Craig Brand, Esq. is a founding partner of Ganja Law P.L.L.C. and Ganja Law Consulting, LLC, a global cannabis legal and consulting firm. Having served as a defense attorney in Miami for decades, he is all too familiar with the DEA and their approach to federal drug policy enforcement. Craig has witnessed firsthand the political imprisonment of people who were arrested for nonviolent cannabis crimes. “People going to jail because of a plant,” as he puts it.
As an Advisory Board Member of the National Hemp Association and a believer in an inclusive, free market for the cannabis industry, Craig has recently dedicated his career to strategically opposing efforts by the federal government, large pharmaceutical companies, big alcohol, and other big business interests seeking to seize control of the current medical & recreational cannabis markets. In this interview, Craig reveals what these special interests are likely planning, how his firm is fighting back, and what cannabis entrepreneurs should expect to see as the battle between the states, private entrepreneurs and the federal government plays out.
What do you think is the biggest threat to the cannabis industry as it has developed in states with medical and recreational programs?
By far the largest threat to the cannabis industry are those who stand to financially lose from the fastest-growing segment of our current economy. Within this classification, the pharmaceutical industry yields the greatest danger as they are preparing to obtain federal patents and FDA approval for “new” medicines that utilize natural or synthetic cannabis plant molecules and compounds. Ganja Law is obtaining ongoing reports of industrial, pharmaceutical and agricultural giants gearing up in an attempt to federally patent ways, manners, methods of cultivation, extraction and even strains and varieties of the cannabis plant itself. The fear is that these powerhouse entities will actually be able to obtain patents on products belonging to Mother Nature herself, uprooting the industry as we know it. Ganja Law has ideas and legal strategies to help combat these monopolies and asks that the private sector heed this warning with preemptive action.
How concerned should cannabis entrepreneurs be about the Monsanto-Bayer merger?
Any time Monsanto is mentioned it is deserving of a shudder. Should Monsanto obtain patents or FDA approvals on strains of cannabis and should pharmaceutical industry giants such as Bayer obtain FDA approval on cannabis medicines, a monopoly could form concerning the licensing and growing of cannabis, in whole or in part. The biggest irony is that cannabis’s classification as a Schedule I drug is providing the present industry with the greatest of protection from those looking to control the market. The cannabis industry should only be attempting to reclassify cannabis if legislatively there are safeguards in place to allow for the continuation of the free, licensed, legal market. A downward departure of the Controlled Substance Act, without preemptive safeguards, could allow certain political power houses with large lobbies to take over everything from manufacturing, delivery and dispensing — oligopolies of the politically connected. In other words, a lawfully structured and legally permitted mafia that makes large campaign contributions.
What do you make of the Trump Administration’s comments thus far about medical vs. recreational cannabis?
One would have reasonably thought that the current administration had much more pressing concerns and priorities than to dismantle the cannabis industry as we now know it. One would also hope that this administration will not villianize cannabis when history and science have proven this plant’s benefits and that the real reasons for its rescheduling status was because of political corruptness and the influence of wealthy individuals who stood to lose from a competing US hemp market.
It doesn’t take much presumption to recognize that should this administration dismantle the legal, free market, it will be undoing all that has been gained in the “war against drugs and cartels.” This administration would be creating the largest spiteful black market in history; a black market that will not be purchasing its cannabis from CVS or Walgreens.
The people of this great country hav voted for their states to provide them with a safe, effective and intelligent way for obtaining medical and/or adult use cannabis while creating a taxable market place shared by entrepreneurs alike. This administration ran on a States’ Rights platform, a reduction of Federal intrusion, the weakening of oligopolies, and jobs. Should these promises not be honored, Ganja Law stands ready, able and willing to employ all legal and lawful entitlements available; helping states as well as the private sector.
Do you think Big Pharma and Big Alcohol might be working together to win favors from the Trump administration?
I would like to see them oppose each other: Battle Of The 400 Pound Gorillas. However, the two stand everything to gain by dismantling the cannabis industry, as the pharmaceutical and the alcohol industries have reported losses allegedly due to the cannabis industry. To oppose the current cannabis industry would demonstrate that industries such as alcohol and pill pushing cannot stand square in the face of competition and would rather interrupt the will of the people than find acceptable ways to compete. With options, the people are choosing a natural product they happen to like and believe in more than pills and alcohol–no wonder, given that pills and alcohol are proven to destroy our liver, cause overdoses and toxicology illnesses, lead to depression, sickness, blood and stomach disorders, addictions, organ damage and even death.
Isn’t the very essence of capitalism allowing consumers to have options, thus spawning greater competition, better quality products and lower pricing? It certainly is not to allow big business to control the entire gratification market-place or commandeer Mother Nature. In the 1920’s the FBI and administration outlawed alcohol as the root of all evils. During the prohibition era, cannabis was a legal and thriving alternative to alcohol. When America was suffering from the financial depression of the 1920s, Congress repealed the alcohol prohibition and the FBI needed a new enemy in order to justify its existence and jobs. Cannabis became the new enemy, a product that had been praised and included within the US pharmacology index. However, cannabis did not have a lobby nor an association committed to political contributions and power struggles. This is the same plant that our flag was sewn from, the sails that brought the first ships to America were made of, the drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on, and some of America’s greatest minds use and utilize while creating jobs for Americans. Yes, even Steve Jobs was reported to have been an avid endorser of cannabis while creating the Apple Computer — which created U.S. jobs.
