge new swaths of the U.S. is looking increasingly inevitable. But this brave new world of legal marijuana looks little like the one dreamed up by the hopeful marijuana smokers of yore. The good news is that we have far more specialty options than we ever dreamed of: edibles, for instance, and organic marijuana options. But the biggest difference is a bit of a bummer. What is it? The complex regulations!
Legal marijuana is no simple thing
If you smoke marijuana, your exposure to the complexities of state laws on the subject is minimal. If you live in a state where marijuana is illegal, you can’t smoke it. If it’s legal in your state (or one you are visiting), you need to know a few things: that you can only buy marijuana at dispensaries, can only buy it for yourself, may only smoke it in certain areas (not in public or near a school), cannot drive under the influence, and cannot carry marijuana across state lines. Those rules are mostly common sense, of course. There are restrictions, but they’re fairly easy to obey. Some states even allow users to cultivate small marijuana plants for personal use.
For those on the business side of marijuana, however, things get very complicated.
States register those growing marijuana and those selling it. The number of licenses for marijuana growers and dispensaries is limited by law. Grocery stores and other existing businesses can sell cigarettes, but that’s not the case with marijuana: if you want to sell marijuana, you need to run a marijuana dispensary, which can sell nothing else. The places where marijuana dispensaries can be located are limited by law, too. The ways in which you can advertise and display marijuana are (you guessed it) regulated by the law. And all of these laws change from state to state!
In other words, staying on the right side of the law while being on the business side of legal marijuana can be very, very difficult. Unlike laws that affect marijuana consumers, laws that affect marijuana businessmen and women are not always simply common sense. You’ll need to keep careful track of all of your legal obligations, anticipate legal problems, and secure legal approval if you want to produce or sell marijuana.
Or rather, someone has to. That someone is your lawyer. While getting a lawyer won’t completely eliminate your own obligations, it will greatly simplify the task of staying on the right side of the law.
A good attorney is a necessary partner for almost any type of small business, because organizing a business and handling taxes is a complex thing (and a small business owner is likely an expert in their field – not in business organization and taxes!). In the marijuana business, this need is only more glaring. Turning to an attorney who specializes in marijuana businesses can help you organize your business from the start and stay on the right side of all relevant regulations throughout your career. With a lawyer focusing on the complexities of marijuana regulation, business owners are free to focus on the fun part: the marijuana!