Women to Watch: Ariel Clark

The Social Architect: Ariel Clark

This story was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Marijuana Venture, on sale now online at a store near you.

The Social Architect

Ariel Clark

Founder and Chairwoman | Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force | Los Angeles, California

There’s no doubt that legalization in California changes the landscape of the entire cannabis industry. And regulations in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city, have the potential to impact businesses and municipalities throughout the state.

When the city published its draft regulations in June, other municipalities followed suit in considering a “limited immunity” structure for their jurisdictions — the repercussions of which are “absolutely horrifying,” according to Ariel Clark, one of the leading attorneys and activists working toward an amicable solution in the City of Angels. 

“This does not stave off federal enforcement whatsoever,” says Clark, the founder and chairwoman of the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force. “When you don’t have clear rules and regulations, that actually invites enforcement.”

The task force was assembled to advocate fair and equitable regulations in Los Angeles. By some accounts, the City of Angels has the densest population of marijuana businesses on the planet, but it’s been a quagmire of regulatory red tape and contradictory rules for years.

“The people in LA are not served by more hazy regulations,” Clark says. “A new wave of conscientious businesses, that’s what we can do if we are building this industry.”

While Clark is quick to deflect credit to other members of the task force, her leadership could reverberate beyond the city’s borders.

“The city of LA is not singular,” she says. “It’s as big as the state.”

Clark estimates about 90% of the state’s 500-plus municipalities still don’t have local permitting or zoning rules in place, making it challenging to stay on top of regulatory concerns throughout California.

“The number of moving parts is incredible,” Clark says. “But, you know, I like that stuff.”

The task force is just one important project keeping her busy. Clark and business partner Nicole Neubert also have a seat on the state’s Cannabis Banking Work Group alongside representatives from law enforcement, state regulators, banks, taxing authorities, local government and select members of the industry to help outline a resolution for the cash-only industry.

“The banking issue is one that is huge,” Clark says. “Now that we’re on the precipice of for-profit businesses and investment monies are coming in, we are able to project forward into a future where people are owning their businesses, licenses and permits as traditional assets.”

Clark’s firm, Clark Neubert LLP, also helps clients in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

“I am seeing the bridge from the unregulated, self-regulated and quasi-legal into the very regulated, legal market,” she says. “It’s kind of a moving target for people, but our role is to step with them as they move into this regulated market.”

In some ways, Clark’s current practice is an extension of the work she did early in her career with California Indian Legal Services. She has spent years working on behalf of marginalized groups and individuals.

“My life is about service and I am so grateful to be of service in all these different ways,” she says. “Who knew that working in Indian law and being around this industry my entire life would come to the place where I am now. It’s pretty amazing.”

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