In late 2018, my esteemed partner, Whitt Steineker, recruited me to join the firm’s newly formed Cannabis Industry team. Around that time, groups in Mississippi were actively seeking signatures to get a ballot initiative in place for a medicinal cannabis program. Seeing the opportunities for me and my firm and understanding that if this initiative ultimately were to pass, being an early participant in such an exciting, interesting, and unique industry in Mississippi sounded fun and rewarding, so I put on my jersey and joined the team.
Not long after I decided to join Bradley’s Cannabis Industry team, I also decided it was finally time for me to implement a real, meaningful form of exercise in my life. Running hurt my ankles and knees. I have never liked to lift weights and was intimidated by CrossFit. So my nearly decade-old hybrid bicycle seemed like a good place to start. As 10-mile rides turned into 20 miles and then 30-mile rides, I realized this was a form of exercise I could get into and actually enjoy. This culminated in me purchasing a real road bike at the end of 2019 and, despite saying I never would, going all in — spandex and all. Now, 10,000 plus miles later on that road bike, and after several century or other gran fondo rides, I am totally hooked.
As you might imagine, these long rides give me plenty of time to think about a lot of stuff. Recently, while on a ride it occurred to me that my experiences developing a cannabis law practice and getting into cycling share many similarities. Let me explain.
Be Prepared for the Unexpected and Ride It Out
Mississippi’s path to legalization and rollout of its medical cannabis program have been anything but predictable. I challenge anyone who says they anticipated the high level of voter support for Initiative 65 only to have the state supreme court overturn that constitutional amendment because Mississippi’s ballot initiative process is “broken.” The supermajority legislative support [VS4] of the Medical Cannabis Act shocked many. And the rollout of the medical cannabis program has presented potholes and a need to change the original route.
We saw regulations that were still in the “proposed” stage when the application portal went live for non-dispensary applications, only to have final regulations released later. Those online applications requested information many hadn’t anticipated based on the regulations and act. Then some of the application sections were modified, and some categories of information removed all together.
These unplanned events resemble some I have encountered on the road. In my nearly three years riding all over the roads of Madison, Hinds, and Rankin counties and other parts of Mississippi and the South, I have dealt with more flat tires than I care to admit; unexpected, long patches of gravel or very beat up roads; not-so-happy motorists; bridges being out; chasing dogs appearing out of nowhere; and bonking and needing a ride home.
Being able to evaluate unplanned circumstances, make informed decisions, pivot, and follow a course of action is a must in both a cannabis law practice and in cycling. I have had plenty of opportunities to follow these steps in both endeavors and feel that my preparations have led to a smoother path forward.
Surround Yourself with the Right People
Let’s be real. Legal cannabis is relatively new to the Southeast and brand new to Mississippi, so we knew we had our work cut out for us in the beginning. In addition to mine and my colleagues’ deep dive into the nuances and challenges that a cannabis law practice presents and persistent monitoring of the constant changing landscape, we purposefully began in our early stages of this practice to meet and surround ourselves with folks from all facets of the industry. We spent hours going to conferences, met and talked to lawyers in other jurisdictions practicing in this space, met people in the cannabis financial services and insurance sectors, met various consultants, explored trade group opportunities, and pulled in lawyers from within Bradley who had established practices in the many areas in which cannabis companies would need assistance (e.g., corporate formation/organization, real estate and zoning, banking and financial services, insurance coverage, and intellectual property).
Cycling is no different. From the outset I developed relationships with good people at the local bike shop, joined a local riding group, and grew my online cycling network through Strava. Whether these connections led to equipment suggestions, better riding techniques, hydration and nutrition tips, or just helped motivate me to get on the bike and hit the road, having these contacts proved essential.
Don’t Hesitate to Get Help
Surrounding yourself with a great network of people doesn’t do you much good unless you know when to put their knowledge to use. Throughout my time in the cannabis law space, I have utilized my connections inside and outside the firm. When real estate legal questions arise, for example, I call my real estate law partner at Bradley to help. When a zoning issue arises, I walk down the hall and talk to my partner who has experience handling zoning disputes for business owners against Mississippi municipalities. Likewise, when the cultivation application asked applicants to submit proof of insurance, despite these applicants not having a license to operate the business, let alone some who don’t even have constructed facilities, I call on my contact in the insurance industry to help.
Knowing when to seek help in cycling is critical, too. There were several times I overextended myself, overheated, or flatted but was hours from home. At those times, I had to call my wife or a friend to come pick me up or hop on YouTube (again) to watch a video showing how to replace a blown tube. Or there were other times my bike just didn’t feel right and was causing discomfort, so I visited the bike shop and learned my seat needed adjusting.
In both worlds, it has been imperative that I recognize when an issue or circumstance arises that requires assistance from someone else and then lean on that help, hopefully making me a better cannabis lawyer and cyclist in the process.
Clip In, Saddle Up, and Enjoy the Ride
Practicing cannabis law and cycling share some other similarities, but I have already rambled on far too much, and it’s time to stop. In closing, though, I am grateful I chose these two paths. Entering the cannabis law space has greatly expanded my network, introduced me to some truly fascinating, intelligent, and innovative people, and allowed me to play a role in helping shape and launch a brand-new market in my native state.
Besides the health benefits of cycling, this hobby has also allowed me to meet some wonderful people, shown me familiar parts of the state in a whole new way, and shown me unfamiliar areas right in my backyard – complete with all the sights, smells, and even tastes that you can only experience on a bike (I’ve swallowed way too many bugs).
Who knows precisely what the future holds for me with respect to my cannabis law practice and in cycling? Whatever happens, though, I am confident that I will ride on with my eyes wide open, no matter if I have a tailwind pushing me along or a headwind trying to hold me back.