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Celebrating 10 Years at the Leading Edge of Cannabis Law

By Vicente Sederberg LLP

Dec 1, 2020


In celebration of Vicente Sederberg LLP's 10th anniversary, our friends at award-winning creative agency Object & Animal captured interviews with firm leaders, industry members, and government officials for a short video documenting VS's growth and history of leadership in the cannabis space. A three-minute teaser is above, or for the full 10-minute version, click here or scroll to the bottom of this post.

We also take a look back at 10 milestones in VS history and how they defined the firm's role in cannabis law, the marijuana and hemp industries, and drug policy reform. Additionally, in separate posts, we are highlighting 10 key events from the past 10 years that shaped the cannabis industries in three of the states where VS has been most engaged: Colorado, California and Massachusetts

Ten Milestones in VS History

Since its founding in 2010, Vicente Sederberg LLP has been at the forefront of cannabis law and policy. From the genesis of the regulated medical market, to the passage and implementation of the adult-use and hemp legalization laws, to the cusp of enacting major federal reforms, the firm has played an active and influential role in advancing the legal cannabis industry in a dynamic and responsible manner. It has also helped push the envelope for broader reform, aiding in efforts to promote equity and inclusion in this new industry, repair damages caused by the war on drugs, and decriminalize and research psychedelics.

Here are 10 milestones in VS history that highlight the growth of the firm and the outsize role it has played in cannabis law, the marijuana and hemp industries, and drug policy reform.

  1. VS is founded in Colorado, where it helps establish the first regulated medical cannabis market. Denver-based attorney Brian Vicente and law student Josh Kappel were operating Sensible Colorado, a nonprofit organization that laid the groundwork for the state's medical dispensary system through impact litigation, public education, patient and caregiver organizing, and direct lobbying. Local corporate attorney Christian Sederberg joined them in 2010 to form Vicente Sederberg, and the three founding partners played key roles throughout the development, implementation, and evolution of Colorado's state-regulated medical cannabis market. Since then, the firm has grown from a handful of employees working out of an office in Denver, to more than 75 employees working out of offices around the country. And while it remains committed to advocacy, it has greatly expanded its scope, providing a full suite of legal, regulatory, and corporate services to a wide variety of business, nonprofit, and government clients.

  2. VS plays a crucial role in Colorado's historic legalization initiative, putting the firm on the map. With support from the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, and others, members of the VS team played leading roles in drafting, passing, and implementing Amendment 64, making Colorado the first jurisdiction in the world to legalize and regulate cannabis for adult use. VS leaders also spearheaded the passage of the adult-use tax measures in 2013, which were crucial to getting the system off the ground. The firm has remained intimately involved in state and local cannabis policy matters in Colorado, ranging from licensing issues and social equity to delivery and social use. VS also continues to participate in regulatory working groups and lobbying efforts, as well as programs aimed at repairing damages caused by prohibition, such as Denver's Turn Over a New Leaf Program. Since the inception of the state’s legal cannabis industry, it has helped countless clients obtain state and local business licenses and maintain regulatory compliance.

  3. VS takes the national and world stage, becoming a global leader in the cannabis space. Following the smooth rollout of Amendment 64, VS became the go-to law firm for guidance on cannabis law and policy. It also launched a policy and public affairs consulting affiliate, VS Strategies, with which it works closely on a variety of projects. In 2014, VS assisted government officials from Uruguay in their development of the world's first nationally regulated adult-use market. It also helped launch the Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation, through which VS and VSS team members organized fact-finding missions for officials from around the U.S. and at least a dozen other countries across four continents. VS has also been heavily engaged in cannabis industry and advocacy organizations at the national and state levels. It is a founding member of the National Cannabis Industry Association, the Cannabis Trade Federation, and Colorado Leads, and more recently it has joined the Marijuana Policy Project Policy Council and the board of the Cannabis Voter Project. Firm leaders have also served as board chairs or members for many of these groups and others.

  4. VS opens an office on the East Coast and quickly makes its presence felt. The firm's second office was established in Boston in 2013, shortly after Massachusetts passed its medical cannabis law. VS engaged in the regulatory process during implementation, developing strong relationships with lawmakers, regulators, industry members, and advocates. When the time came to push for broader legalization, it assisted the Marijuana Policy Project with drafting Question 4, and the VS Boston office played a significant role in the 2016 campaign. The following year, VS partner Adam Fine served as co-counsel in a landmark patients' rights case, Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC, with support from future VS partner Brandon Kurtzman. It resulted in the state Supreme Judicial Court’s groundbreaking ruling that employees fired for using medical cannabis can sue their employers for disability discrimination. More recently, VS has been providing pro bono services to participants in the Commonwealth's social equity and economic empowerment programs, and earlier this year it partnered with Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education to create a CLE scholarship for attorneys who do the same.

  5. VS continues its expansion, this time on the West Coast. With California poised to legalize and regulate cannabis for adult use in 2016, VS opened an office in Los Angeles to prepare for the rigorous state and local implementation processes that were sure to follow. In addition to helping a wide variety of clients navigate the new system, VS represented municipal governments in their development of local regulatory systems. The LA office, led by partner Cassia Furman, also engaged with a variety of local stakeholder groups, such as the California Cannabis Industry Association, the California Growers Association, the California Hemp Council, and the Southern California Coalition. VS also has a presence on the LA County Bar Association Social Equity Committee, which was tasked with drafting templates for LA's social equity cannabis licensing program, and it provides pro bono services to social equity applicants in the LA Department of Cannabis Regulation's pilot program. In 2019, Frontera Law Group co-founders Luke Stanton and Jeffrey Welsh joined the firm as partners, marking a significant expansion of VS’s California operations.

