A Montgomery County attorney has been appointed co-chair of the newly formed Medical Marijuana and Hemp Law Committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
William Roark of Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin in Lansdale also chairs his firm’s medical marijuana law practice.
Calling the issue of legal knowledge on medical marijuana “an emerging need,” Roark said the committee will work to learn and educate fellow attorneys on the legal ins and outs of the medical marijuana industry.
“We’re talking about a new law that’s being written right now,” Roark said. “We’re in the eye of the storm.”
He said the state is estimating it will receive up to 900 applications for permits to operate medical marijuana dispensaries or growing and processing facilities.
With permit applications requiring thousands of dollars up front, medical marijuana will be a high-stakes big money industry that needs solid legal advice, he said.
“They’ve put a lot of economic barriers in place so that only the serious, most experienced apply, because there will be a limited number of permits,” he said.
He said application requirements also are very strict. Applicants need to submit engineering plans for facilities that comply with local zoning laws. They also have to have a plan of operations for growing and processing the marijuana.
There’s one problem with that, he said.
“No one in Pennsylvania should know how to do that, because it hasn’t been legal,” Roark said.
That means consulting with professionals in other states, where marijuana growing and processing for medical use have been legalized.
In other words, there is a large learning curve to become legal experts in an area that has been to date illegal, he said.
“I’m not an expert. No attorney in Pennsylvania should describe themselves as an expert at this time,” he said.
So as it begins, acquiring legal knowledge will be a top priority of the committee.
“Our work will help all of us figure it out and make us the most competent, so that we can help our clients the best we can,” Roark said.
Andrew B. Sacks of Sacks Weston Diamond LLC in Philadelphia is co- chair of the committee.