Although the end of full-scale marijuana prohibition at the federal level remains uncertain, the already multi-billion dollar cannabis industry—which includes hemp, CBD, and marijuana—is forecasted to grow exponentially over the next decade. Rapid market expansion, fluctuating policy reform, and ever-evolving state and federal regulations are compounded by the rise in consumer demand, resulting in a multitude of new legal challenges for businesses involved in or otherwise impacted by the cannabis industry.

Bass, Berry & Sims formed the CannaBBS Task Force to advise companies on the complexities associated with investing, owning or, operating a business in the cannabis space, or when doing business with these pioneering companies. Our team also guides non-cannabis companies on issues related to medical and recreational marijuana, hemp and CBD.

Led by a former state and federal prosecutor as well as experienced regulatory and business counsel, the CannaBBS Task Force advises on a full spectrum of legal and business issues including corporate transactions, finance, government relations, intellectual property, labor and employment, litigation and investigations, real estate, regulatory compliance, tax, supply chain and virtually every other area impacted by this industry.

The CannaBBS Task Force works seamlessly with lawyers from across the firm on areas critical to this industry:

  • Shaping the Law. We are at the front lines in supporting clients’ interests on cannabis in the state of Tennessee. Our Government Advocacy & Public Policy Practice is drawing on its unparalleled experience in lobbying on behalf of global, national and regional clients in highly regulated industries. Our clients include investors and private equity, a medical marijuana company, international distiller of Tennessee Whiskey, association of vaping industry interests, association of electric cooperatives, healthcare systems, specialty pharmacies, and a national agricultural company, among others.
  • Intellectual Property. As with any innovative and emerging industry, cannabis businesses must rely on sophisticated legal counsel to protect their most important assets. Our full-service Intellectual Property Practice blends business savvy advice with the legal nuances of the cannabis industry to advise companies of all sizes on the strategic development, protection, commercialization and enforcement of cannabis-related IP assets. Our experience includes advising clients in the cannabis industry on licensing, patent and trademark portfolio development, branding, and other IP procurement. We also provide clients with insight on trends in trademark and patent law in this area.
  • Commercial. We assist clients in investing in the cannabis industry through sale-leaseback and financing transactions and private offerings. We represented the sponsor in the formation of an approximately $20 million investment fund to invest in retail cannabis dispensaries in Colorado, Maryland, and Illinois. In addition, we represented a company in the purchase of a cannabis production facility in Illinois for $10 million in a sale/leaseback transaction.
  • Medical Marijuana. As the fourth largest healthcare practices in the nation, we are well positioned to advise hospitals, health systems and other healthcare companies on cannabis-related treatments research, and clinical studies. With our base in Nashville, the nation’s healthcare capital, and our office in Washington, D.C., our healthcare attorneys understand both the business and the politics of the industry. Our counsel goes beyond the legal issues to consider all of the operational and management issues a healthcare organization faces when dealing with medical marijuana.
  • Employment. Whether in the cannabis industry or not, companies must navigate employee access and use of cannabis pursuant to a myriad of state and federal laws both permitting and restricting the use. Employers must now navigate these national and state-specific issues while operating with their own company-wide policies that apply to employees at its facilities in multiple states with varying legalities and availability of cannabis. Our employment attorneys assist private and public companies in navigating anticipated employee use of legal cannabis.
  • State and Federal Enforcement. We have numerous former government enforcement and regulatory attorneys, as well as a host of other attorneys across the firm, with vast experience in dealing with the Department of Justice, federal agencies such as the DEA and FDA, and state regulatory boards and Attorneys General. Our experienced team can provide guidance to navigate the risks of violating federal money laundering, banking, and other statutes and regulations that can be implicated in the cannabis space given the overlay of federal law and competing state laws, and we have extensive experience representing clients who have been charged with white collar criminal violations. In the past, we have provided research and advice on the effect of the sale and distribution of CBD products on a beer wholesaler’s federal and state permits.

Our areas of focus include:

  • Company structuring and formation
  • Civil consumer class action suits
  • Environmental law
  • Financing
  • Government advocacy and public policy
  • Healthcare law
  • Intellectual property
  • Labor and employment
  • Litigation, government enforcement and compliance
  • Partnership and operating agreements
  • Privacy and data security
  • Private equity
  • Product liability
  • Real estate and construction
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Supply chain guidance
  • Tax planning and advice
  • Transactions

Possessing, using, distributing and/or selling marijuana or marijuana-based products is illegal under federal law, regardless of any state law that may decriminalize such activity under certain circumstances. Although federal enforcement policy may at times defer to states’ laws and not enforce conflicting federal laws, interested businesses and individuals should be aware that compliance with state law in no way assures compliance with federal law, and there is a risk that conflicting federal laws may be enforced in the future. In addition, possessing, using, distributing and/or selling marijuana or marijuana-based products is illegal under Tennessee law. No legal advice we give is intended to provide any guidance or assistance in violating federal or state law. 

Bo R. Cook
Mallory Farrar
Davidson French
Jeff H. Gibson
Brian Irving
Stewart W. Kameen
Timothy B. McConnell
Janice Parmar
Senior Healthcare Attorney
Erica Vick Penley
Lisa S. Rivera
Justin T. Starling
Michael C. Tackeff
David R. Venturella
Shannon Wiley