November 2019 - Volume 16 - Issue 5 | Wednesday November 20, 2019

From My Perspective

 When I am asked to author an article or comment for a news segment etc., I generally am asked to comment from a lawyer’s perspective. In reflecting on what I wrote last month for the I realized that I had drafted a piece that was just the facts and potentially for an audience that wanted to know just the facts. In retrospect, I questioned how much that audience actually knows about the day to day look and feel of the Cannabis Industry and its consumers.

With education comes understanding and perspective. I recently was invited to and travelled to Oregon. My time in Oregon was spent predominately in Portland and Salem where the particular client I was visiting has locations that I was able to view and experience. We did a fair bit of driving and I was able to observe different areas of the respective cities. My observation from a zoning perspective was that there was not a dispensary on every corner and that at times I had to be patient before seeing a dispensary during our drive. Of note in regard to the dispensaries that I did see, was some did use “cannabis” or “marijuana” in the name or associated with signage at the dispensaries, in addition to often a green cross. However, there were many that did not take as visible an approach. I recall seeing, pursuant to the rules of the Oregon Program, windows covered so that one cannot see in. What I noticed most was in part, the clean nature and presentation of the particular client’s storefronts versus what was presented on the outside of some of the dispensaries we passed. This may be highlighted in part based on viewing dispensaries through what one might consider an east coast bent. There are others that might argue that the perspective of east coasters, particularly in emerging markets, is much different than that which has been developed over time in the west coast markets, many of which have now gone recreational. Overall, like anything, what I saw ranged the gamut from a little unsightly to professional and clean looking. In particular, my client’s dispensary in Salem was in a retail shopping center along with a Little Caesars, Aaron’s Rentals, a nail salon, and other normal and expected retailers. Unless you poked your head inside the door, it would not be readily apparent that it was a dispensary.
My experience with the different types and looks of the dispensaries was mirrored by a particularly unique experience I had in viewing customers/patients. What was clear from very limited viewing was that it was impossible to pigeonhole the types of patients and ailments or, in the recreational setting, who the end user might be. On the Saturday morning of my visit, while viewing operations in Salem, I was approached and began to speak with an older gentleman with a long straggly gray beard who appeared to be in his late 60's to early 70's. During the course of our conversation he let me know that he is looking forward to taking it easy, and that he was a veteran. He had two friends with him and it looked like they were going to enjoy some time relaxing together, but he was also able to tell me that it was assistive to him at times when his anxiety got the best of him.
Within minutes after the gentleman left, the exact opposite walked into the store. Candidly, I was mildly surprised. For a moment I was transported from Salem, Oregon to any town in central New Jersey or main street USA. Decked out in what could have been any preppy outfit were two soccer moms. They had stepped out of the newest model of a particular German automobile manufacturer. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to engage with the soccer moms in discussion, but it was clear through their knowledge of the layout and interaction with the employee behind the counter that this was not their first trip to this particular location.
So what does the foregoing illustrate? For me it illustrates the development of perspective through education. It remains to be seen what will happen in Florida should Amendment 2 pass. It also remains to be seen what will happen as the licensed nurseries under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 come on line and start servicing patients. What is evident from my most recent trip is that any cannabis related business (or regulator) in Florida will need to make sure it consults and relies on those with real industry knowledge. Lastly, what strikes me most is unless a person sees how other states have implemented cannabis business and are actually functioning, one can’t possibly form an opinion one way or the other on Cannabis business, regulations, and perhaps even cannabis efficacy as medicine, that is properly supportable.

David Kotler, Esq., a former Miami Dade County Assistant State Attorney, is a partner in Cohen Kotler P.A., located in southeast Florida. In 2014, Mr. Kotler formed a practice area in Cannabis related law which allows him to draw from all of his practice areas to benefit his clients.

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