HomeCannabis Industry InterviewsRachel Gillette: Practicing Law in the Risky Cannabis Industry

Rachel Gillette: Practicing Law in the Risky Cannabis Industry

Rachel Gillette is a Partner at Greenspoon Marder LLP, a national full-service Am Law 200 and NLJ 500 business law firm @GMLaw_Tweets with 26 offices throughout the U.S. 

Rachel focuses her practice on marijuana/cannabis business licensing and regulatory compliance, business law and transactions, contract drafting and review, tax litigation, corporate formation, and tax matters, including audit representation.

She has vast experience in the representation of cannabis and hemp businesses, having represented the state and locally licensed marijuana and hemp businesses in Colorado since 2010.

We recently invited Rachel for a Q&A session to talk about his background and her law firm, Greenspoon Marder LLP.


Ganjly: What is your background and what made you decide to pursue a career in cannabis?


Rachel Gillette: I came from a tax practice before I started representing cannabis businesses in 2010. At the time, I didn’t realize how useful my experience in assisting clients in corporate and tax matters would be in representing these new “licensed marijuana businesses.” I started to see marijuana companies encountering major tax issues in 2011 when I began to see the IRS heavily auditing the industry. My legal background translated well in representing cannabis business clients what was a very new industry and highly dynamic and rapidly changing area of law. Prior to opening my own cannabis-focused firm in 2010 though, I was an active advocate for the legalization movement. For a number of years, I was the executive director of the Colorado state chapter of NORML, the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws. I was a founding member of Women Grow and the National Cannabis Bar Association. I think it’s exciting to see how the industry and public opinion has developed and changed dramatically over the last few years.

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Ganjly: How many employees do you have and what kind of traits do you look for when hiring new members?


Rachel Gillette: I joined Greenspoon Marder as a partner in 2016. Greenspoon Marder has over 200 attorneys in multiple states, and our cannabis law group has lawyers focused on the various facets of the law that cannabis businesses need today. We have a strong cannabis corporate group, and we can handle all aspects of running a cannabis business including real estate, employment, licensing and compliance, regulatory, 280E matters, audits, administrative matters, mergers, and acquisitions, to name a few. We understand the importance of giving comprehensive advice to our cannabis industry clients. This industry is heavily regulated, especially in states like Colorado, so it’s important to have a team of attorneys with experience in various aspects of the law, all of which may touch the cannabis business client.


Ganjly: What is the most challenging experience you have had in the cannabis industry so far?


Rachel Gillette: Everyday is a challenge. As an attorney practicing in this space, I run across situations that most attorneys have never encountered before. Because laws regarding marijuana and hemp are changing daily, it’s a constant challenge to stay up-to-date with what is happening in the various states. It’s also a challenge to make sure we get it right as advocates for the industry. What should our regulatory system look like? What is important to protect businesses or consumers in this industry? When the federal laws change, what does that look like? How do we make sure marijuana businesses are treated fairly? How can we ensure regulations or tax schemes are not overly burdensome for consumers and businesses?  These are all the types of questions attorneys and advocates who operate in this industry face on a daily basis and our biggest challenge is making sure we do it right.

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Ganjly: What is your proudest moment since you started down this path of being an entrepreneur in the cannabis space?


Rachel Gillette: My proudest moment is the day I opened my practice focusing on representing marijuana businesses back in 2010. At the time, there were very few attorneys willing to practice in this space. Since 2010, I have been there every step of the way watching this industry, the regulators, and the laws evolve. I realize today how valuable that substantive experience can be in the representation of clients. It’s just not something that can be taught in a classroom, and I am proud to teach my younger associates and law clerks what took me many years to learn. It is incredibly exciting to be part of a team of attorneys in various states that are so passionate about the industry and the clients they represent. As a lawyer, it’s equally exciting to work in an area of practice that is so new and dynamic. It certainly makes going to work every day a new adventure.


Ganjly: Do you have plans for new products, services or events and would you be willing to drop any hints about what we can expect from your company in the future?

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Rachel Gillette: I, along with my partners in Greenspoon Marder continue to grow our cannabis practice and part of that is an expansion of our corporate practice which underlies all our work in this industry. Eventually, we would like to support cannabis businesses in all states with medical or adult-use programs. We also work closely with a federal lobbying group, and as a result, we have a constant presence on the Hill. Advocating for the de-scheduling of cannabis, expansion of banking, and getting rid of 280E in marijuana states are our top priorities. Cannabis partners at Greenspoon Marder are not only attorneys, we also are advocates and we remain committed to ending federal prohibition.


Ganjly: What is your advice for hopeful cannabis entrepreneurs who are considering joining the cannabis industry? What are the positives and negatives they should expect?


Rachel Gillette: The cannabis industry is different in many ways than any other business you’ve been in. With robust state regulation and federal illegality comes numerous challenges. My best advice for clients is to stay in strict compliance with state law, understand 280E, and have a good lawyer. Write all of those agreements down on paper, and trust, but verify.


Thank you, Rachel, for taking the time out to talk to us! 

To learn more about her company, go to Greenspoon Marder LLP.

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