Occupation: Attorney with Greenspoon Marder LLP
When and how did you become an advocate for cannabis?
I have been an advocate for cannabis legalization since the ’80s when I first heard Peter Tosh’s voice telling us to “Legalize it.” I went to law school so I could have the education, degree and the power to influence the reform of laws, but at the time, I had no idea that I could actually make a career in “marijuana law;” it didn’t exist then. It’s such an exciting and dynamic area of the law, and it keeps me active in policy and advocacy. When I was the executive director of Colorado NORML during the passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado, and we were the first state to legalize, people would ask me “what do you do now that cannabis is legalized?” It was clear to me then as it is now; our work has just begun!
How has cannabis benefited your life?
I came to understand the importance of cannabis throughout my life. I have seen it heal people in a number of ways, physically, mentally and spiritually. It is a wonderful, natural plant that has a variety of applications, including industrial ones. It benefits the lives of so many others that its illegality makes little sense. I am glad in the last few years the public has come to understand that cannabis prohibition causes more harm than good. I would like to see our politicians represent better the will of their constituents.
What is your greatest achievement for the cannabis cause?
Cannabis legalization is primarily a social justice issue, but also a state’s rights issue and a privacy issue. Federal legalization, access to banking and the repeal or amendment of I.R.C Section 280E are my principle causes. I feel that generally, my advocacy for cannabis businesses with regard to these issues in light of federal adversity is my greatest achievement.
“We need to regulate less like plutonium and more like alcohol, while understanding cannabis is very different from alcohol, and does not carry with it the same social costs or health risks.”
How did that manifest?
I was a passionate advocate for legalization throughout my 20s and 30s, and in law school. My legal background was in tax matters before I started representing cannabis businesses in 2010, and audit issues surrounding Section 280E are prevalent in the industry.
Who do you look up to or admire?
Many people, but I am inspired and influenced most by my family, including my mother, my sons and my grandparents. I come from a long line of self-starters and people with entrepreneurial spirit. I admire many people who are not afraid to be the voice of reason and change.
If you could change one thing about the way cannabis is viewed and/or treated right now, what would it be?
I would like to see states stop adopting competitive or so called “merit-based” licensing schemes and trend more toward free market models. While I understand the desire to take slow and measured regulatory approaches, these licensing models don’t favor patients, consumers and competition, as they tend to create monopolies. We need to regulate less like plutonium and more like alcohol, while understanding cannabis is very different from alcohol, and does not carry with it the same social costs or health risks.
I would also like people to view cannabis more like the natural plant that it is and to understand its relative “harms” compared to other more dangerous substances. Along with that, I would like to see our federal government more amenable to the legitimate study of cannabis for medicinal purposes.