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Cannabis: Business Fundamentals 2020

Speaker(s): Aaron Baker, Amanda R. Conley, Andrew Thorpe, Beau Epperly, Brett M. Schuman, Christopher J. Davis, Ian A. Stewart, Judith Schvimmer, Katy Young, Kimberly R. Simms, Lara L. DeCaro, Mary Shapiro, Mitch Kulick, Nicole Howell, Phillip Neiman, Sabrina Fendrick, Thomas Hicks
Recorded on: Aug. 27, 2020
PLI Program #: 278858

Phillip Neiman, Esq., FCIArb is a mediator and arbitrator with JAMS, specializing in the resolution of complex business and commercial disputes. He devotes much of his practice to securities and investment-related cases, including shareholder, partnership and M&A disputes, and has substantial experience in a range of other areas, including employment, insurance, IP, real property, professional liability and privacy tort cases, as well as fintech and cannabis sector disputes.

Prior to establishing his ADR practice in 2004, Mr. Neiman spent a decade as CEO and General Counsel of a FINRA-registered investment bank.

He holds a B.A. in Economics (High Honors, Phi Beta Kappa) from Swarthmore College (1985), a J.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law (1990) and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the National Association of Legal Fee Analysis.

Based in San Francisco, Mr. Neiman hears cases nationwide, and during the global pandemic he conducts virtual/remote mediations and arbitrations on multiple platforms, including Zoom.

For more on Phillip Neiman, including a list of representative cases, visit

Aaron Baker is a California licensed (Bar No. 261973) attorney and graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where he focused intensively on issues of water law and policy, public lands, and administrative law.

After chairing the 2008 California Water Law Symposium, Aaron went on to work in the water group at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in Santa Barbara. Aaron eventually returned to the Bay Area. Aaron now practices in Sonoma County, where, in addition to running a small tech startup, he represents clients on issues such as litigation, transactional – including water rights due diligence, transfers, and dedications – ESA, groundwater management, surface and groundwater rights and adjudications, SWRCB petitions and filings, and CEQA.

Amanda Conley is a founding partner at Brand & Branch LLP and co-founder of the National Cannabis Bar Association. She helps creative entrepreneurs across a variety of industries protect, leverage, and enforce their intellectual property. She specializes in helping clients navigate highly-regulated industries such as cannabis, hemp, dietary supplements, and new and emerging technologies. She also advises on advertising, marketing, website, and labeling compliance.

Amanda graduated from NYU School of Law in 2011 and began her career at O’Melveny & Myers (OMM) in San Francisco with a focus on intellectual property counseling and litigation. Recognizing the need to provide nimble, tailored, practical legal services to clients operating in new and emerging industries, Amanda and her law partner Shabnam Malek founded Brand & Branch in 2015. Initially focused on providing intellectual property legal services to cannabis industry clients, Brand & Branch has expanded its reach to serve clients across multiple industries by providing legal and business strategy advice meeting their diversity of needs. 

During the launch of Brand & Branch, Amanda and Shabnam also co-founded the National Cannabis Bar Association, which recently expanded its reach to become the International Cannabis Bar Association (INCBA). Today, INCBA boasts a membership base of nearly 500 individual attorney members and a strong international presence. Amanda and Shabnam's vision for the organization was realized in the organization's flagship annual two-day legal educational event, the Cannabis Law Institute, at which they've spoken two years in a row. Amanda and Shabnam also co-founded the Bay Area chapter of Women Grow in 2014.

Amanda is an active member of the national business networking organization Provisors, where she leads the organization’s first Northern California group exclusively for professionals serving the cannabis industry. Her other professional affiliations include the International Trademark Association, where she serves on a committee, the California Cannabis Industry Association, the California Lawyers Association, and the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom. She regularly speaks about growth and intellectual property issues pertaining to the cannabis industry and on intellectual property matters generally.  She also regularly speaks at legal and cannabis industry conferences throughout the U.S. and internationally on the topics of intellectual property, advertising, and the importance of diversity across all industries. Amanda has been named a Northern California Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine for the past two years.

