This is part two of last week’s interview with Sally Kent Peebles of Vicente Sederberg, a full-service law firm that specializes in cannabis-related issues.
Shelton Hull: What would you consider your legal specialties?
Sally Kent Peebles: I am a cannabis regulatory, corporate and real estate attorney who is licensed to practice in three states: Florida, Colorado and Oregon. I have more than five years of experience in this industry which, compared to many others in the cannabis industry in Florida, makes me a bit of a dinosaur!
Are there other firms dealing with cannabis law in this region?
I know other firms are dipping their toes into the cannabis space and creating separate cannabis practice groups within their firms, but I don’t know any other Florida firm that has a sole focus on cannabis like Vicente Sederberg does. We are 100 percent focused in the cannabis space, and we have unique practice groups in addition to the more traditional ones such as national licensing, market analytics, a hemp and cannabinoid group, and a compliance department that guides clients through issues such as packaging and labeling, security requirements and building requirements.
What do you see as the major cannabis-related issues in Florida this year?
I see the industry as having two main hurdles. First, when I originally moved here, a lot of people asked me when Florida would see the economic boom from the cannabis industry like Colorado experienced. I had to explain that the state of Florida made the unfortunate policy decision to limit licenses at the state level, which created a high barrier to entry and effectively cut out a hopeful small business owner from being able to get a license. Limited licenses means limited patient access, and since there is less competition, the products are more expensive, which forces many patients to stay in the black market where product is cheaper and more accessible. This may get better over time, especially since flower is now permitted.
Second, there is still heavy stigma in the South toward marijuana and marijuana users. This often blocks forward movement on the issue. During this past session, a THC cap was proposed and almost passed which would have capped the THC level in flower at 10 percent and would have made it tougher for a parent to get medicine for their child. This bill threatened to force patients and sick children back into the black market where product is untested and could be covered in pesticides. The fact that the bill even passed the House reflects that there is still a lot of education that needs to happen on this issue.
Do you think full decriminalization will happen on the next ballot?
I see many cities already passing decriminalization laws in Florida. Lowering the penalties for [possessing] small amounts of marijuana is an excellent step to protect our adolescents, who are the ones arrested most for this offense. As for the adult-use push, they will need a lot more funding to be able to get the question on the ballot, and I am not seeing that happening yet. I support the legalization of adult-use marijuana. Already 10 states in the U.S. have voted for adult use. It should be regulated, tested and taxed. The industry could create thousands of new, good-paying jobs and provide new business opportunities.