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Thompson Coburn takes stage at Cannabis Business Summit

Carl Rowley July 6, 2016

Carl Rowley of Thompson Coburn’s cannabis practice attended the 2016 Cannabis Business Summit hosted by the National Cannabis Industry Association in Oakland, Calif., in late June. The conference’s keynote speaker was Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor of California. In addition, Oakland Mayor Libby Shaaf addressed the audience. More than 3,000 members from all sectors of the cannabis industry attended the summit.

Thompson Coburn presentations

The summit began its June 22 agenda with Carl Rowley’s panel discussion entitled “Product Liability and Mass Tort Litigation: Will the cannabis industry be next?” Carl and the panel discussed the risks of mass tort litigation against the industry in light of recent product liability lawsuits filed in Colorado. Carl also discussed strategies to avoid falling victim to those lawsuits, fielding questions from industry leaders in the audience. The panelists strongly encouraged cannabis businesses to engage legal representation now to help formulate litigation-avoidance strategies. 

All eyes on California

Because the conference was in California, topics of key importance included the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (expected sometime next year) and the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which has been placed on the November ballot. Gavin Newsom addressed both issues, stating that the time has come for cannabis access that is both regulated and safe. Newsom is the highest-ranking elected official ever to address a cannabis industry conference. 

Tension between state/federal regulations continues

In speaking with attendees, it was clear that the continued tension between state and federal regulations remains the number one concern of the cannabis industry. Some businesses have sought to avoid this tension by engaging in business that offer cannabis-related products and services, such as greenhouse supplies. There was a great deal of discussion about de-scheduling cannabis or changing how cannabis is scheduled and how that would impact the industry. Finally, there appeared to be a growing consensus that the industry itself was looking inward to professionalize its practices to establish credibility within the mainstream of the medical business world. 

Overall, the programming and discussions that emanated from the conference continued to push the cannabis industry in the right direction. Advocating for the industry to better itself and improve business practices, conference attendees set a strong platform for future growth and increasing acceptance of this developing industry.


Carl Rowley is co-chair of the firm's Consumer Products Litigation Practice and Mass Tort Practice. 

Thompson Coburn advises clients on state laws governing the business of cannabis to facilitate compliance with those state laws. Federal laws concerning cannabis currently conflict with state laws in states that have legalized cannabis or possession of cannabis. Although federal enforcement policy may at times defer to these states’ laws and not enforce conflicting federal laws, interested businesses and individuals should be aware that compliance with state law in no way assures compliance with federal law, and there is a risk that conflicting federal laws may be enforced in the future. In addition to this Cannabis-specific note, readers should review Thompson Coburn’s Conditions of Use / Disclaimers page containing other important information.