Goldberg Segalla LLP

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Cannabis Law

Goldberg Segalla is not what you might expect from a law firm of our size. With over 400 lawyers and 22 offices across 10 states clients from all parts of the burgeoning national cannabis industry rely on us for a geographic reach and bench depth rivaling other top-tier firms. But they don’t choose Goldberg Segalla for the numbers alone.They choose us because understanding each client’s business is our first priority — and we tailor both legal teams and cost-effective strategies to meet their immediate needs as well as their long-term goals.

This tailored, cross-practice approach positions us to provide exceptional and comprehensive counsel for clients operating in the cannabis industry, handling and advising on virtually any legal need — whether securing funding for a new business venture, adapting to the industry’s ever-changing regulatory landscape, or defending diverse and complicated claims. Our cannabis-industry clients represent the full range of the cannabis supply chain, including:

Directors and officers
Dispensaries/retailers
Distributors
Growers
Hydroponics suppliers
Investors
Medical professionals
Owners and shareholders
Pharmaceutical companies
Product manufacturers
Technology companies
Transportation companies
The Business of Cannabis — Key Issues in an Evolving Market
Cannabis is still listed as a Schedule I substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). According to the federal government, this means cannabis has no recognized medical use. However, 31 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have adopted legal and regulatory frameworks at odds with this position, and recognize medical and legitimate commercial uses for cannabidiol (CBD) and other constituent compounds of cannabis. While there are safeguards, such as the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer Amendment, that deter certain federal prosecutions of businesses operating within the nascent national cannabis industry, these are not permanent law, and require constant renewal by the federal government. And while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved a CBD-based epilepsy drug, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has not yet de-scheduled CBD from the CSA. While this will certainly occur in the near future, and while there are numerous other bills pending in Congress, businesses and professionals in the industry need to stay on top of these changes at all times.

Goldberg Segalla’s attorneys monitor this evolving landscape, and many are recognized and cited as authorities on the industry and area of law. Our knowledge of the law and emerging regulatory and business issues, coupled with the breadth and depth of our capabilities in areas like insurance coverage, civil litigation, risk-management, employment, intellectual property, and transportation, allows us to partner with clients in the cannabis industry and provide a cost-effective combination of 24/7 legal counsel and long-range strategic planning. Below is a list of just some of the areas where cannabis law intersects with more established practices and our firm’s capabilities to assist your company.

Corporate Services and Commercial Litigation
Goldberg Segalla’s Corporate Services and Commercial Litigation Practice Group offers a comprehensive suite of resources designed to guide companies through any business decision, commercial interaction, transaction, legal dispute, or government investigation they may face. In the ever-changing world of cannabis law, this is especially important. With offices strategically located in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami, St. Louis, and other major business and economic centers spanning our national footprint, we are able to assist virtually any new cannabis-based company in developing corporate structure, compensation plans, business formation, contract disputes, and business mergers, to name a few areas.

We also regularly assist clients in complex commercial litigation and arbitration matters, corporate and business transactions, commercial real estate and development questions, intellectual property, real estate litigation and title disputes, white collar defense, and government investigations. These abilities and our national footprint position us to assist any cannabis-industry client as they grow their business now and in the future.

Environmental
Cannabis is currently the fastest-growing industry in the United States, and the environmental laws and regulations that are implicated by the legalization of cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes are vast. Given the lack of consistency in marijuana regulation on the federal and state level, and the often disparate laws between states on marijuana cultivation and production, we help businesses navigate the morass by ensuring their operations comply with state and municipal regulations pertaining to land use, water use, and the application of pesticides and rodenticides. We are committed to helping our businesses balance their commercial interests with the patchwork of various state and local laws and regulations.

General Liability
This area of law encompasses a variety of areas, including everything from transportation-related incidents involving drugged driving to premises liability cases. We defend cases involving personal injuries occurring to individuals while on the property of the owner or municipality, as well as in the workplace. We represent the insurers of major property owners, such as school districts, shopping centers and plazas, and other places where the public is accommodated. As cannabis companies open more manufacturing plants, grow facilities, and dispensaries, the need for proven attorneys who can handle any kind of case from a Dram Shop action to a workplace accident is paramount. Also, with a nationally-recognized litigation practice and a deep and experienced roster of general liability attorneys, Goldberg Segalla is well positioned to defend virtually any cannabis-related liability claim.

