Charles Alovisetti and Amanda Kilroe Interviewed for Columbia Law Alumni Cannabis Article

Oct 11, 2021

VS attorneys and Columbia Law alumni Charles Alovisetti and Amanda Kilroe were recently interviewed for the article, "Complex and Cutting Edge, Cannabis Law Is New Ground for Columbia Law Alumni." Excerpts below:

“It’s something new every day. Not in the sense of ‘It’s new to me,’ but a lot of times, it’s just new, period,” says Charles Alovisetti ’09, co-author of The Cannabis Business: Understanding Law, Finance, and Governance in America’s Newest Industry (Routledge, 2020) and a partner at Vicente Sederberg, an 11-year-old firm specializing in cannabis law. “A brand-new law and new regulation or just something that no one’s ever seen before—it’s all new ground.”

Advising clients in the cannabis business means bringing a range of skills to bear:

Regulatory and Administrative Law:

In addition to state regulations, municipalities where cannabis dispensaries are located have their own layer of regulations. Amanda Kilroe ’08, counsel at Vicente Sederberg in Los Angeles, is the head of the firm’s California licensing department and works on securing licenses for cannabis operators.

“It requires a lot of devotion to keeping up with current laws, and a lot of it is very local politics. The landscape is completely different . . . from one city to the next.” - Amanda Kilroe

It’s easy to get into uncharted territory: When Kilroe handled an appeal for a business that lost out on a dispensary license by a narrow margin (based on the municipality’s point-based system), finding case law to cite was a challenge.

“It’s like an administrative appeal, but there’s no precedent for this. It’s frustrating because we have to make up [grounds for the appeal] or follow other case laws for similar practice groups. But we know that this thing that we are arguing right now, the result will be the case law for the future. That’s kind of cool.” - Amanda Kilroe

When California was in the process of revising its licensing regulations in July, Vicente Sederberg reviewed and commented on the proposed regulations, Kilroe says.

“We are a good resource [for regulators] because we have so many clients [in the cannabis industry]. So we see what things work and what things do not work. We are actually influencing law. And that feels really powerful. We’re actually making a difference.” - Amanda Kilroe

Deal Financing: 

Unable to access bank capital, cannabis businesses largely rely on private investment money to finance startups and acquisitions.

“Ninety-five percent of it is the same as raising money for a tech company. But then there’s that five percent where you have to think about whether there are any restrictions about who can own equity in a cannabis company. If a trust is investing in this field, do they have beneficiaries who are under 21? Do the major shareholders have to get background checks?” - Charles Alovisetti

Mitigating the Legacy of Prohibition

“The role of equity has become perhaps the dominant issue in the industry right now,” says Alovisetti of Vicente Sederberg, who donated profits from his book on cannabis law to the Last Prisoner Project. “It’s a huge issue for the states, whether you can strike a balance” between accommodating existing cannabis businesses and empowering communities that have been badly affected by prohibition. “Obviously it’s a huge issue at the federal level as well.”

Read the full article "Complex and Cutting Edge, Cannabis Law Is New Ground for Columbia Law Alumni"


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