Whether it’s intellectual property, real estate or human resources, most aspects of corporate law are similar from one business to the next.
But for cannabis businesses, they have the normal legal challenges, as well as the added component of unique rules in each state and the fact that everything they do is federally illegal.
“We joke that everything’s a little bit harder in cannabis,” says Jerome Crawford, the director of legal operations and social equity at Pleasantrees.
Crawford’s past experience as a lawyer came in the corporate world, before he joined the vertically integrated, Michigan-based enterprise in a hybrid role — part in-house legal counsel, part social equity liaison.
“I love it,” he says of the transition. “I’ve been here about six months, and I love the fact that the work we do has a meaning beyond the norm.”
The difference, he says, is night and day — and not just because there are a lot less suits in the cannabis business. Social equity is not a focus of other industries — “even industries that have their own struggles with color, inherent bias or systemic racism,” Crawford says.
Pleasantrees recently unveiled its social equity plans through a multi-faceted approach that includes working on criminal justice reform and supporting the community that supports it. Crawford acknowledges he doesn’t have all the answers, so it start with looking internally.
“How can we be a leader among our peers and encourage good behavior among all of us?”
Crawford, who’s also an adjunct professor at Wayne State University Law School, believes the most important impact that can be made is providing people with job opportunities.
While a cannabis-related conviction might be a “scarlet letter” to other employers, “we’re able to hire people who might be unhirable in other industries,” Crawford says.