As the list of states with medical marijuana legislation grows, so too does the number of organizations leading the way in research, intellectual property, development and distribution of medical marijuana. But as panelists from the “Catching Fire: New Legal Business around Medical Marijuana” session at the recent 23rd Annual Marketing Partner Forum in Orlando would tell you, it’s our neighbors to the north that are leading the way with an effective medical marijuana model.

While legislation in Canada, particularly on a federal level, may be more in-line with public opinion regarding medical marijuana, a growing number of lawyers, researchers and entrepreneurs are diving into this budding sector looking to close the gap in the U.S.

Moderator Hilary Bricken, an attorney with the Canna Law Group, Harris Moure, PLLC, offered a brief, yet comprehensive (recent) history of medical and recreational marijuana legislation in the U.S., as well as the push-pull between state and federal authorities on the issue.

“The federal government is deferring to the states on this one,” she said. “As long as robust regulation is in play, [the federal government] has said… ‘we’re going to stand-down.’”

Thankfully for states, Bricken notes, the current regulatory environment has worked. As Tae Darnell, president and general counsel of the Sensi Media Group, remarked, pro-marijuana groups in Colorado have made headway by proactive seeking active-regulatory and taxation structure that is almost “more severe that the pharmaceutical industry, and some have compared it to nuclear regulatory affect.”

As Colin Kelley, chief operating officer of Leafline Labs, LLC added, medical marijuana legislation in Minnesota was co-sponsored by a state representative and narcotics officer. This helped create an Office of Medical Cannabis out of the Minnesota Department of Health with strong regulatory and monitoring oversight of medical marijuana vendors. While it may be uncharted territory, the approach is working in Minnesota and other states.

“We are starting to see professionalization in this space,” said Patrick Moen, managing director and general counsel, Privateer Holdings, Inc. “We’re starting to see real scientists, real engineers, real business folks… we’re seeing a better quality of work and a better push for legal services.

“We have a ways to go… we want to encourage more professional services companies to get involved in this space.”

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