An ounce of prevention

When we first launched Marijuana Venture, I met with many people who were just starting up in this new business. The excitement level was high, and folks jumped in not wanting to miss out on what promised to be a giant “green rush” of riches.

For some, the dreams of big money actually materialized. However, for many others, poor preparation, bad partnerships and a host of other problems resulted in significant financial losses — and in some cases, those losses could have been prevented with good advice from the right professional.

In this issue, we take a deeper look at lawyers in the cannabis space and the issues they’re addressing as the industry develops throughout North America. While lawyers are often characterized as blood-sucking, over-priced predators that charge outrageous fees, my experience over the years has been that a good attorney can save your butt.

Prior to starting Marijuana Venture, I owned and operated Topics Entertainment, the largest privately owned consumer software publishing company in the United States. At Topics, our business was to publish, distribute and sell CD-ROM products developed by well-known brands like National Geographic, Disney Interactive, Rand McNally, World Book, Scholastic and PBS. Our customers were the biggest retailers in America, including Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Best Buy and Target. At times, my company used in-house counsel, and at other times we used outside firms like Seattle’s Garvey Schubert Barer, now called Foster Garvey after a 2019 merger.

The business we were in required expert advice on contracts, intellectual property and labor law. There were times when I would look at a huge legal bill and roll my eyes. However, on balance, and based on actual experience, there is no doubt that there were numerous occasions that good legal counsel or a second opinion from one of our attorneys saved us from potentially much larger bills that could have resulted from a bad deal or an ambiguous contract.

In other words, I don’t believe Topics Entertainment would have been the huge success it was without sound advice from our lawyers along the way.

In the six years we’ve been publishing Marijuana Venture, I’ve personally met and talked to dozens of business owners facing lawsuits, bankruptcies and various disputes with partners, investors, state regulators and other cannabis companies. This industry is littered with broken promises and people who look back and wish they’d done things differently. In many — if not most — of these cases, the business owner could have avoided costly litigation and huge problems by simply seeking the advice of the right professional before jumping in with both feet. All too often, people hope that a handshake deal will suffice, but a well-written contract provides real security in the event things go sour. This industry operated in a gray area for so long that longtime entrepreneurs have never fathomed the law could work for them, rather than against them. Many people who are bitten by the entrepreneurial bug believe they can tackle any obstacle — license applications, regulatory compliance, administrative hearings, threats of lawsuits, etc. — by force of instinct and guile, without realizing the value of good, sound legal advice.

In a very real sense, lawyers are often there to protect you from yourself, as much as from the other guy!

That old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a wise way of viewing the value that a good attorney provides.

Greg James



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