Two UC Hastings Law graduates are on the frontlines of regulating a growing multibillion-dollar cannabis industry in a city with storied history and connection to cannabis culture.
Working as leaders in the City of San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis, Deputy Director Jeremy Schwartz ‘18 and Associate Director of Enforcement Tanisha Gooch ’14 help cannabis sellers navigate complex city ordinances and enforce the city’s rules and regulations. They also support a social equity program that provides opportunities to those disproportionally hurt by the war on drugs
Both say their law school experiences — particularly in negotiation, writing, and problem solving — have helped them succeed in this growing legal industry.
“Being a good communicator, writing clearly, speaking accurately, and being informed are all things that are very helpful,” Schwartz said. “An attorney may come my way, and I can speak technically to that attorney.”
The city’s Office of Cannabis issues permits for cannabis businesses, regulates cannabis retail sites, and assists organizations that want to sell cannabis at community events. The office also administers a priority permitting process designed to advance social equity. It offers free technical assistance and grants to help certain disadvantaged individuals open cannabis businesses, particularly people who have been negatively impacted by the national War on Drugs.
Schwartz said his clinical experience at law school and knowledge gained from administrative law class has helped him succeed in his job. He guides applicants on how to set up operating agreements that create corporate rules or by-laws for businesses, “It’s been helpful to learn about transactional matters at school. I did two clinics, and they really provided hands-on client experience.”
Gooch, who joined the office in January 2022, was previously an assistant district attorney for San Francisco. As the Associate Director of Enforcement, her job is to make sure local cannabis businesses comply with regulations – whether it’s code enforcement, safe consumption, or security rules.
She also oversees compliance for events in San Francisco where people obtain permits to sell and consume cannabis, “We work really closely with organizers to ensure that events will be safe.” Gooch said her job touches on many areas of the law – from public health and police codes to business law, and a host of state cannabis regulations. “It requires you to be a little savvy about how all of these codes interact with each other.”
She credits her Trial Advocacy class, which taught her to advocate for either side of a case, and networking with alumni and mentors through Hastings’ Legal Education Opportunity Program, for contributing to her success. A San Francisco native, Gooch said she’s seen the cannabis industry make a positive impact in the community, “When there’s integrity in the program, we can make a real impactful change in people’s lives in a way that makes sense and protects public safety.”
Both attorneys encourage law students who are curious about working in the field of cannabis law to actively seek out information about the industry. Schwartz said students can volunteer at events and learn from professionals in the field by seeking out mentors. Gooch added that interested law students need to keep abreast of new drug laws and other information in this rapidly changing industry.