“Today, cannabis is a departure from what we’ve seen for the last 100 years socially, medically and legally,” said Raleigh cannabis lawyer Morgan Davis. “The cannabis industry has matured with entrepreneurs and solutions aimed at bettering the lives of consumers and patients while, for recreational use, offering a natural option with less side effects, especially those who want to stay away from alcohol.”
Hemp and CBD have been legal in North Carolina for five years for products with less than 0.3% THC. The increasing prospect that medical marijuana will be legalized in the state soon is enticing more and more cannabis entrepreneurs.
“With the advances in technology, the plant can be broken down into potentially thousands of applications for various products,” Davis said. “The industry moves fast. Everyone is looking for the next hot product. So innovation is rewarded.”
Davis provides legal advice and counsel to NC manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of legalized cannabis products such as vaping, cosmetics, edibles, beverages, gummies, foods and topicals.
Davis practiced criminal defense for seven years, including drug arrests, before launching her cannabis law firm in 2018.
“I developed a base knowledge by combining my knowledge of the criminal system with a lot of research and input from others practicing in this field,” Davis said. “For the brands and entrepreneurs shaping the cannabis industry, I wanted to help them take their products to market quickly and with as little risk as possible.”
Start Your Own Business
Some entrepreneurs are starting legalized CBD and hemp businesses as an infrastructure to be ready to move quickly if and when medical marijuana is legalized and if and when recreational marijuana is legalized.
“A CBD brand allows a North Carolina cannabis company to introduce themselves to their future customers, building trust and consumer demand. Upon legalization, they’ll be a known brand to consumers,” Davis said.
The proposals in NC to legalize medical marijuana are very conservative and restrictive. It’s also worth noting that of the 38 states where medical marijuana has been legalized, only 19 have legalized the sale of recreational cannabis.
Entrepreneurs in other industries can start their own businesses with minimal paperwork and handshake deals. Davis says cannabis is not like that. “The lack of regulation in some respects and the over-regulation in others, plus the added fear of potentially crossing the line from a regulatory matter into a criminal violation, is not hard to do. The THC limitations, the difference between what is hemp and CBD and what is marijuana is very small.”
“You have to be very intentional from the outset. You need to know the rules and regulations in your jurisdiction and in the jurisdiction where you will be sending your products. What is in your product? How are you marketing and labeling your product,” Davis said.
“Some of the advice I give clients is gleaned from other states’ rules and regulations,” Davis added. “North Carolina is extremely light on regulations when it comes to legal cannabis. To help clients come up with internal practices and procedures, I often look to other states for ‘best practices’ and industry standards.”
There is no single, centralized place to get information about the patchwork of laws regarding cannabis across the country.
“Organizations like NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project help with identifying the black letter law, but a lot of the regulations and practices are in unlikely places such as administrative rulings, press releases and departmental FAQs,” Davis said. “You have to know where to look and what to look for.”
Morgan Davis is also one of the founders of Compendium Complete, a comprehensive database created to make nationwide legal expertise accessible to cannabis brands, service providers and legal professionals. “It answers the basic questions and cites the source for the user, negating the need to surf through endless pages of a Google search to find the answer.”
“Without regulation, you can create almost anything you want with very few exceptions,” said Davis. “I tell clients that comes with the risk because nobody has done that yet or the FDA hasn’t given a position. That doesn’t mean they should stop. If you are going to push the envelope, you need to mitigate your risk. That’s why it’s so important to have an attorney as a strategic partner.”