Recent stories in the Denver Post prompted me to update a couple of my January posts.
In Joint Tenancy: Medical Marijuana Leases, I encouraged owners of commercial real estate to be careful when leasing to medical marijuana tenants, at least until the law--federal, state and local--becomes more settled. Last week's high-profile raid by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) of a medical marijuana grower in the Denver area only intensifies the need for landlord caution.
Colorado’s medical marijuana rush began after an October 2009 memo from the United States Department of Justice directed law enforcement personnel to refrain from enforcing federal law (marijuana is still an illegal substance under federal law) against people in “clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws concerning medical marijuana.”
Why business people would rely on a memo that has no force of law, a memo that can be withdrawn, changed or simply ignored without notice, is beyond me, especially in Colorado where the memo must be punctuated with large question marks. What is Colorado law, beyond a vague voter-approved constitutional amendment, and what does clear and unambiguous compliance look like? DEA Special Agent Jeffery Sweetin, as quoted in the Post, gave Colorado his answers.
"Technically, every dispensary in the state is in blatant violation of federal law," he said. "The time is coming when we go into a dispensary, we find out what their profit is, we seize the building and we arrest everybody. They're violating federal law; they're at risk of arrest and imprisonment."
Agent Sweetin’s view is not the final word on the matter, of course, but Friday’s raid underscores the legal uncertainty surrounding medical marijuana and the risks involved. So until the smoke clears, be very, very careful before you lease to a tenant in that business.
In Willy Wonka and the Law Degree Factory, I expressed my concern that neither law schools nor prospective or current law students are paying enough attention to the ongoing upheaval in the legal economy. I’ve since heard real fear from a number of law students about their prospects after school.
While I stand by my position that folks who are passionate and realistic about being lawyers should not turn their back on their dreams, a Denver Post article by attorney and journalist Mark Greenbaum put some hard numbers to the matter. Mark’s research at the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the supply and demand for new lawyers proved the disconnect was even worse than I expected.
Taking into account retirements, deaths and that the bureau's data is pre-recession, the number of new positions is likely to be less than 30,000 per year, far fewer than what's needed to accommodate the 45,000 juris doctors graduating from U.S. law schools each year.
I strongly recommend Mark's article to everyone considering a legal education.