According to the Willamette Week, the Oregon State Bar just added a smoking section.
So what does that mean?
Attorneys in Oregon, whose practices includes marijuana business clients now, have their own specialty within the Oregon State Bar.
The Cannabis Law Section was created to “assist lawyers in navigating this growing area of state and federal law,” according to a news release.
Oregon is now the third state in the nation, after Colorado and Michigan, to recognize cannabis as a legal specialty. The new section has already attracted 71 members, according to the state bar.
The Cannabis Law Section will also provide policy guidance to statewide leaders, in addition to over a dozen separate topics of interest to its members.
“We have identified roughly 18 areas of law where cannabis law intersects with other areas of the law, as it grows into a practice area with particular complexity,” said Portland lawyer Leland Berger, founding chairman of the Cannabis Section and longtime advocate for marijuana law reform.
Cannabis businesses have the same legal needs as any other enterprise—from setting up agreements among partners, creating a business framework, navigating local land-use laws and staying in compliance with state laws on everything from pesticide application to product packaging.
Then, there is the fact that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, which presents all manner of other issues like banking, taxation, etc.—not the mention, the new president and his rabidly anti-weed attorney general.
“Every aspect of this business has some degree of risk,” said attorney Jennifer Clifton, who practices corporate, real estate and tax law and is now a member of the Cannabis Law Section.
Portland’s Leland Berger, whose experience on the subject came mostly from working in criminal defense, said he became aware of his own unfamiliarity with a host of legal topics as Oregon transitioned to legal marijuana. This motivated him to create a legal community around cannabis.
“I’m 61 years old and creating a Cannabis Law Section,” he told the Bulletin. “I’m just fortunate to be able to live long enough to do this.”
Berger and two other attorneys gathered signatures over the past year-and-a-half on a petition to create the section.
During that same period, the Oregon State Bar amended its rules of professional conduct to allow lawyers to counsel clients in marijuana businesses.
“Once that happened, it made lawyers who were not comfortable practicing in this area, comfortable practicing in this area,” Berger said.