  6. VS establishes itself as an international leader in hemp and cannabinoid law and policy. The firm entered the hemp space in 2012 after it helped legalize hemp cultivation in Colorado via Amendment, but it truly became a powerhouse in the field after formally launching its hemp and cannabinoids practice in 2017. It has helped a wide variety of private and public sector clients navigate hemp laws and regulations, representing everyone from businesses, to trade associations, to local governments. After Congress lifted the federal ban on hemp cultivation, VS led the drafting of policy recommendations and a model plan for state hemp programs that provided policymakers across the U.S. with a guide to developing federally compliant state regulatory regimes. VS attorneys also worked pro bono with hemp and dietary supplement industry stakeholders to support reasonable federal regulation of cannabinoids, and the chair of the hemp practice, partner Shawn Hauser, provided in-person testimony to the Food and Drug Administration on behalf of the Cannabis Trade Federation. At the state level, VS participated in the Colorado Department of Agriculture's Hemp Advancement and Management Plan; performed pro bono work for the Massachusetts Hemp Coalition; and played a key role in passing Texas' hemp legalization law. The firm also helped establish the American Hemp Campaign, the Hemp for Our Future social responsibility initiative, and the Hemp Legal Defense Fund. Thanks to the fund, VS attorneys are currently serving as co-counsel in multiple federal legal actions filed against the DEA on behalf of hemp industry members.

  7. As reform spreads across the country, VS moves into the South. The firm opened an office in Jacksonville in 2018 as Florida was working to implement its voter-approved medical cannabis law. Just over a year later, the partner managing the office, Sally Kent Peebles, was appointed to the Florida Department of Agriculture's Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee. Earlier this year, she was elected to serve as its co-chair. In addition to working on policy and regulatory issues in Florida, VS helped a client win one of only five cultivation and distribution licenses that were awarded in the state, extending the firm's track record of success in merit-based licensing. VS also assisted clients in obtaining one of five vertically integrated medical cannabis business licenses in Virginia; multiple licenses through extremely competitive application processes in Missouri; and multiple licenses through more open application processes in Arkansas and Oklahoma. VS continues to monitor and support cannabis policy reform efforts in the region, and its consulting affiliate, VSS, has been working with officials, advocates, and industry members on legislative and regulatory matters in Mississippi and Virginia.

  8. VS launches in New York, further strengthening its corporate practice. The firm opened an office in Manhattan in 2019, adding attorneys with strong corporate law backgrounds to its roster. Thanks to these additions and others, VS’s corporate and business practice, chaired by partner Charles Alovisetti, has added several new focus areas, including fund formation and alternative investments, international transactions, litigation and arbitration, and insolvency and state receivership. The firm has also entered into strategic relationships with highly accomplished law firms specializing in intellectual property, mergers and acquisitions, and other corporate and finance matters. As reform spread across the region, VS helped businesses obtain cannabis business licenses through extremely competitive application processes in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Most recently, it has been engaging in legislative and regulatory discussions in New Jersey, where voters passed an adult-use initiative in November, and New York, where the Legislature is expected to move forward with adopting a similar law next year.

  9. VS enters the next frontier in drug policy reform and regulation. The firm helped advocates draft the historic 2019 Denver Psilocybin Initiative, which effectively decriminalized possession of the substance and promoted research into its therapeutic benefits. Not long after, the firm formally launched its entheogens and emerging therapies practice. It aims to help more communities develop sensible policy solutions, while also helping clients — particularly those seeking to conduct research — understand and navigate the interplay between local, state, and federal laws. Since entering the space, VS has advised organizations such as Decriminalize Nature, which is spearheading the Oakland Community Healing Initiative, and the Heroic Hearts Project, a national nonprofit that connects military veterans struggling with mental trauma to ayahuasca therapy retreats. It has also advised multiple clients engaged in legal entheogen-based therapy and related services; an entrepreneur regarding the legality of psilocybin production and research; multiple clients regarding biosynthetic cannabinoid production; and a member of the Native American Church regarding unfair treatment by local law enforcement in connection with legal activities with entheogens.

  10. VS sets its sights on the Lone Star State. The firm has worked on a variety of cannabis policy and business matters in Texas over the past few years, so it came as little surprise when it opened an office in Austin in 2020. VS's work in the state has been largely focused on medical marijuana and hemp and cannabinoids, but it is also starting to take a closer look at legalization for adult use. In 2019, as part of the American Hemp Campaign, the firm played a key role in passing a hemp legalization bill. VS team members assisted legislative staff with the drafting of an interim report on the subject, then testified at legislative hearings and worked closely with local advocates and lobbyists to solidify support among lawmakers. Most recently, the VS economics and research department produced a report on the potential economic benefits of legalizing and regulating cannabis for adult use in Texas. The firm is currently working on policy recommendations for improving the state's existing medical cannabis program, and VS leaders plan to work with local advocates to push for such changes during the upcoming legislative session.


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