(Seth McConnell, Denver Post file) Image via The Cannabist
Dec 3, 2014
The Cannabist - The University of Denver — founded in 1864 and one of the most prestigious private universities in the U.S. — is going green.
DU’s scenic south-Denver campus is a stone’s throw from some busy recreational pot shops, and soon students at DU’s Sturm College of Law will have the opportunity to take a class on cannabis law: Representing the Marijuana Client (or L4700, for you Pioneers).
Is DU the only top-100 law school in America with an honest-to-goodness marijuana law class?
“I don’t know of anyone who’s teaching anything like this,” said Sam Kamin, who created the course and is a professor at the Sturm College and the director of the school’s Constitutional Rights & Remedies Program. “Everywhere I go people ask me questions about it. People want to know about commercial real estate — what are their rights and obligations when renting to someone with a grow? People have employment law questions, similar to the Coats case.
“This class isn’t, ‘Hey, this is how to sell a lot of pot.’ Rather it’s, ‘Here are all the issues that could come up if you’re representing industry or government.’ “
From the DU course description — and note, this three-credit January class “sold out fast,” according to Kamin: “Following a grounding in the current state and federal laws governing marijuana, students will hear from a number of marijuana businesspeople and those lawyers currently representing them.
“Topics covered will include regulatory compliance, criminal defense, contract, banking, tax, r
eal estate, and multidisciplinary practice. These speakers will present the students with practical problems and hypotheticals which will generate multiple opportunities for assessment.”
Marijuana law can be tricky to grasp, said Kamin.
“When I was on the Amendment 64 task force and just thinking about an edible — what can be in it, who’s determining what’s in it, what the dosage is, how you indicate the dosage, how you make sure it’s safely packaged, how it can be advertised,” he said. “Every small piece of it has so many regulatory issues, so if you’re working in that area, running a MIP (marijuana-infused product manufacturer) or something, the state, local, federal regulations of that are mind-boggling.”
While the class is surely drawing snickers in the university’s halls, Kamin isn’t joking around with his syllabus.
“It’ll be hard work for the students,” he said. “We’ll give them practical problems. We’re going to have them do legislative drafting, different pieces of advocacy. It’s not going to be a joke. It’ll require a lot out of them.
“I’m going to bring in some dispensary and grow and MIPs owners and ask them to give (the students) an idea: Here are all my problems. Here are the problems we encounter from when the plant goes into the ground to when the customer leaves the store. They’ll give them a real practical sense of what’s coming up in practice.”
There is a need for such a class, according to Christian Sederberg, a partner and founding member of Vicente Sederberg LLC, a Denver firm that calls itself “the marijuana law firm” (and purchased themarijuanalawfirm.com url to boot).
“This particular area of practice really touches on a lot of different areas of law,” Sederberg said, “so understanding those different areas of law and how they interact with these businesses is a valuable thing for people interested in this area.”
So will Kamin write a book to accompany his class?
“I thought about it, but it’s changing so fast that I can’t imagine trying to pin it down,” Kamin said. “Even if you just look at Colorado: Since 2010 we’ve had medical rules, medical regulations, Amendment 64, recreational rules and recreational regulations — and updates to those ever since. If you’re doing an annotated book on Colorado marijuana rules, it’d be a full-time keeping it up to date.”
Did Kamin — himself a published author in academic (UCLA Law Review) and journalistic (Slate) circles — see any resistance to the course inside the college?
“My dean OK’d it pretty quickly,” he said. “My colleagues know what I’ve been up to. They know I’ve been researching and writing in this area. They’ve made every joke there is to make.”
Kamin’s core idea for the course was to set up his students for modern law in Colorado and, given how quickly pot legalization is spreading throughout the Americas, beyond.