Andrew Thorpe, one of the Bay Area’s leading corporate attorneys, handles securities regulation, public offerings, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate governance matters for leaders and innovators in industries including the semiconductor, software, fintech, life sciences, medical devices, clean technology, cryptocurrency, financial services, telecommunications, and internet sectors.  

He brings 360-degree insight to each capital markets transaction. In addition to extensive experience representing issuers and underwriters — including in over 40 initial public offerings (IPOs) to date — Andy’s unique background includes many years with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), where he reviewed public companies' SEC filings and played a significant role in drafting landmark regulations.   

Andy is among the top IPO counsels to issuers, according to statistics from IPO Vital Signs. His representative engagements include providing counsel in a deal that was then the largest venture-backed tech company IPO in the state of New York, based on market cap at pricing; handling cross-border transactions, including IPOs for Israeli companies going public in the United States; and guiding a bitcoin investment trust — the first publicly traded bitcoin fund — through the public listing process. Andy has also represented numerous companies in executing “alternative public offerings,” such as reverse mergers and acquisitions by SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies).

In the Legal 500 rankings, a commenter described Andy as “great to work with,” noting, “he's knowledgeable, has excellent capital markets and regulatory experience, and is creative, smart and always keeps his cool.”

Andy regularly speaks at the ABA's Annual Review of Developments in Business Financing at the ABA Section of Business Law's Spring Meetings and is frequently quoted in Law360 and other publications on issues pertaining to corporate transactions and SEC regulations.  

Prior to joining Mintz, Andy was a partner in the San Francisco office of a large, international law firm.

Earlier, after leaving the SEC to enter private practice, he was a partner in the corporate group of another international law firm. His work in the Division of Corporation Finance at the SEC included four years with the Office of Rulemaking, where he played a significant role in drafting many regulations, including those mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as well as Securities Act Reform.

Beau Epperly advises startup-business clients in all aspects of the startup cycle; from formation to exit.  He guides mature companies through complex securities and tax regulatory matters. He and his team have led a wide variety of complex and unique funding deals for startups and recapitalization funding for existing businesses.  Beau is recognized for his ability to advance creative solutions to difficult problems; and as a result has saved deals from failure. 

As a trial attorney, he has led cases through all aspects of litigation, including discovery, motion writing, mediation and jury trial to verdict.  He can still mix it up in the litigation world when he gets irritable and feels like he needs a good fight. And more importantly when he can serve his team and the clients he works with to achieve success with their cases.

In addition to practicing law, Beau co-founded two companies: TriVino, a supply-chain management company for California wineries, and All9s, a cloud-to-cloud disaster-recovery software-as-a-service (SaaS) company for cloud-based businesses.        

"Epp" as he is known to his friends, played and coached rugby domestically and internationally for 17 years in parallel with his professional pursuits.  He is the head coach of the Olympic Club 7s men's rugby team in San Francisco. He has also served as a board member for Easter Seals Bay Area, an organization assisting families blessed with children with autism. 

Brett Schuman is the chair of the firm’s San Francisco office and the former head of the Litigation Department for Goodwin's California offices. He is a co-founder and partner in the firm’s Cannabis group and also a member of the firm’s IP Litigation group.

Brett advises U.S. and international businesses in, or looking to get in, the cannabis industry. His clients range from Fortune 50 companies to emerging companies. He advises cannabis industry clients regarding the federal and state regulatory regimes relating to cannabis, IP issues, products liability and other issues. He also represents cannabis industry clients in litigation, including leading brands such as PAX Labs and Kiva Brands, Inc.