Transportation
Goldberg Segalla also delivers comprehensive transportation litigation services and counsel focused on helping clients keep their income-producing assets moving, delivering, and reloading. We are experienced in representing regional and national trucking, rail, automobile fleet, aviation, and other transportation-focused companies. Our team of trial-tested attorneys will always be at your side to provide sound legal and regulatory advice or to defend you and your employees in even the most complex, high-exposure injury or property damage claims.

As cannabis companies expand throughout a state, products will need shipping. As more states legalize the use of recreational cannabis, drugged driving cases will occur. Cases with a cannabis focus will become more prevalent. Through our strong and active affiliations with leading national networks of select defense counsel across the United States, we can immediately connect our clients with experienced and trusted transportation law attorneys anywhere in the country.

Intellectual Property
Intellectual property covers the nexus between creativity, innovation, and consumerism. The pressing question for businesses and professionals in the cannabis industry is, can I patent, copyright, or trademark something that is federally illegal? Curiously, the answer is yes. In fact, the U.S. government holds the foremost patent on cannabis-related products, commonly known as the ‘507 patent, which covers the use of non-psychoactive cannabinoids. In an exponentially growing market, Goldberg Segalla has the resources and interdisciplinary experience to help clients navigate cannabis IP law, to protect and develop intellectual property, and gain recognition, protection, and registry for their ingenuity.

Workers' Compensation
Medical marijuana is becoming the preferred treatment for an ever-increasing list of medical conditions. New York State alone has 57,000 certified medical marijuana patients with costs ranging from under $100 to over $1,000 per month. Workers’ compensation boards across the country, including in New York, Connecticut, and New Mexico, are directing carriers to reimburse claimants for medical marijuana expenses despite federal and state laws. Goldberg Segalla's Opioid Impact Program and Cannabis Initiative exist to guide clients through these constantly evolving marijuana laws and policies. We take the time to identify and understand each client’s goals, needs, and responsibilities under federal law. We control risk and exposure through proper analysis to determine what is appropriate treatment for any claim, and offer guidance on how to challenge requests for medical marijuana through every step of the claim process.

Product Liability
With the sale of cannabis in different states becoming commonplace, it is only a matter of time before product manufacturers will be at risk of being sued for failure to warn about potential dangers associated with use of cannabis. Cigarette manufacturers continue to defend these claims across the country. Also, in absence of established safety and quality control standards for these cannabis products, claims of manufacturing and design defect are in play. Lastly, in some contexts, ingestion of cannabis-containing foods could lead to food-related exposure claims. Goldberg Segalla has a nationally-recognized Product Liability practice that has tried cases on behalf of Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States and FTSE 100 companies in the United Kingdom. These cases have involved catastrophic personal injuries, wrongful death, multimillion-dollar property losses, and environmental damage. In addition, our national Toxic Tort practice includes attorneys experienced in foodborne illness litigation, equipping Goldberg Segalla with tremendous depth and experience in defending any product liability suits brought against cannabis-industry clients.

Regulatory
We provide proactive counsel and strong representation for clients whose products or services are monitored by an array of federal, state, and international regulations. As cannabis remains a Schedule I substance under federal law, it’s important for businesses in the cannabis industry to partner with a firm that provides thorough and concise counseling with regards to each state’s evolving regulatory landscape. Whether advising on compliance issues, appearing before regulatory authorities, or responding to an inquiry, our attorneys focus on minimizing risk and maintaining positive working relationships with regulatory bodies. Our Insurance Regulatory Practice Group counsels insurers and reinsurers throughout the U.S. and Europe on meeting the full range of domestic and international regulatory challenges they face.

Insurance Coverage
Goldberg Segalla is one of the premier law firms advising and representing the global insurance and reinsurance industry. Our 75-lawyer Global Insurance Services Practice Group, which Law360 ranks among the largest in the United States, exists to serve insurers, reinsurers, and all others operating in the insurance arena. Within the cannabis law field, insurers and companies will need to be aware of the variety of different insurance and reinsurance options that may be required. Understanding how decisions in other areas of the law may be applied in the cannabis field is a necessity.

Comprehensive Counsel for the Cannabis Industry
These are just a handful of the areas in which Goldberg Segalla can assist pioneering businesses in the cannabis market. With a footprint stretching from Los Angeles to London, our attorneys have counseled companies both here and abroad. In the growing cannabis industry — as full of opportunity as it of uncertainty — successful businesses need more than traditional legal counsel. Goldberg Segalla is home to true leaders in cannabis law, as well as a collaborative culture that allows us to make the most of our diverse practices for clients with complicated needs. “Putting the client first,” for us, means that our work begins with a concentrated effort to understand both the client’s industry and individual concerns and goals, and offer proactive legal counsel always aimed at long-term success. We built a reputation for exceptional work and outstanding value by listening to our clients, appreciating their specific business philosophies and needs, and respecting their desire for efficiency. These values allow us to excel in every area of cannabis law.

