As 2023 comes to a close, RZA Legal is looking back on the amazing year we’ve had while looking forward to our plans for 2024 and beyond. Here are a few of RZA Legal’s 2023 highlights:
RZA Legal is a Certified Women Owned Business
While we’ve always been women-owned, we now have certification from the City & County of Denver as a Women-owned Business Enterprise (WBE)! This certification will open doors for RZA Legal to make an even larger impact on our community. Benefits of WBE status also include increased contracting opportunities with major corporations and the government. While we whole-heartedly agree with the lifestyle brand, BUY WEED FROM WOMEN, we believe that should extend to all areas of business - like us, consider hiring women-owned insurers, CPAs, LAWYERS, dentists, therapists, social media managers, suppliers, etc.
Super Lawyers Honors Rachael Ardanuy as Best in Colorado Cannabis Law
Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The Super Lawyers patented attorney selection process is peer influenced and research driven, selecting top attorneys to the Super Lawyers list each year. Rachel was named a Rising Star in 2022 and 2023 - while up to 5% of the lawyers in the state are named to Super Lawyers, no more than 2.5% are named to the Rising Stars list.
RZA serves as Cannabis Law Section Chair & Presents at the 7th Annual
Cannabis Law Symposium
This year, Rachael served as the Chair of the Cannabis Law Section of the Colorado Bar Association for a second term. For the fourth year in a row, Rachael presented at the preeminent legal cannabis symposium in Colorado - this year on the status of the Social Equity Pro Bono Program through the Colorado Bar Association.
The Program provides social equity applicants with access to a free 30-minute consultation with a cannabis business attorney and connects volunteer attorneys who are knowledgeable in cannabis law with social equity applicants to assist with licensing — local or at the state level — contract review, suitability as a social equity applicant, business formation, compliance, and related guidance. RZA Legal is passionate about growing this program and doing what we can as cannabis attorneys to assist in leveling the playing field and growing participation in the industry among social equity applicants
RZA Legal assists Trailblazing Entrepreneurs Through Newly-Legalized Licensing Process
In Colorado, our laws require that local governments also “opt in” to allow cannabis commerce within their borders. Although cannabis has been legalized in Colorado for over 10 years now, there are still some areas of the state where local leaders have prohibited cannabis commerce. In 2023, we assisted two dispensaries in receiving the first cannabis business license in their local jurisdictions, including the first dispensary in Winter Park and Ault, Colorado!
When New Jersey legalized adult-use cannabis and New Jersey-native and licensed attorney Brian Blumenfeld joined the team - both in late 2020, we knew it made sense to expand our reach to the Garden State!
While adult use sales started on April 21, 2022, those sales only took place at expanded medical facilities who already had a foothold in the industry - the state began accepting applications from independent businesses in 2022. The roll out of the adult-use cannabis industry in New Jersey has been slow going over 2023, with the CRC beginning to process state applications and those local governments who are allowing cannabis commerce standing up their own regulations and licensing processes.
We are proud to have assisted some amazing applicants through the state and local processes who are on the road to opening their doors - including assisting in winning one of only nine licenses offered in one New Jersey city. We'll continue to support independent cannabis businesses and entrepreneurs across New Jersey as the market matures, as well as guiding local governments across the state that begin allowing cannabis commerce within their borders. At RZA Legal, our expertise spans multiple jurisdictions (Colorado, Florida and New Jersey) and we bring a new meaning to the term “MSO”.
Dedication to Social Equity
During the summer of 2022, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division formed a standing advisory work group to discuss the Division’s social equity program and its effectiveness, and to generate potential legislation, rule, and other recommendations. Rachael applied and was selected to be an advisor to the state licensing authority. Throughout 2023, she has contributed significant time and ideas on ways to increase participation and success of Colorado’s efforts at diversifying and including social equity licensees in the commercial cannabis industry.
In 2023, we also attended the Denver Cannabis Cares event at City Park in May and will cap the year off on December 10 with a Social Equity Legal Clinic co-sponsored by the Cannabis Business Office, Marijuana Enforcement Division and Colorado Bar Association Cannabis Law Social Equity Pro Bono Program to provide free legal assistance to social equity grant awardees.
Colorado Cannabis Business Office Awards $200k+ to RZA Legal’s clients
The Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) launched its Cannabis Business Grant in 2022 and has held multiple rounds to award grants to deserving Social Equity licensees – RZA Legal is proud to share that our clients were among the winners! The Cannabis Business Grant is a funding opportunity for social equity cannabis businesses who have been awarded, or are actively pursuing, a regulated business license from the Marijuana Enforcement Division. This program was developed to support cannabis entrepreneurs through access to capital to promote social equity, innovation, and job creation across the industry. We look forward to further funding of the program and assisting clients with more opportunities for Social Equity applicants to benefit from this program.
