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Cannabis



We help companies stay ahead of legal and regulatory changes so that they can thrive in this emerging market, despite its complex regulatory challenges.

Industry Trends

We are constantly tracking the latest developments in cannabis and how they will impact our clients, their businesses, and the future of the industry. Our commitment is to provide efficient and effective communications that summarize these shifts for our clients and prospects, and outline how to prepare for what lies ahead.

If you would like to stay informed, please sign up to receive Nixon Peabody’s cannabis law alerts or view our library of past thought leadership.

Our approach

Our cannabis clients need trusted legal advisors who can provide guidance on how to comply with complex and fundamentally contradictory federal and local regulations. Although more states are legalizing marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes, cannabis remains illegal under federal law. The burgeoning cannabis industry presents a wealth of opportunity for companies, investors, entrepreneurs and service providers that are able to successfully navigate this unique landscape. Our clients are key participants in an industry that has the potential to spur major economic development opportunities—boosting investment, creating jobs and raising revenue for states and municipalities through sales taxes and licensing fees.

We work with new and existing clients from a broad range of industry segments who see the opportunity of the cannabis market, including strategic companies, financial sponsors, investors, dispensaries, laboratories, marketers, advisors, manufacturers and distributors.

Working across offices, our attorneys leverage their experience in business structuring; commercial transactions; real estate; M&A; tax; intellectual property; local, state and federal laws and regulations; stock exchange listing requirements; dispute resolution; governmental enforcement; employment; health care; private equity; and more to provide a multi-faceted approach that covers every aspect of the sector.

We review, analyze and understand state medical and recreational marijuana laws, and how these laws work within the legal framework, to assist you in complying with existing laws and regulations. In addition to helping cannabis-related businesses get organized and operate successfully, we represent investors and acquirers as they consider and structure their investments in and acquisitions of cannabis-related enterprises and advise on intellectual property matters, including licensing and supply agreements, patents and trademark registration strategies.

Our work is international—we provide advice to the cannabis industry on a global scale.

Who we work with

  • Consumer product companies
  • Food, beverage and agriculture companies
  • Health care and life sciences companies
  • Investors (strategic, family offices, institutional, individuals)
  • Manufacturers
  • Real estate developers
  • Retailers
  • Start-ups
  • Suppliers

Representative Experience

  • Acted as U.S. counsel to an international producer and marketer of beer, wine and spirits, in a $4 billion investment in a publicly traded Canadian company to create one of the largest players, world-wide, in the legal cannabis market. We also acted as U.S. counsel to this client in its initial investment in the Canadian company in October 2017 when our client acquired a 9.9% stake in the Canadian company.
  • Assisted a health care and research clinic company in understanding how they can be a federal government contractor and open health clinics in CA that incorporate recommendations of cannabis in care treatment protocols.
  • Assisted a California-based start-up that has developed an app that allows users to have medicinal cannabis delivered to their homes. Specifically, we are advising this client on possible violations of federal law, setting up a defense fund with VC funding in case of a subpoena or enforcement action and credit card merchant account agreements.
  • Represented a client investing in a company that grows and distributes medical marijuana. The scope of our work entails reviewing and analyzing state medical marijuana law, federal law and FDA law and advising on marketing claim issues.
  • Represented a U.S. investment firm in a joint venture for formation of a medical cannabis research and development facility in the Czech Republic.
  • Represented a public company in its investment in a marijuana-based cosmetics manufacturer.
  • Represented a health care client in connection with forming an entity to bid for one of the five marijuana distributorships permitted under New York’s medical marijuana law. Our engagement included advising on financing of the new entity and providing regulatory assistance with the New York State Department of Health.
  • Advised a marijuana cultivator on government relations at the state and local levels as it pertains to their business as a medical marijuana cultivator within their community and surrounding communities where they operate medical dispensaries.
  • Represented a joint venture partner in marijuana edibles business in Illinois.
  • Represented a Rhode Island marijuana cultivator with labor and employment matters.
  • Represented an individual in investment/joint venture to manufacture CBD oil (produced from legal industrial grade hemp-infused chocolates and products).

Employer conundrum: To test or not to test?

Politico Pro | October 05, 2021

San Francisco Labor & Employment associate Hillary Baca, also a member of the firm’s Cannabis practice, is quoted in this article on how pressures of the recent labor shortage and changing attitudes toward cannabis have some employers reconsidering drug-testing policies. The article is based on a client alert Hillary co-authored with Rochester Labor & Employment partner Kim Harding.

Navigate cannabis legalization, avoid employment litigation

HR Dive | August 13, 2021

Rochester Labor & Employment partner Kim Harding co-wrote this contributed article highlighting three common pitfalls for employers as they comply with the patchwork of state and federal laws regulating the use of legal cannabis by their employees.

Federal roadblocks may slow recreational marijuana industry in NYS

Rochester Business Journal | August 06, 2021

This article, focusing on the federal prohibition on marijuana and the challenges faced by businesses, quotes Cannabis co-leader and Rochester Corporate partner Lori Green on the risks to banks and credit unions when financing cannabis-related businesses and alternative financing options for businesses that want to enter this industry.

