Updated: Sep 5
Greetings Happy Munkey Fam,
This month we had a caught up with long time supporter Jessica F. Gonzalez Esq A.K.A. “The Cannabogada”. For those who do not know, the Cannabogada serves in a leadership position with two national cannabis associations, and recently joined Bressler Amery & Ross in Florham Park. The Cannabogada’a legal areas of expertise are intellectual property and trademark law, as well as demonstrating a commitment to the social equity movements in the cannabis community. We are excited to share some of our conversation and hope this helps in better understanding the complex nature of “Cannabis Law”.
Q: Why did you choose to specialize in cannabis?
A: As a young attorney, the choices as to the type of law you want to practice tends to be quite limited. Prior to my pivot to Cannabis, I was working as an intellectual property attorney at a law firm in NJ managing the firm’s domestic and international trademark portfolio. I quickly realized that though I finally reached my goal of becoming an IP lawyer, I wanted a career I believed in, a career where I could use my skills to help people who looked like me, a career that involved working for something bigger than myself and a career that was also personal to me and my spiritual evolution. After intense contemplation, I realized that while many of my interests were fleeting, cannabis was one of the only things that had remained a constant in my life for over a decade. I’ll always remember the moment when I sat in my room over two years ago and thought, maybe I could become what I’d always joked about becoming—a cannabis lawyer (it seemed that unreal).
Q: What challenges do you encounter that other lawyers working in other fields may not have to face?
A: Given that there is a constant face off between federal and state law, lawyers who practice “cannabis law”—which really just means dealing with various aspects of the law that cannabis touches—are always operating in the gray. I not only have to be kept apprised of happenings in the states I mostly practice in (NY & NJ) but it’s imperative I stay up to date with current events in other states such as IL, MA, CO, CA etc. Given the nascent nature of the cannabis industry, states are looking to each other for guidance and looking to see what works and what does not. There is still little to no legal precedent in various states for cannabis disputes and as lawyers, our entire industry is based on precedent. As a lawyer you’re typically putting out fires or laying the best landscape to prevent these fires from forming, but with no precedent to rely on and given the state/federal interplay, you’re dealing with fires you may never have seen before. Despite the challenges, it’s comforting to know that at the end of the day, I helped push the cannabis agenda one step forward in my own way.
Q:What are the specific benefits of have a lawyer who focuses in cannabis?
A: A lawyer focusing on cannabis comes in various shapes and sizes. At this moment, there isn’t such a thing as “cannabis law” per se, instead, practicing cannabis law is all about figuring out how cannabis fits within these laws that we currently have and figuring out how to evolve our current laws with cannabis as its nucleus. With changing laws as well as the nascency of a cannabis regulatory scheme, it is important (in my opinion) to have counsel who is knowledgeable of the nuances of cannabis in his or her respective field. For examples, I’ve become greatly familiar with the various cannabis nuances in intellectual property, namely, trademarks, copyright and trade secrets, as well as different aspects of business and contract law.
Q:What is your personal cannabis story?
A: I’ve benefited from its medicinal properties for over a decade. In a constantly changing world, cannabis has remained the constant for me.
Q: Predictions for NJ/federally?
A: Last year a poll from Monmouth University revealed that over 62% of NJ residents support the legalization of adult use cannabis. This upcoming November, the legalization of adult use cannabis rests in the hands of NJ residents via a ballot initiative. Cautiously optimistic, I do believe voters will pass adult use in NJ this year. I foresee more states jumping on the cannabis bandwagon as the positive consequences continues to greatly outweigh any negatives. In the age of Corona, I hope for more scientific and medical research on cannabis. As for federal prohibition, it’s just a matter of when.
Q: Who are some individuals who inspired you?
A: I always say that the best part of my job meeting inspirational people who took it upon themselves, no permission asked, to create and succeed in their own lanes. The cannabis industry is involving rapidly, necessitating the need for more creativity and more solutions. When I was first starting out in the cannabis realm, I looked to Shaleen Title, Laury Lucien and Shabnam Malek for their trail blazing moves. These women took their law degrees to the exponential power. Their achievements helped me visualize the multitude of possibilities I could not yet see.