Conferences, speaking engagements and presentations!
RZA Legal has stayed busy showing up in the cannabis community, at conferences, regional and local events, as well as presenting vital information about cannabis policy and law throughout 2023. This year’s speaking schedule started in April with Benzinga Cannabis Conference in Miami, Florida where Rachael was chosen to speak on the panel “Social Equity: Translation Policy into Action''. That amazing experience was followed by presenting on Legal Business Foundations at the BIPOCANN x Cannabis Business Office mentorship program for Cannabis Business Office grant recipients in April and a webinar on Colorado, New Jersey & Virginia Cannabis Legal Updates with Dunlap Law hosted by BIPOCANN in May.
Over the summer, Rachael spent time honing her craft through attending industry-specific conferences to learn, network, and grow. First, NORML's first cannabis business focused legal seminar, a three-day conference where attorneys gathered to discuss various topics including intellectual property, financing, compliance,
constitutional and criminal law issues and more. Next, Rachael attended the 2023 Psychedelic Science Conference in Denver - check out her insights from that conference over on the RZA Legal Blog. Rachael will be capping off the year by presenting a continuing legal education webinar presented by Colorado WOLF (Women Owned Law Firms) for small law firms on legal updates regarding employment issues, cannabis, natural medicine and more. We really enjoy teaching and spreading valuable information on issues that impact businesses across Colorado and beyond and look forward to more presentation and teaching opportunities in 2024.
RZA Legal provides guidance on Colorado’s new Natural Medicine Health Act
Effective July 1, 2023, SB23-290 modifies and implements the Natural Medicine Health Act in which Coloradans legalized the use of natural medicines including psilocybin mushrooms (note: the defined natural medicines are still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act). As experienced regulatory attorneys, we have seen a lot of interest and inquiries into what the law provides, have studied it in detail, and have provided guidance on navigating this new law. If you have questions about the personal use of natural medicine in Colorado or are an entrepreneur planning to become a licensed facilitator or other operator of a natural medicine business, we remain a dedicated resource for navigating the laws and regulations that are getting developed.
While the use of natural medicines is as old as time, the tangled web of legal implications surrounding the state-legal status is being put together in real time and we are engaged and ready to see this program roll out successfully.
RZA Legal Assists Municipalities with Drafting Cannabis Regulations
For the past nine years, our firm has focused on representing small businesses throughout Colorado, Florida and New Jersey in starting up companies, obtaining business licenses and other local government approvals, navigating land use codes, acquiring real estate, negotiating contracts, raising funds, and establishing compliant marijuana businesses. A significant amount of this work includes representing clients before local governments, boards, and state agencies.
During our years of interfacing with state and local governments and leaders, we have seen the benefit of local government officials who have representation by experienced legal counsel and how that guidance can effectuate positive outcomes for the whole local community. Oftentimes, local government employees are tasked with wearing many hats and serving multiple roles, especially when there are economic factors and budgetary constraints to consider.
We have provided substantive guidance and recommendations on cannabis regulations and ordinances for several Colorado municipalities. Given this experience, we continue to expand our offerings to include representing local governments and municipalities to deliver exceptional legal solutions across various practice areas, including: drafting and revising ordinances, policies and procedures for matters involving land use, zoning and real estate; negotiating and drafting contracts; guidance on legal responsibilities and liabilities for elected officials and staff; and advising on cannabis, liquor, and newly-created natural medicine licensing matters.
In addition to serving RZA Legal clients on legal matters, Attorney Brian Blumenfeld continues to volunteer with Grand County Search & Rescue and Rocky Mountain National Park Rescue and looks forward to hosting the 7th Annual Pond Hockey Classic in beautiful Grand Lake, Colorado in February 2024!
Professor Ardanuy Continues to Mentor University of Denver Law Students
Since summer of 2022, Rachael served as an adjunct professor at University of Denver Sturm School of Law, guiding law student externs through their private practice placements. While RZA Legal has hosted many summer interns with the firm over the years to gain valuable first-hand legal experience, becoming an adjunct professor has allowed Rachael to provide further guidance and mentorship to over 150 students since taking on this role. It is professionally and personally fulfilling to know we are positively impacting the next generation of Colorado attorneys.
We are very proud of the work we have accomplished in 2023 and look forward to continuing the momentum in 2024 and beyond - happy and joyous new year to all!
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