Ten years ago, when the term “cannabis business attorney” was considered an oxymoron, Ariel Clark devoted her practice to this emerging industry. She joined forces with Nicole Howell Neubert, who practiced law at some of the most respected corporate law firms in California, to form Clark Neubert LLP. As the state’s top women-owned cannabis law firm, Clark Neubert LLP works with hundreds of cannabis businesses and is active in groundbreaking policy, regulatory and legal issues across California.
What inspired Clark Neubert LLP to specialize in the area of cannabis? We’ve been practicing cannabis business law for more than a decade, so the fight for legalization and regulation has always inspired our work. Now that cannabis is fully legal, helping clients achieve licensing and assert their rights as legitimate business owners drives the firm. We are also passionate about helping women and disadvantaged communities take advantage of the sea change. The industry should be as diverse as California itself.
How has the legalization of cannabis shifted your law firm’s priorities in serving the cannabis community? We worked extensively on developing local and state regulations, so we’ve added policy and political expertise to our portfolio over the past two years. It’s one thing to practice law—it’s another to know how that law got onto the books. We’ve also expanded our practice to include full service corporate law, financing, M&A, and natural resources expertise to meet clients’ rapidly changing needs. There is no aspect of society that cannabis doesn’t touch, from healthcare to law enforcement to entertainment; we’ll keep growing the firm organically to reflect that reality.
What should businesses both inside and outside of the cannabis industry know about your law firm? This is not our first rodeo. We have been representing cannabis clients since long before regulation, through federal crackdowns, three versions of regulating statutes, two sets of regulations, and all the trials and tribulations this first year of regulation has delivered. We have literally seen it all. Any deal structure or arrangement that can be conceived, we’ve analyzed and molded it to conform to the law and our client’s objectives. This work is about taking our clients’ always creative ideas, applying them to an ever-changing set of complex new rules, and making things happen for our clients. We’re able to do this successfully every day because of a huge amount of practical experience and an incredible network of experts and regulators across California to help our clients make smart decisions.
What are some of the services that your law firm offers? We represent clients in all aspects of business formation and ongoing operations, local and state permitting, supply chain commercial transactions, corporate transactions, including investor financing, joint ventures, sales and mergers, as well as issues related to sovereign Native American territory. We also work closely with public affairs and communications experts to ensure the policy climate is as good as possible for our clients’ success.
How does being a member of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce benefit Clark Neubert LLP? There’s still bias against cannabis companies and ancillary businesses in the mainstream business community, but the Chamber has welcomed us with open arms. Being a member of the SF Chamber is exciting, because it goes a long way to normalizing the industry in the eyes of the larger community. It is also an incredible opportunity to meet so many truly inspirational business leaders in San Francisco. There is so much synergy to be found. Cannabis is legal, and there’s nothing mysterious about it. We’re here to do business and try to make a positive difference, just like everyone else.