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  • 5.0/5.0 Review for Michael Rubin by a Partner on 05/28/15 in Civil Litigation

    Mike is an excellent attorney, a strong client advocate and worthy adversary.

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    Mr Brown served as a law clerk at the Appellate Division, Fourth Dept., one of New York's intermediate appellate courts while I was Presiding Justice of that Court. His work was outstanding.

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Diversity

Both within our own firm and across the wider business and legal communities, Goldberg Segalla’s commitment to diversity is strong, sincere, and a critical component of our firm’s mission and culture. Our philosophy has always been that we hire people who are excellent at what they do, and even better human beings. Period. We feel we would be doing a disservice to our firm and to our clients if we didn’t include contributions from every available resource.


We are extremely proud that our commitment has received regional and national recognition for the innovative programs we have developed and the results we have been able to achieve. The following is a sampling of the firm-wide or individual honors we have received for implementing initiatives that make a difference:


  • George B. Vashon Innovator Award, Minority Corporate Counsel Association
  • MCCA Firm Affiliate Network
  • Vault/MCCA Commitment to Diversity
  • Community Service Award, Defense Research Institute
  • Good Works Award, American Bar Association Section of Litigation
  • Outstanding Committee Chair, ABA Section of Litigation
  • Diversity Trailblazer Award, New York State Bar Association
  • Legal Service Award, Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • Lawyer of the Year, Bar Association of Erie County
  • Legal Community Leader Award, National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York
  • Diversity Excellence Award, Buffalo Niagara Human Resource Association
  • Value Award for Diversity, Leadership Buffalo
  • Western New York Game Changers, Buffalo Spree magazine

What we are most proud of, though, is that our efforts have shown significant results and continue to make a lasting impact on the lives of many.

Leadership and Action

To put our philosophy and commitment into practice, we have a Diversity Task Force, which includes our managing partner, in place to conceptualize and implement diversity-focused programs as well as give diversity a voice in our decision-making at the highest level. The individuals on this task force share the firm’s strong commitment to increasing diversity, and they use their unique experiences and backgrounds to support and advance that goal. The team meets regularly to create programs, schedule events, establish diversity initiatives both inside and outside of the firm, set long-term goals, and develop the strategy to recruit and retain people from diverse backgrounds.


The chair of our Diversity Task Force, Joseph M. Hanna, has spearheaded numerous diversity initiatives in various organizations and outreach programs, serves on several diversity-related committees, and is a frequent author and speaker on diversity. Among other positions, he is co-chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyer Leadership Program, former chair of the association’s Minority Trial Lawyer Committee and its Special Committee on Human Rights, and former editor-in-chief of the ABA’s Minority Trial Lawyer; a 2014 fellow of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD); a past president of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York (MBAWNY) and the MBAWNY Foundation; and the Diversity Liaison for several committees at the 22,000-member DRI.


For more than a decade, Goldberg Segalla has proudly supported the ABA’s Judicial Internship Opportunity Program, which provides racial and ethnic minority law students, along with members of other groups underrepresented in the legal profession, opportunities to serve as an intern with a judge during the summer after their first or second year of law school. Joe Hanna — an alumni of the program himself — acts as a mentor and leader in the program, through which he has conducted more than 100 interviews for students across the country.

In 2017, Goldberg Segalla participated in the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program, the New York City Bar Association’s flagship pipeline program for high school students. As a participating legal employer, we hosted high-achieving inner-city students for the summer and collaborate with the NYC Bar to provide them with additional programming before, during, and after the summer designed to help them prepare for a legal career.

Each summer, Goldberg Segalla proudly welcomes interns through a formal Diversity Clerkship Program that was conceived by Joe while he served as president of the MBAWNY. The program was developed in collaboration with the MBAWNY and the SUNY Buffalo Law School to provide opportunities for minority UB Law students to gain firsthand experience in the legal system. Since it was launched in 2011, the program has placed more than 100 students in clerkships in area courts as well as in several area law firms, with more judges and law firms asking to participate every day. It provides participants with an in-depth look at the legal process and the interaction between the bench and the bar that they would not otherwise get. At our firm, a dedicated team of partners monitors the work of these law clerks and ensures they obtain valuable experience to help develop important legal research, writing, case management, and client service skills critical to their long-term success. Our program earned the firm the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s 2012 George B. Vashon Innovator Award.


