Bradley attorney Whitt Steineker was featured in a Q&A with Higher Law on the firm’s decision to represent cannabis clients. Bradley recently became the latest AmLaw 200 firm to form a team dedicated to handling legal issues related to the emerging cannabis industry.
Higher Law: How does a nice Southern firm like Bradley get involved in cannabis law?
Steineker: Our geographical footprint is pretty much in the southeast, but we view ourselves as having a national practice in most of our practice groups.
We think there’s a benefit to being one of the first to market in our geographic footprint. We certainly think that’s something that could be to our advantage and more importantly, to the advantage of people who are interested in the space and who want to learn more.
We’ve been amazed at the number of people who we’ve talked to once they were aware that it was a service that we were providing.
And then the Farm Bill—we were going to do this probably before the Farm Bill—but the Farm Bill really sent this into overdrive on the hemp side.
Have all the states where Bradley has offices adopted rules or guidance for bar members in the cannabis practice?
It varies. The District of Columbia has. I know Florida has. Alabama has not, as of yet. I don’t believe Mississippi has. That’s something we monitor. We make sure that anything we’re doing is in compliance with any professional rules but also any guidance that’s put out by the state bars.
Was there any concern about what other Bradley clients might think about the firm launching a cannabis practice?
We had a long dialog that spanned a number of months about whether we wanted to get into this space and, if so, how we wanted to go into this space and how we wanted to market it. And I think I reached the conclusion that I think was shared by our management that there was a need in this industry for high-level strategic legal services to our existing clients and to potential clients. And we felt like we were able to offer the same type of thoughtful, conservative advice to people either in the cannabis industry or dealing with the cannabis industry that we were to any of our other clients.
What’s the biggest issue on your plate right now?
It’s really trying to stay as current as you can to manage some of the uncertainties that are in both the marijuana and hemp space. Trying to make sure your clients understand the areas with growing certainty about what is allowed. And also make sure, probably more importantly, that they understand where there is still a great deal of uncertainty.
Even with the Farm Bill and the opening up of hemp, even with that, we have to tell people all the time there are caveats and guidance documents coming out from different state and federal agencies all the time that everybody needs to be aware of. It’s taking the time to stay on top of that, to fully understand that and then to communicate that with clients. That’s really important because it drives any of the counsel we offer people in the space.
The full article, “Q&A: Bradley Arant Jumps into Cannabis,” first appeared in Higher Law on Aug. 15, 2019.