Along with the long-awaited legalization of medical cannabis in the state of Pennsylvania has come the emerging need for various industry specific services. One of those services is providing legal counsel to medical cannabis operators and business owners. Four of the largest legal firms in the city of Philadelphia are establishing divisions of their legal practices to serve medical marijuana entrepreneurs.
The four law firms – Duane Morris, Cozen O’Connor, Pepper Hamilton, and Fox Rothschild – all risk arrest, imprisonment and disbarment due to the illegality of cannabis at the federal level. Joseph C. Bedwick, partner at Cozen O’Connor, called the newly legal medical industry a “growth opportunity” in a recent article published by Philly.com. Despite the fact that Bedwick called the cannabis industry “a big ball of uncertainty” as a whole, he and his colleagues believe the risks are worth it.
Another Philadelphia attorney, Joshua Horn of Fox Rothschild, said that his firm did not anticipate federal agencies cracking down on legal cannabis, especially medical. He thinks the federal government lacks the budget to do so, and that “the popular will is strongly against it.”
“More than 90 percent of the people in the Commonwealth support the medical marijuana program, and Pennsylvania isn’t the most liberal state,” Horn told Philly.com reporters.
While attorneys Bedwick and Horn do not anticipate federal law interfering much, if at all with Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis businesses, evidence exists that such outcomes are possible.
Back in May of this year, California attorney Jessica McElfresh was arrested and charged with multiple felonies by the San Diego district attorney for allegedly helping her clients hide evidence of an oil extraction facility. As with so many drug cases, McElfresh had much of her property seized – including her client files, calendar, address book, and Internet searches. Attorney-client privilege was revoked in the case. The courts even demanded McElfresh’s cellphone location data for the last three years.
Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program has received some criticism for its lack of legal options for patients and a short list of patient disorders eligible to use the plant medicine. Some critics have labeled the state’s medical cannabis program as one of the most restrictive in the nation. Others have indicated the small victory after the long road it has been for the Keystone State to even pass the program it has. Either way, there will continue to be lucrative investment and employment opportunities available in the state, with more sure to come in the future.