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Marijuana Business Law: How Cannabis Lawyers Protect You

As of 2020, the international cannabis market was worth $ 20.47 billion. Experts project that this figure is bound to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 32 percent. This will see the industry reach $ 197.74 billion by 2028. Meanwhile, cannabis legalization is gaining traction across many states. This is attributed to the […]

How Cannabis Lawyers Protect You

As of 2020, the international cannabis market was worth $ 20.47 billion. Experts project that this figure is bound to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 32 percent. This will see the industry reach $ 197.74 billion by 2028. Meanwhile, cannabis legalization is gaining traction across many states. This is attributed to the increased awareness that weed may have a wide range of positive effects.

Following the cannabis legalization wave, many entrepreneurs are cashing in on the growing cannabis market. But despite the positive outlook in the cannabis industry, the sector is still highly regulated. This is because cannabis is still a Schedule I substance under federal law.

Thus, navigating the complex state regulations is quite overwhelming. Below are ways in which cannabis lawyers can help protect your canna-business. They will help your business grow and flourish within the legal cannabis landscape.

Cannabis Business Financing

There are many legal issues surrounding financing for marijuana-related businesses. A typical car wash or coffee shop startup can seek business financing from a traditional bank or credit facility. But most banks want nothing to do with cannabis-related businesses.

One of the primary reasons banks don’t offer loans to cannabis ventures is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The FDIC does not insure banking institutions that assume “existential risks.” These include providing loans to marijuana businesses in breach of federal law.

Several private investors have capitalized on the inability of canna-businesses to secure bank loans. They are now offering business financing to these businesses. These include:

  • Private equity funds & venture capital
  • Angel investors (ultra-rich individuals)
  • Private lenders of high-interest loans
  • Cannabis business consulting firms that administer private funds

Due to the legal bottlenecks with bank loans, you must follow your state’s financing laws on cannabis. A cannabis law attorney can help you understand the latest financing laws in your jurisdiction. He or she can also ensure that you protect your collateral and security interests when you take a business loan.

Meeting Licensing Requirements

In states where marijuana is legal, you should comply with relevant licensing requirements if you want to set up a cannabis business. State law specifies various types of licenses. This is based on the nature of your cannabis business. For example, you will need a license to cultivate, process, sell, and transport marijuana.

According to California state law, state regulators can only issue permits for grow rooms. Or areas not larger than one acre. The type of license and fee requirement will also vary based on the size of the cannabis grow site. Equally, canna-businesses must pay a licensing fee based on the size of their ventures. For instance, cannabis retail stores worth up to $500,000 are to pay a license fee of $2,500.

Not everyone who applies for a cannabis license will get approval. And many states that have legalized cannabis only grant a few licenses. But with the help of a good attorney, you can navigate the licensing requirements at the state level. If your application does not sail through, the attorney can work out a strategy. He or she will ensure your next application is successful.

Meeting Licensing Requirements

Intellectual Property Protection

You must comply with intellectual property laws when creating a brand name, product name, and adverts. This is also true for other intellectual property related to your cannabis business. A cannabis lawyer can help you perform a trademark clearance search.

The search will bring out any registered federal and state trademark business registrations under a specific name. Adopting this move will help your cannabis dispensary avoid trademark conflicts. It will also help you avoid lawsuits with other companies.

Like with other business sectors, intellectual property protection is crucial for cannabis-related businesses. Despite the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance, cannabis businesses can seek to protect their cannabis-related IP. There are four categories of IP protection, including:

Trademarks

A trademark is a name, slogan, symbol, design, or blend of colors. It identifies and differentiates your canna-business’s goods and services from those of others. Your cannabis business may have a unique brand. You may also have a product name you want to protect. In this case, your cannabis lawyer can help you file the legal paperwork with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Patent

A patent is a legal right awarded for an invention for a certain period. The patent holder enjoys exclusive rights. For example, you can prohibit others from creating, using, selling, or importing any cannabis product that you’ve invented.

There are three forms of patents. These include design, utility, and plant patents. Design patent includes the ornamental design of a created product. For example, you could patent the shape of your delta-8 gummies. A utility patent covers the processes and makeups of matter. For example, you can file a utility patent for a unique weed cookie recipe. Meanwhile, a plant patent protects new cannabis plant breeds reproduced via asexual propagation. 

Unlike the restrictive federal trademark laws, the USPTO can put in place patent laws with no prohibitions. It can also issue patents for marijuana-related inventions. For example, your cannabis attorney can help you apply for a design patent if your canna-business manufactures state-of-the-art tinctures and vape cartridges. The design patent will help you avoid the threat of product imitation from your competitors.

Copyright

Copyright protects any original works of authorship. These include artistic, literary, dramatic, and musical works. Cannabis businesses can also apply for federal copyright protection for original works.

Examples include artwork and texts on product labels, product packaging, and product tags. It can also include instructional materials like cannabis cookbooks and grow guides. The design and appearance of your cannabis website and mobile app also qualify for copyright protection.

Your attorney can help you register your copyright protection with the U.S Copyright Office. Getting registration will provide the legal grounds for seeking statutory damages in the event of an infringement.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are confidential information that gives your company a competitive edge in the market. Trade secret protection may benefit various products and processes in the cannabis industry. Such information may include production methods, nutrient formulations, cannabis product recipes, and extraction techniques.