We also have sponsored Success in the City, an annual diversity networking and mentoring event developed by Joe that brought together students, legal and business professionals, educators, nonprofits, and political leaders to make lasting partnerships. Many employment, business, and mentoring relationships resulted from this event. Past events have drawn more than 500 political and business leaders, legal professionals, and students. Success in the City has influenced the development of similar programs in Baltimore, Cleveland, Birmingham, Dallas, and elsewhere.


Our firm is committed to spreading the message throughout the broad legal and business communities that embracing diversity contributes to greater overall success. We conduct training sessions for in-house counsel at Fortune 500 corporations on increasing and promoting diversity. Our attorneys have authored articles and delivered presentations on diversity for various legal organizations, including DRI and the ABA, and our efforts and accomplishments in this area have been profiled in publications such as Law360, the New York State Bar Association’s State Bar News, Business First of Buffalo, the Buffalo Law Journal, and others.


In one example of our work to provide inspiration and raise awareness of diversity and women’s issues in the legal community, Caroline Berdzik, chair of our Employer and Labor Practice Group, spoke to Law360 for the publication’s “Female Powerbrokers” series. In the interview, Caroline discussed her career, the challenges of being a woman at a senior level at a law firm, the work-family life balance, and the importance of taking risks. She also offered guidance to female attorneys on moving their careers forward and advice to law firms on both increasing the number of women partners and retaining top female talent. Her longtime advocacy for women (at her previous firm, she served on the Women’s Business Development Committee and was a member of what became the national Women’s Presidents Organization) helped earn her a spot on the 2015 NJBIZ list of New Jersey’s Best 50 Women in Business.


Joe Hanna also was featured by Law360 in its “Minority Powerbrokers” series, in which he shared his perspective on breaking the glass ceiling in the legal industry, the challenges of being a lawyer of color at a senior level, how law firms can increase diversity in their partner ranks, and Goldberg Segalla’s core commitment to diversity.

Partnerships

Goldberg Segalla is proud to be a member of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association Firm Affiliate Network, which was created by the MCCA to assist and acknowledge law firms that are committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.


We are also a member of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD), a national organization of leaders in law firms and corporate legal departments dedicated to creating a truly diverse legal profession. As noted earlier, Joe Hanna was a fellow of the LCLD in 2014. In this position, he played a critical role in organizing the first-ever New York City LCLD Fellows Roundtable event, and he was instrumental in establishing a mentorship program in Hartford for local diverse first-year law students.


We support the diversity efforts of numerous organizations, including:

  • American Bar Association
  • Asian American Bar Association of New York
  • Columbian Lawyers Association
  • Defense Research Institute
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Korean American Association of Greater New York
  • League of First Nations
  • Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • National Bar Association
  • Native American Rights Fund
  • National Association of Asian American Professionals
  • National Congress of American Indians
  • New York State Bar Association
  • Seneca Free Trade Association
  • SUNY Buffalo Law School
  • Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York

Our outreach efforts led to the creation of a comprehensive database of more than 500 minority law organizations throughout the United States. Contact between these organizations takes place in anticipation of bringing CLE and legal programs together. This group of minority bar associations includes both local and national organizations, such as:

  • National Association of Women Lawyers
  • National Association of Muslim Lawyers
  • Hispanic National Bar Association
  • National Asian Pacific American Bar
  • Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles
  • South Asian Bar Association of Philadelphia
  • Vietnamese American Bar Association of North Carolina

A Talented and Diverse Team

Diversity is further evident within our firm through the many languages and dialects spoken by members of our team, including Albanian, Arabic, Croatian, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Malayalam, Mandarin, Marathi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, and Urdu.


Goldberg Segalla’s culture is one that values team-spiritedness, collegiality, and interpersonal harmony within our working community. We are a firm that believes in diversity in the workplace, and we are proud to offer a professional and positive work environment for each and every member of our team.


On these values, and on our commitment to diversity, we will never waver. We are proud of what we have accomplished thus far, but we also realize that this is a long-term mission. We will continue to innovate and to improve diversity in law and business — both within Goldberg Segalla and across the communities in which we live and work.

Diversity Matters — Join the Conversation

If you have questions regarding any of the firm’s diversity initiatives or would like to discuss ideas regarding increasing diversity in the legal profession, please contact Joe Hanna (716.566.5447; [email protected]) or another member of our Diversity Task Force:

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