There could be many reasons for a couple to decide to move from Colorado to Jacksonville.
For attorney Sally Kent Peebles and her husband, Ashley, it was the medical marijuana business.
She’s a partner in the Denver-based law firm Vicente Sederberg, described by Rolling Stone magazine as “the country’s first powerhouse marijuana law firm,” that recently opened an office in Jacksonville.
He’s a cancer survivor who was treated with cannabis and former owner of a medical marijuana dispensary in California.
Now, he’s head of cultivation for VidaCann, the medical marijuana brand owned by Loop’s Nursery and Greenhouses.
It’s one of 13 medical marijuana treatment centers authorized by the state Department of Health to produce, process and distribute medical marijuana products.
Both are originally from Northeast Florida.
“What a great opportunity. I get to come home and practice law and he gets to legally grow marijuana in his home state,” said Peebles, a former oil and gas industry specialist who switched her practice to the business side of medical marijuana four years ago when she joined Vicente Sederberg.
In 2014, prescribed use of a noneuphoric strain of marijuana, known as “Charlotte’s Web,” was made legal in Florida for specific illnesses such as epilepsy, cancer and Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Peebles said she began working with clients that were seeking the limited number of licenses allowed for cultivation and distribution to patients or caregivers.
Her practice is focused on transactional law as opposed to litigation.
“I’m a regulatory adviser for clients all over the state,” said Peebles.
She points out that legalizing medical marijuana was a major change in state law that’s been in effect for only a few years.
“This is an emerging area of law and it’s confusing. Because it’s illegal at the federal level, there’s no set of regulations, so each state is responsible for regulating the industry,” she said.
That can affect myriad legal issues, such as how investors might view the risks of getting into the industry and even landlord and tenant relationships.
“The majority of what I’m doing now is drafting leases for dispensaries,” said Peebles. “A standard lease requires the tenant to abide by all local, state and federal laws. Obviously, that can’t apply for a dispensary.”
She envisions that the state eventually will license more than 13 authorized producers and other areas of medical marijuana practice also will expand, such as intellectual property issues, as more brands of the product enter the market.
“I think this is going to be a growth industry, and I’m in on the ground floor,” said Peebles.