With the help of an attorney, cannabis business owners can take legal steps to put in place adequate measures to secure their proprietary information.

Environmental Compliance

Environmental Compliance

Cannabis growing and processing is resource-intensive. It also uses enormous volumes of water and energy. And in some cases, you’ll need to use high amounts of hazardous materials. Because cannabis growing impacts the environment, you need to stay compliant with environmental laws.

Typically, environmental laws prevent or manage pollution. They also punish corporate polluters and regulate natural resources. Different states have enacted laws dealing with cannabis’s impact on the environment.

For example, Washington requires recreational cannabis growers and processors to follow air quality laws post-licensing. In this case, they must submit their permit applications and pay a fee of $1,150 for the application to be processed. They should also give details about their grow facility. These include odor control equipment, solvent usage information, as well as a plan view representation of their facility.

In Michigan, all parties involved in the cultivation, processing, and sale of marijuana products must accurately log their waste disposal initiatives. This way, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) can track the ultimate disposal of waste.

For example, if you’re planning to start industrial cannabis cultivation or processing, you will need to plan how you will access natural resources. In this case, a cannabis attorney can help you. His or her work will be to ensure that your cannabis business complies with your specific jurisdiction’s environmental statutes and laws.

Zoning

One of the significant challenges that cannabis entrepreneurs face is where to establish their retail cannabis store. The local governments usually approve where a cannabis dispensary may set up shop.

Local jurisdictions control “land uses” via zoning laws. Zoning ordinances didn’t regulate cannabis businesses before. This means marijuana is somewhat new land use. But with cannabis legalization in many states, local governments have regulated cannabis. They have also imposed zoning laws that marijuana land uses must comply with.

Here are some of the common zoning ordinances imposed by local jurisdictions for cannabis businesses:

  • Buffering (a specific distance from a church or school). Let’s take the example of a proposed law to regulate medical cannabis use in North Carolina. It stipulates that there should be a 1000-foot buffer from churches and schools.
  • Density (the number of cannabis businesses that may put up shop within a particular area). For example, Chicago set up a lottery system to pick applicants for the limited slots available for setting up cannabis operations, with a cap in every district.
  • Operational conditions for manufacturers (hours of operation and smell)
  • Storefront traits (lighting, signage)

Understanding the zoning ordinances is important e1ven before you think of obtaining a license. You don’t want all the resources and effort you dedicate to setting up a cannabis business to go down the drain because of zoning issues.

Cannabis business lawyers can help you conduct an early and accurate assessment of the local zoning laws. They can also help you vet potential spaces. Thus, you can make an informed decision about where to set up your cannabis business legally.

Tax Compliance Issues

Tax Compliance Issues

Tax compliance presents various complex issues for members of the cannabis industry. From a business perspective, it’s a little bit tricky. This is because cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I drug federally. That means cannabis-related businesses have added considerations according to the law.

Filing Gross Income

Cannabis businesses must file and pay taxes promptly. The Internal Revenue Code does not discriminate between proceeds earned from legal or illegal sources. It considers both as income. And therefore both are subject to taxation and filing on your tax return.

Report Cash Transactions

Marijuana is a Schedule 1 substance. Therefore, many marijuana businesses can’t use the U.S banking system. They carry out cash transactions instead. Cannabis businesses that earn more than USD 10,000 in one or several transactions must file Form 8300. This should happen within 15 days following the receipt of payment. Of course, there are penalties for failure to disclose such information.

Deduction of Expenses

Section 280E of the IRS prohibits all deductions and credits for businesses involved in the illegal trafficking of Schedule I substances. That means marijuana-related firms fall under this law. This is true even if they operate in a state where marijuana has a legal status.

Accordingly, canna-businesses cannot deduct regular overhead expenses. These include advertising, wages, salaries, and transport expenses. However, they can subtract the cost of their sold inventory.

Employment Taxes

Like other small businesses, marijuana businesses have employment tax obligations. And should therefore make quarterly tax payments. Paying your tax on time will help you avoid interest and penalties. After all, paying employment taxes or income taxes is the same. You’re still required to file your employment taxes as well as your income taxes.

The unique status of the marijuana industry can make tax compliance challenging. But a cannabis lawyer can review your tax requirements. He or she can also help you fix your tax problems before a call from the IRS beckons.

Employment Taxes

The Bottom Line

Cannabis is now a hot topic amongst growers, producers, retailers, and entrepreneurs. But despite the rise in popularity of marijuana, owners of cannabis businesses must remain cautious. They should beware of laws that regulate the use, production, and sale of cannabis.

The legal risks associated with cannabis-related businesses can be far-reaching. You risk stiff penalties and closure of operations. You can also face criminal prosecution for failing to comply with state regulations.

However, with the help of cannabis lawyers, you can navigate the complex and highly regulated cannabis industry. Of course, one cannabis lawyer can’t do all these things. Each of these unique areas requires knowledge and experience. So you should preferably work with a law firm that has a team of lawyers widely experienced in each cannabis field. They will keep you abreast of all the changes in regulations specific to your jurisdiction. They will also help you navigate through the bumpy legal marijuana landscape.