Illinois’ cannabis market: What investors and entrepreneurs need to know

Benzinga | July 09, 2021

This article on what investors and entrepreneurs should know about Illinois’ cannabis industry quotes Chicago Corporate partner Gary Levenstein, an active member of the firm’s Cannabis practice, on the state’s commitment to social equity and its financial performance as well as how sales to residents of bordering states where cannabis remains illegal could be helping Illinois’ cannabis industry.

Amazon has stopped testing job seekers for cannabis: Here's what it means for you

GreenState | June 15, 2021

Rochester Labor & Employment partner Kim Harding is quoted in this article on Amazon’s announcement it will stop testing job seekers for cannabis, noting the impact of Amazon’ s decision at a national level and adding that Amazon’ s support of the MORE Act lends a great deal of credibility to the proposed legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level.

Banks are still afraid of cannabis. Here is why.

Boston Business Journal | May 12, 2021

This article looking at why the majority of Massachusetts banks are still wary of cannabis-related transactions quotes Boston Government Investigations & White-Collar Defense partner Rob Fisher on the compliance and regulatory burden banks face and that cannabis transactions may not be worth the trouble.

The Cannabis industry should employ careful tax planning when allocating between cost of goods sold and ordinary business expenses

Cannabis Business Executive | May 09, 2021

Corporate partner and Tax team member Rick Cox and Corporate associate Vince Tennant, both of the New York City office, contributed this article on careful tax planning for cannabis companies, which are denied certain business expenses since cannabis remains illegal at the federal level.

Cannabis operators, insiders, and experts discuss New York’s cannabis legalization, equity plans, revenue possibilities, and future cannabis market potential

Cannabis Law Report | April 19, 2021

This wide-ranging discussion of New York’s legalization of recreational cannabis includes commentary from both Cannabis practice co-leader and Rochester Corporate partner Lori Green and Rochester Labor & Employment partner Kim Harding.

National cannabis attorney on NY legalization and its many business opportunities

Albany Business Review | April 12, 2021

In this Q&A feature, Cannabis practice co-leader and Rochester Corporate partner Lori Green discussed New York’ s legalization of recreational cannabis and what it means for businesses looking to get into the industry as well as those already working in the state under a medical marijuana license.

What does marijuana legalization mean for employment in New York State?

Spectrum News | March 31, 2021

This news segment on the legalization of marijuana in New York quotes Rochester Labor & Employment partner Kim Harding on how the enforcement of marijuana in the workplace will likely be similar to alcohol.

Weed and the workplace: What legalization could mean for testing, possession, and use

WROC-TV | March 29, 2021

The following television news segment on New York State’s pending marijuana legalization bill quotes Rochester Labor & Employment partner Kim Harding on how the enforcement of marijuana in the workplace will likely be similar to alcohol.

If recreational marijuana is legalized in New York, what happens to the workforce?

WHAM-TV | March 27, 2021

The following TV news segments cover New York’s pending marijuana legalization bill and how it may affect the workplace. Rochester Labor & Employment partner Kim Harding is quoted on the exclusion of marijuana in drug screens and its protected use outside the workplace. Cannabis practice co-leader and Rochester Corporate partner Lori Green is quoted in WHEC-TV’s segment on how the group is staying on top of marijuana legislation across the U.S., to better serve NP’s clients.

Legal recreational marijuana and the workplace

WHEC-TV | March 26, 2021

The following TV news segments cover New York’s pending marijuana legalization bill and how it may affect the workplace. Rochester Labor & Employment partner Kim Harding is quoted on the exclusion of marijuana in drug screens and its protected use outside the workplace. Cannabis practice co-leader and Rochester Corporate partner Lori Green is quoted in WHEC-TV’s segment on how the group is staying on top of marijuana legislation across the U.S., to better serve NP’s clients.

High crimes and misdemeanors - Cannabis legalization and criminal justice reform

Cannabis Business Executive | March 19, 2021

New York City Government Investigations & White-Collar Defense partner Travis Hill contributed this article analyzing the two pending marijuana bills before the New York state legislature. The article is based on Travis’ recent client alert.

Regulatory and taste issues slow CBD formulation efforts

Food Business News | March 16, 2021

Government Investigations & White-Collar Defense deputy practice group leader and Boston partner Hannah Bornstein is quoted in this article on cannabidiol in food and beverage products for her outlook on therapeutic and marketing claims made by F&B manufacturers as areas of concern for the Food and Drug Administration.

Eaze exec tells jury he helped fool banks on pot biz billing

Law360 | March 02, 2021

This article, on the trial of two men accused of tricking banks into approving marijuana-related transactions for delivery service Eaze Technologies, covers Tuesday’s testimony by an Eaze executive under an immunity agreement. The story mentions Boston Government Investigations & White-Collar Defense partner Rob Fisher and associate Scott Seitz for representing the Eaze executive in the case, which could have profound consequences for the U.S. marijuana industry.

