By Juliette Fairley
With experience in criminal defense, constitutional law, workplace drug policy and intellectual property, lawyers are at the forefront of the national movement to legalize marijuana. Here’s a list of five lawyers to watch in 2015 as legal medical and recreational marijuana continues to sweep the country.
Douglas Sorocco -Educated as a biochemist, Douglas Sorocco practices intellectual property law related to cannabis technologies. “The cases I represent have to do with strains and chemical compounds that are being discovered and used for medicinal treatments,” said the Oklahoma based Sorocco. “We do the patent application and litigation for it.” The majority of Sorocco’s clients are pharmaceutical and life sciences companies from outside the U.S., such as Canada, the Netherlands and Uruguay. “The hot button issue is whether or not the federal government will allow patents on strains and if so what is going to be the amount of evidence or information they will require to grant those patents,” said Sorocco.
Michael Minardi – Amendment 2 would have legalized marijuana for medical purposes in Florida had it passed on November 4 but it didn’t. As a result, Michael Minardi expects to continue to reduce the sentences of his marijuana using clients in West Palm Beach who are typically over 40 years old and suffer from conditions, such as AIDS, COPD, fibromyalgia and glaucoma. “The denial of Amendment 2 will not change my practice of defending patients who have been arrested for using cannabis as medicine and are presenting a medical necessity defense,” Minardi said. Minardi is also the legal director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
Danielle Urban – Because impairment cannot be easily tested, employers worry that workers who use marijuana in their free time will harm themselves or others in the workplace, creating liability issues. However, zero tolerance corporate policies pose a special set of legal concerns. “Many employers are terrified they will be sued if they have zero tolerance policies and fire someone with a medical card,” said Urban, a labor and employment attorney in Colorado. “More research is needed to determine what constitutes impairment for work-safety purposes and the long-term health effects of marijuana use.” Urban said. Because drug policy varies from state to state, national employers are left with a patchwork of marijuana drug testing policies to figure out. “Some employers choose to stay out of their employees’ personal lives and have suspended testing because they don’t know what to do about marijuana use,” said Urban.
Mara Felsen– Professional experience in constitutional, criminal and administrative law helped to create Mara Felsen’s unique legal perspective but it was a car accident that lead the San Diego attorney to turn her personal experiences as a medical marijuana patient into a cannabis law specialty.
Robert Hoban – The Drug Enforcement Administration announced this month that it will not pursue for prosecution hemp based products with THC levels less than .3 percent. As a result, CBD and hemp attorney Robert Hoban predicts there will be a large push in the pot marketplace to develop methods to lower the THC content, which naturally rises during processing and purification process. “This will hedge any federal government interference even though the product is lawful and has higher levels of THC of .8 to 2.8%,” said the Denver-based Hoban who represents a number of the nation’s largest hemp and CBD importers, producers, processors and suppliers.