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A Cannabis Lawyer On Why Pot Businesses Still Need License Renewals During A Pandemic

A Cannabis Lawyer On Why Pot Businesses Still Need License Renewals During A Pandemic

In order to offset the spread of COVID-19, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division recently announced that it will be closing its office to the public until April 18.

The MED will continue business operations and services, meaning cannabis businesses still need to keep up with ongoing licensing matters, including license renewals and owner badge renewals.

To learn more, Benzinga reached out to Alyson Jaen, head of the cannabis practice at Fortis Law Partners.

Jaen, who is also a compliance consultant at Full Velocity Consulting, advises clients on a wide variety of cannabis licensing and regulatory compliance matters, including representation before the MED, the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses and other local regulatory agencies.

Has your job changed at Fortis?

My job has changed and evolved, because rather than focusing more on corporate deals and transactions, it’s now focused on how businesses need to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s important as a legal advisor that you’re always able to pivot and change course quickly for your clients, and right now that is imperative. As a legal advisor, we need to be able to adapt to our client’s changing needs and to be able to provide them with competent advice during these tumultuous times.

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What should cannabis companies know about working with MED during this difficult time?

Cannabis companies should know that even though the MED has closed their offices to the public, it is still open for business. Therefore, companies still need to be on top of all licensing and related matters, such as business license renewals and owner badge renewals. Furthermore, cannabis companies need to be keeping up to date on all the emergency rules, informational bulletins and compliance tips that are currently being circulated by the MED. If not, they could run into compliance issues down the road.

If the Department of Excise and Licenses is indefinitely restricting in-person licensing appointments, is this the worst time to be an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur?

Right now is a tough time to be an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur. It’s going to be hard to open a business during a time when social distancing is so important. For example, hiring employees, and other normal operations of a business are going to be hindered by the shelter-in-place orders that are being put into place in several states. It’s going to take strong leadership to guide a company through these difficult times. However, I think there’s potential for licensed entities to emerge stronger than ever, especially when we are seeing such a high demand for cannabis products.

In response to the pandemic, are there any potential compliance issues in certain states that cannabis entrepreneurs should keep in mind?

Yes, the vast majority of states are enacting emergency rules and orders to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, cannabis companies need to be on top of the changing rules to be certain that their business are complying with the most up-to-date rules; this is especially true for multistate operators. In addition, cannabis operators need to keep up to date with any rules or guidance being enacted by their local jurisdictions.

For example, the City of Denver put out an informational bulletin March 18 stating the various health measures that cannabis companies should take. Some examples included eliminating smell jars, having staff wear masks and gloves and cleaning all surfaces frequently — doors, counters and desks. Even though these weren’t emergency rules, it’s still good practice to be complying with all guidance put forth by any regulatory bodies that oversee cannabis licensing where someone operates their cannabis business.

Certain companies are citing the coronavirus as a reason to lay off employees. Will this trend continue?

In terms of layoffs, the cannabis industry will be similar to others, which unfortunately, means that there will be layoffs. I think this trend will continue until we see the curve flatten on the pandemic. Luckily right now, we are seeing a huge demand for cannabis, so hopefully the cannabis sector will not be as hard-hit as other industries.

Alyson Jaen. Photo courtesy of Fortis Law Partners.


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