Most conversation between two lawyers that include the word “marijuana” also involve other words such as “charges”, “defendant” and “sentencing”.
But when Hugo Alves, a partner at Bennett Jones – one of Canada’s largest corporate law firms – chats about the drug with his associate, Michael Lickver, they are more likely to be discussing investment opportunities, exports and quality control.
Since 2001, Canada has allowed patients to grow their own marijuana or designate a grower to do so on their behalf, but a policy change in April established the opportunity for licensed growers operating under strict quality controls to supply patients – essentially spawning a new legal marijuana industry overnight.
So far, however, the new regulations have been plagued by lawsuits, injunctions and complications for patients. Now, the future shape of Canada’s marijuana trade is likely to be established at a string of court hearings due in early 2015.
One of the key cases to be heard in the coming weeks has the potential to establish a highly regulated system of licensed marijuana producers in Canada, but threatens to strip patients of their legal right to grow their own product at an affordable price.
While the outcome is yet to be determined, it could provide big new opportunities for lawyers like Lickver and Alves, who are in the process of establishing themselves as experts of marijuana law in Canada.
“It’s not often that you get to put together a legal service business focused on an industry that’s brand new,” said Alves, sitting in a boardroom 32 storeys above Toronto’s financial district. “We think it’s a good opportunity to create a business within our firm, we think it’s a good business, and it’s exciting to be part of an industry when it’s at its nascent stage.”
Alves and Lickver explain that the switch from homegrown to quality-controlled industrial production has opened a door into the once self-contained ecosystem, allowing the firm to enter the newly budding industry from the ground floor.
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