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Strategic Planning for Washington's Licensed Marijuana Business Owners

This article was original published in Marijuana Venture magazine in May, 2014

This is the first installment of a two-part article which talks with you about issues to consider when structuring the ownership once operation of your I-502 related business has begun.

A very important issue with regard to any business, but now particularly with an I-502 business, is the isolation of the potential liability associated with the operation of an I-502 business or I-502 related business from the other assets of the business owner. This strategic planning issue is of particular concern to participants in the I-502 industry so long as the application of federal law to the business remains uncertain.

Where we are: The passage of I-502 made the sale of recreational marijuana legal under Washington State law and resulted in the creation of major new business opportunities within the state.

The problem with this new business is that the direct or indirect growing, possession, sale and distribution of marijuana remains a violation of the federal Controlled Substance Act. So what is legal under Washington law remains illegal under federal law.

To read more, visit Marijuana Venture magazine online

Warning Regarding Federal Law: The possession, distribution, and manufacturing of marijuana is illegal under federal law, regardless of state law which may, in some jurisdictions, decriminalize such activity under certain circumstances.  Penalties for violating federal drug laws are very serious.  For example, a conviction on a charge of conspiracy to sell drugs carries a mandatory minimum prison term of five years for a first offense and, depending on the quantity of marijuana involved, the fine for such a conviction could be as high as $10 million.  In addition, the federal government may seize, and seek the civil forfeiture of, the real or personal property used to facilitate the sale of marijuana as well as the money or other proceeds from the sale. Although the U.S. Department of Justice has noted that an effective state regulatory system, and a marijuana operation’s compliance with such a system, should be considered in the exercise of investigative and prosecutorial discretion, its authority to prosecute violations of federal law is not diminished by the passage of state laws which may decriminalize such activity. Indeed, due to the federal government’s jurisdiction over interstate commerce, when businesses provide services to marijuana producers, processors or distributors located in multiple states, they potentially face a higher level of scrutiny from federal authorities than do their customers with local operations.

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Since its founding in 1966, Garvey Schubert Barer has counseled clients across a broad range of industry sectors. Our attorneys have deep bench experience and significant expertise in both complex legal and business matters. We value innovation and entrepreneurship, and closely monitor industry trends. It is with these values in mind that our firm established the cannabis industry group. Read More ›

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