PITTSBURGH >> The nascent Pennsylvania medical marijuana industry is creating new work for lawyers statewide. Three attorneys hoping to bring their expertise to this brave new world recently founded Pittsburgh-based Cannabis Legal Solutions.
“A lot of people appreciate if their attorneys have knowledge of the cannabis industry,” said Patrick Nightingale, who with Andrew Gross and Alan Patterson, formed Cannabis Legal Solutions. “Basically, with this new and emerging industry, clients can be well served by attorneys with some familiarity with the cannabis industry, how products are prepared and sold, an overall familiarity, the difference between indica and sativa. There’s not a lot of law firms that have experience with it. It’s been a controlled substance.”
As clients are moving into spaces and opening businesses, there can be issues with local zoning, regulatory compliance and “push and pull” with state and federal law, he said.
While medical marijuana has been legalized in Pennsylvania and several other states, the drug remains illegal under federal statutes.
Nightingale, whose main practice has been criminal defense, has been involved in the cannabis industry locally and nationally since 2008. He’s been an advocate for decimalization of marijuana and executive director of Pittsburgh NORML, a regional chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
“I have always believed that cannabis prohibition was wrongheaded and nonsensical and based on lies and racism,” said Nightingale. “African American men have a five times higher risk of being arrested for small amounts of marijuana” than white men,” he said. A 2005 American Civil Liberties Union report found higher arrest rates for minorities across the country for marijuana possession and in Pennsylvania, it was four to one, he said. Also, minorities are more likely to be jailed for not being able to post bail, said Nightingale, a former assistant district