Cuomo issues amendments to his legalization proposal—next steps for legalized cannabis in New York

Cannabis Business Executive | February 25, 2021

Cannabis practice co-leader and Rochester Corporate partner Lori Green and New York City Complex Commercial Disputes associate Catherine Savio contributed this article on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s amendments to a proposed plan to legalize adult-use cannabis in New York State.

Get ready: Legalized adult-use marijuana in N.Y. isn’t far off

Rochester Business Journal | February 12, 2021

Rochester Corporate partner and Cannabis practice co-leader Lori Green, Rochester Corporate associate Brandon Coyle, and New York City Complex Commercial Disputes associate Catherine Savio, all of the Cannabis practice, contributed this article discussing the legislative path toward legalized adult-use marijuana in New York State and best practices for businesses to prepare now.

New York Takes Next Step Toward Legalizing Recreational Marijuana—How you can best prepare for and benefit from legalized recreational use

Cannabis Business Executive | January 13, 2021

Following New York’s reintroduction of a bill that would legalize and tax adult-use recreational marijuana, Rochester Corporate partner and Cannabis practice co-leader Lori Green, New York City Complex Commercial Disputes associate Catherine Savio, and Rochester Corporate associate Brandon Coyle contributed this article highlighting key focus areas for those looking to enter the potential new industry.

It's High Time that Albany Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Crain’s New York | January 01, 2021

This op-ed by Cannabis practice co-leader and Rochester Corporate partner Lori Green, which published the same day that adult recreational use of cannabis in New Jersey became legal, makes the case for New York State to close the gap by discussing the benefits of job creation, tax revenue, and racial and social justice reform.

Novel challenge emerges for denials of PPP forgiveness

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly | November 25, 2020

This article—covering challenges that some businesses, including indirect marijuana businesses, could face as they apply to have PPP loans forgiven—quotes Boston Complex Commercial Disputes partner Morgan Nighan on borrowers’ potential legal argument that loan forgiveness denials are based on SBA guidance that is unlawful because it conflicts with language of the CARES Act.

Cannabis legalized in New Jersey — Is New York next?

Cannabis Business Executive | November 25, 2020

On the heels of New Jersey’s vote to legalize cannabis, Rochester Corporate partner and Cannabis practice co-leader Lori Green, New York City Complex Commercial Disputes associate Catherine Savio, and Rochester Corporate associate Brandon Coyle wrote this contributed article on potential side effects for neighboring New York and actions for businesses anticipating legalization in the Empire State.

No Worker's Comp for Medical Marijuana, SJC Rules

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly | November 04, 2020

This article, covering the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision that a workers’ comp insurer could not be required to reimburse for medical marijuana expenses, quotes Cannabis practice co-leader and Boston Government Investigations & White Collar Defense partner Rob Fisher on the issue of forcing an industry to get involved in something that’s illegal at the federal level.

Mass. Pot Co. Says Regulator Sat On Application for Months

Law360 | September 21, 2020

Manchester Government Investigations & White-Collar Defense partner Mark Knights is quoted in this article on a Massachusetts marijuana dispensary’s lawsuit alleging the state’s Cannabis Control Commission has failed to take action on the dispensary’s license application for nearly three times the 90-day prescribed turnaround time. The article mentions Mark and Boston Government Investigations & White-Collar Defense associate Charles Dell’Anno for representing the dispensary, Northeast Alternatives.

On High Alert: Running a Retail Business in the Age of the COVID Pandemic

Marijuana Venture | August 10, 2020

San Francisco partner Alison Torbitt, who co-leads NP’s Food, Beverage & Agribusiness team, and San Francisco Labor & Employment associate Hilary Baca co-wrote this contributed article on how cannabis retailers can revamp their stores and policies to stay in compliance with state and local laws, while helping to prevent the spread of communicable illnesses to customers and employees.

Experts advise on how businesses should plan for eventual legalization of recreational marijuana

Rochester Business Journal | August 07, 2020

In its “Business of Cannabis” special report on recreational marijuana, the Rochester Business Journal extensively quotes Cannabis practice co-leader and Rochester Corporate partner Lori Green in two articles for her outlook on legalized recreational use and the potential positive economic impact to businesses, both local and statewide.

Legalization of recreational cannabis likely coming down the pike for NY

Rochester Business Journal | August 07, 2020

In its “Business of Cannabis” special report on recreational marijuana, the Rochester Business Journal extensively quotes Cannabis practice co-leader and Rochester Corporate partner Lori Green in two articles for her outlook on legalized recreational use and the potential positive economic impact to businesses, both local and statewide.

Employer zero-tolerance drug policies put into question

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin | April 25, 2019

Chicago Complex Commercial Disputes associate Laura Bacon authored this article about the issues employers may face related to marijuana use policies and drug testing, as more states pass recreational and medical cannabis laws.

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