1. What did you do before the industry?
Before I started my own law firm focused on intellectual property in the cannabis industry I worked at a law firm that handled trusts, estates, and some civil litigation. When I was working at the law firm I was dating a glass blower who had a glass studio in our garage. I saw that she had passion for the art she was making and found a lot of happiness from picking an unconventional path, that was ancillary to the cannabis industry. When the law firm I was working for broke apart and I had to make my own way, I realized that I should pick an area of law that I Ioved, believed in, and could be passionate about helping clients, that is how I picked intellectual property and cannabis.
2.What sparked your interest in the cannabis industry? How did you first get involved in the industry?
I obtained my philosophy degree from the University of Oregon in Eugene, I also feel like while living in Eugene I obtained an undergraduate degree in cannabis culture. This grew into obtaining my masters in cannabis culture while I lived in Amsterdam studying, at The University of Amsterdam, my masters in international trade and investment law. I think life knew I was going practice law in the cannabis industry before I did. It took me a few times to pass the California Bar Exam, on the time that I was successful I left Ontario, CA and I drove to my friend’s house in LA and trimmed for 4 hours as a way to decompress from 18 hours of testing. A few months later I ended up taking classes at Oaksterdam, which a year later turned into me founding Oaksterdam
University’s intellectual property section. I know I am the only person in the world to have an advanced degree from the University of Amsterdam, certificates from Oaksterdam, and also teach a cannabis law class.
3.Walk us through a normal work day? (Or things you do on a regular basis if you don’t have a normal work day)
A normal work day is guaranteed to be filled with emails, client phone calls, and reading, either articles on the cannabis industry or new law. Many days I will also be required to spend time doing research on TESS (explain this acronym as you do with USPTO), which the is the federal trademark search engine on the USPTO( United States Patent and Trademark Office) website. I spend a lot of time explaining to people how intellectual property relates to the cannabis industry, especially trademarks.
4.Have you ever felt any stigma against yourself from others for working in the industry?
My favorite thing about working in the cannabis industry is helping people and working to shift the paradigm on how cannabis is viewed in the United States. I believe the United States is in dire need of drug policy reform, especially with cannabis laws. The highlight of my career working in the industry was volunteering pro-bono on the Clemency Project 2014, where I successfully assisted a non-violent drug offender serving a life sentence
obtain a commutation from President Obama.
6. What is a challenge you have faced since working in the cannabis industry?
I think the biggest challenge without any hesitation is the Federal Government. The ostrich like stance of the federal government about cannabis legalization is a constant frustration. The Canadian Government has shifted its policy to allow its citizens to become legal millionaires by leading the world in developing an international cannabis trade, while here in the United States we still are making people felons. We still cannot obtain federal trademarks directly on cannabis goods and services, while other countries federal governments have allowed cannabis businesses to register their trademarks on cannabis, hash, and cultivation services at the WIPO(World Intellectual Property Organization) level. I recently found out the United States has over 3000 trademark applications filed with either the word “marijuana” or “cannabis” in the description of services, but none of these trademarks can actually touch anything directly connected to the plant, this is an unreasonable burden of an emerging industry.
7. Do you have any advice to job seekers looking into the industry?
Learn the history of the cannabis industry. I have found a lot of people who are entering the cannabis industry do not understand the persecution that cannabis users, both medical and adult use, have suffered. I credit Oaksterdam University, and especially Debbie Goldsberry, with giving me a better understanding of this history of cannabis in the United States. I would also suggest you find mentors who already working in the area of the cannabis industry you want to be involved with and develop relationships with them. I don’t know where I would be today if it wasn’t for Kali Grech, Brendan Hallinan, Mary Shaprio, Anne Glazer, and Tony Serra. Without meeting these attorneys I am not sure I would have had the confidence to focus my practice on cannabis. I think the last piece of advice is also after you start to get established help other people. Cannabis legalization is still something we are fighting for and if meet someone who’s heart is in the right space take the time to educate them about the cannabis industry.