In addition to being the managing attorney here at Hoban Law Group, I’ve been a professor for the past seven years at the University of Denver. And perhaps, much to the chagrin of some parents, students in my class learn and discuss marijuana and hemp policy at an adult, responsible level.
As an attorney, I practice the same thing — the idea that we can talk about this plant, we can legislate and regulate it, and we can create rules that give the government responsibility, because that’s the power we’ve granted them. But we do it in a way that gives us freedom and flexibility. How does someone become a cannabis lawyer and a cannabis professor? Some people think I have a background in criminal defense law, but that’s not the case.
In 2006, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For those of you who don’t know, pancreatic cancer is effectively a death sentence. Every morning, I’d go by to help get her day started. One time she was taking her prescribed opioid and I saw drool fall from the corner of her mouth. This was addiction, in the purest and most innocent sense, but still an addiction to a narcotic. We’ve seen over the past decade the myriad of issues around opioid addiction and overdose. But even at that time, I knew anything was better than seeing drool coming out of my mother’s mouth.
This was 206, before an abundance of dispensaries had popped up in Colorado, and before there was a commercial distribution system. We didn’t know much about all the different things that marijuana could do, but we were willing to try.
So I started to look into the medical program in Colorado that was passed in 2000. At the time, there were all these websites for caregivers. Basically you could meet someone and it ranged from “Hey man, I’ll meet you at the 7/11,” on one end, to, “I have some oils and tinctures that I think could really help your mother,” on the other. My mom was willing to try, but she wasn’t going to smoke anything — that just wasn’t her style. And I sure as heck wasn’t going to make a batch of brownies or cookies and send my mother to the moon.
So I used these resources and connected with other people who’d been down this road. They helped me, but also needed help. I was an attorney with a business practice and a natural fit for them because at the time there was no state regulation and no local regulations. But there was a constitutional provision, and it was in our constitution because the voters had put it there.
At first, my job as a lawyer was to keep them from getting arrested. But as other rules started to come into play – zoning laws, business licensing rules, and local government regulatory standards – the vision for Hoban Law Group as a cannabusiness law firm truly came into focus.
As I reflect back today, Thanksgiving of 2019, we are light years ahead of where we were when my journey with cannabis began. Today, let’s be thankful for widespread access to the cannabis plant, cutting-edge research and innovation, and not just commerce, but global commerce.
Yes, the battle to end cannabis prohibition has been long, but I’m so grateful for the progress made in the last 13 years. Now 33 states have a medical marijuana program. Fifteen states have decriminalized recreational marijuana and ten have fully legalized, adult-use marijuana. Industrial hemp is recognized as fully legal by the federal government. And I’m grateful for the Hoban Law Group family, and all the work we’ve all done to help achieve this tremendous progress.