ROI NJ  write…

The expectations for explosive growth in the cannabis sector, a fuse lit by Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign promise to legalize marijuana in the Garden State, haven’t completely died out.

But, as the future of pot in New Jersey has gotten hazy after a few faltering efforts by lawmakers, those eager to pour investments into real estate and other assets in preparation for the industry’s boom are experiencing some burnout.

There’s one place, however, you don’t find many regrets about early investments into the green gold rush … and that’s at law firms. 

For example, one of the earliest New Jersey law firms to plant resources in the cannabis sector was Sills Cummis & Gross. It was in early 2015 that the Newark firm announced it was launching a “Regulated Substances Practice” in preparation for more states introducing legalized medical and recreational cannabis, indicating as well that it expected New Jersey could do the same.

At the tail end of 2019, despite no recreational cannabis legalization in the Garden State, Max Crane, the firm’s managing partner, doesn’t think the firm started a minute too soon.

“We’ve been put on the map for the legal side of this sector by investing time and resources in it, and that’s invaluable,” he said. “Although the legislation in New Jersey hasn’t been passed yet, there’s still business happening. We’ve actually already seen a return on our investment.”

What Crane calls his “very bullish” attitude about this budding sector doesn’t depend entirely on New Jersey’s progress on its path toward legal recreational use of cannabis; he admits that’s been more difficult than most imagined, but he says it’s still an inevitable destination for the state. 

But even without it, he still has lawyers generating significant business dealing with cannabis-related client matters. 

“Two attorneys here — Victor Herlinsky, one of the top advisers to the Cory Booker presidential campaign, and Robert Schiappacasse — both came to me about three years ago now and said this was going to be the hottest thing in law,” he said. “The clients they’ve since been raising the visibility of in a positive way — they were never interested in scrambling to get that recognition last minute, once legislation is already passed.”

Unlike some investments — such as growing facilities, which largely can’t bear fruit until legalization gets a final sign-off — cannabis resources at law firms are already making money, even those focused mostly on just the Garden State.


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