Lawyer Up

Another group impacted by legal pot: attorneys

The passage of Initiative 502 has led to many by-products: marijuana tourism, cannabis stocks, So it's not surprising that a few lawyers have gotten into the game too.

Canna Law Group — a practice of Seattle-based Harris Moure — has represented the cannabis industry since 2010. With an office in downtown Spokane, the group has helped cannabis workers, growers and vendors navigate the ever-evolving state cannabis law and companies which want to do business with them.

"There are a lot of things that consumers probably never think about but businesses do," attorney Robert McVay says. McVay, who refocused to cannabis law from international law in February 2012, is one of a handful of lawyers taking on the new legal frontier. Issues the group regularly handles are licensing, shareholder agreements and regulatory and IRS compliance.

Diving into the complexities of the new regulation, McVay says that non-marijuana-related businesses are nervous about working with cannabis-related companies, citing challenges in finding armored cars to transport money and contractors for much-needed construction.

"Now everyone thinks, 'Is this going to get me into trouble?'" McVay says. "Although the legal risks are close to nothing."

According to McVay, the shifting landscape, with the "constant minor annoyances" of any new law, is easier to negotiate than even six months ago. He foresees tax season to be the next major hurdle.

"The guidance is out there," McVay says. "And people are setting aside tax dollars, but there are going to be federal audits. It is inevitable."

As for the future beyond tax season:

"The federal criminal issue isn't going to go away anytime soon," McVay says. "And every [presidential] administration is different."

In addition to offices in Spokane and Seattle, Canna Law Group also practices in Illinois and Oregon, with plans to expand to Nevada. The group also represents medical marijuana clients. ♦

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