With all of the current publicly-available data, any attack made on the private and lawful cannabis market by the government or another industry would be asinine, and would be seen as nothing short of a conspiracy.
I will throw this out there: should the alcohol industry find ways to work with the cannabis space, think of the synergy! The synergy and ideas would be amazing. The merger of ideologies, development and sales by and between the alcohol industry and the cannabis sector would be a beloved blend of all that is good and all that is bad, but in a controlled, “safer,” economically stimulating and taxable market-place.
With the current momentum behind legalization around the globe, can the federal government of the US exert as much control as it once did when it comes to drug policy?
No it cannot. In fact, as Ganja Law consults outside of the US we are seeing first hand how other countries have changed their views about cannabis, have decriminalized its use, and are recognizing its medical and medicinal properties. Much of the world has woken up, learned the truth about cannabis, been shown the real behind-the-scenes reasons for the criminalization of cannabis and hemp, and has recognized the business and tax advantages of allowing the present industry, as a whole, and the jobs and small businesses thereby created. At Ganja Law we can help identify lawful, global projects, partners, and positions.
What countries outside the US are you currently consulting clients in, and where do you currently see the biggest opportunities related to cannabis — both for entrepreneurs to pursue business opportunities, as well as to challenge the status quo on global drug policy?
Outside of the USA, we are consulting throughout the Caribbean, parts of Western Europe and just began for clients in Australia. Our consulting extends into hydroponic research and food production as well as molecular harvesting such as terrapins and flavonoids for use in mixtures and extractions.
Do you think that the industrial hemp market’s versatility — providing not only medicine but also textiles & fibers, biofuels, building materials, etc. — will help lead to an open market in terms of CBD medicine?
No, quite the opposite. I believe that the multiple-use potential of hemp creates a favorable patent argument for Big Pharma or other powerhouse companies such as Monsanto. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I can’t beat them, but the battle will be more difficult.
Already we have seen Big Pharma pushing their agenda and attempting to take control over the CBD market. Kansas is passing legislation that would require CBD products to be dispensed by a pharmacy and manufactured only by FDA approval, meaning through Big Pharma. We at Ganja Law have already been preparing for this fight and will stand against anyone attempting to control the CBD, CBG and even the THC market place. We are anti-monopoly and fully support a free market, especially when it comes to the entrepreneurs who, through grassroots activism and persistence, were able to open these markets in the first place. It was not big business that opened this industry, but all of those idealists who went to jail for a plant and for your freedom of growth and use. It is so hypocritical for politicans and attorney generals to drink their drink, take their pills but not support a medicall, culturally and medicinally beneficial, organic plant that has roots in this country as deep as the Native American Peace Pipe and even deeper when reading the Bible and deciphering its related language and passages. Approximately 10,000 years ago, hemp was the first-ever industrious, human planted crop.
What should cannabis industry activists and lobbyists be focusing their efforts on right now?
Keeping the Federal Government away from the regulated State industry and not declassifying cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Or, should any declassification or decertification occur, to legislate this in such a way that the industry as a whole can enjoy and partake in, rather than taking it away from us. Big Pharma, the alcohol industry, the tobacco industry, lobbyists, and those with alternative or personal interests have been regular opponents of the cannabis industry until the people spoke out and the cause proved true. The saying is “if you can’t beat them, join them.” These special interests would seek to change this saying to read, “If you can’t beat them, take it away from them.”
Is there any hope for the current state markets if the federal government teams up with these special interests?
It is not all doom and gloom; in fact, the opposite. More states are coming online with cannabis acceptance and business development. States are increasing licenses, have eased on regulations, and have been consistently developing compliance program awareness that is not only practical but reasonable. A greater amount of ancillary businesses have entered the market with their technology, software, regulatory help and guidance. The states that have already enacted positive legislation and/or constitutional reform have been consistently broadening their laws, regulations and practices so as to allow the cannabis industry more freedom to positively evolve within their communities. Many states have begun a practice of decriminalizing or downgrading actions involving cannabis. Younger or wiser legislators are showing their willingness and eagerness to help their constituents and economies with cannabis reform. The hemp industry has taken off and a great political awareness has arisen distinguishing cannabis (THC) from hemp with little to no THC. The CBD market is blossoming with great promise on the horizon. The extraction industry has skyrocketed. Cannabis continues to ding the alcohol industry demonstrating cannabis as the growing preference. The medical community has shown increased support for cannabis and its applicability. Medical studies, research and development continue to show great promise. Medicare spending has been diminished, saving the taxpayers and the federal government millions of dollars, due to non-covererd cannabis purchases by patients who choose the plant over covered opioids and other pharmaceutical pills.
In all, Ganja Law & Ganja Consultants see and believe in this industry and those that have made it happen. There is certainly a growing process, complete with growth pains, but then again, what business and what industry doesn’t have those issues. It is an exciting time, a wonderful industry and history in the making. Work to improve the industry and note that the challenges we face continue to make our business practices better, safer and wiser. Ganja Law and its consultants stand ready, willing and able to help your legal and lawful endeavors in this exciting industry. Stay compliant, friends!