  • Kiva Brands, as lead counsel, in several cases, including a trademark infringement case and a consumer class action.
  • PAX Labs, as lead counsel, in numerous consumer class actions and individual cases in federal and state courts around the country.
  • Intrexon, as lead IP licensing counsel, on license agreements relating to Intrexon’s non-clonal plant propagation technology.
  • Gotham Green Partners, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm focused on deploying capital into cannabis and cannabis-related enterprises, as lead counsel with respect to its $100+ million debt investment into iAnthus, a multi-state cannabis operator.
  • Central Coast Agriculture d/b/a Raw Garden as lead counsel in a federal trademark infringement litigation brought by BBK Tobacco & Foods, LLP (“BBK”) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.
  • Additionally, Mr. Schuman provides strategic and regulatory advice to Fortune 100 companies, non-U.S. companies, and others regarding U.S. federal and state cannabis laws and regulations. Mr. Schuman also supports deal teams doing cannabis industry deals.



Ian Stewart is founder and co-chair of the Cannabis and Hemp Law practice at Wilson Elser, an AmLaw 200 law firm with 900 attorneys in 39 offices in the United States and London. Ian leads a national multi-disciplinary team of lawyers who serve all aspects of the cannabis and hemp industries, as well as financial institutions and insurance companies that service those industries.

Ian works with licensed cannabis operators throughout the country to comply with their obligations under the law and to develop risk management best practices. He advises Fortune 500 companies on risk management involving hemp-derived CBD and the interplay with U.S. food and drug laws. Ian assists insurance companies on cannabis-related underwriting practices and the development of new policy forms. He also works with financial institutions and professional services firms on best practices for operating in a challenging regulatory environment.

Ian has been named to the prestigious Chambers USA 2020 guide in Cannabis Law.  He is a member of the Advisory Board of the International Cannabis Bar Association (INCBA) and participates on the Policy Council of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). Ian is former chair of NCIA’s Finance and Insurance Committee and former vice chair of the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) Insurance Committee. He is one of MG Magazine’s “30 Powerful Cannabis Attorneys You Should Know.” Ian received a 2019 Readers’ Choice Award by JD Supra for his publication on cannabis consumer class actions, and received National Law Review’s award as “Go-To Thought Leader 2018” for his publications on cannabis law.

By way of background, Ian has defended complex litigation in state and federal courts for more than 20 years with a focus on practice areas relevant to the cannabis industry, including product liability, complex general casualty, transportation, data privacy and intellectual property litigation. Ian received his B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, and his JD from Saint Louis University School of Law. He has been with Wilson Elser for the past 20 years.

Katy Young represents both plaintiffs and defendants in business disputes and real estate claims, including matters for cannabis industry litigants. For cannabis businesses, she handles mostly partnership disputes, securities problems, and breach of contract matters, including leases. She graduated from University of the Pacific cum laude where she played water polo on scholarship and then she received her law degree from University of San Francisco where she graduated magna cum laude. She has been named a Northern California Super Lawyer Rising Star for 2014 through 2018. In 2018, she was named to Benchmark Litigation’s top 40 under 40 list.  She’s also the President of the National Cannabis Bar Association.

Kimberly R. Simms earned her law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and became a member of the California State Bar in 2009.  Kimberly has dedicated her entire legal career to the cannabis industry. She started her law practice immediately after law school with a focus on the legal and regulatory needs of the medical marijuana industry.  In her law practice, she has negotiated with government officials to craft reasonable and effective regulations that allow for safe access, handled complex land use and zoning matters, advised on local and state regulations and advised hundreds of cannabis entrepreneurs to develop their cannabis business strategy and structure.

Kimberly is recognized as a leading expert in this emerging area of law.  She has taught courses and lead seminars which focus on how to comply with the ever-changing legal and regulatory requirements of the cannabis industry.  She is considered a trusted source by the media and has been interviewed by NPR, CNN and many local media outlets.  Kimberly was a founding Board Member of the San Diego Cannabis Industry Association, San Diego’s leading cannabis chamber of commerce and political advocacy organization.  Kimberly served as the founding and acting Chapter Chair for San Diego Women Grow from 2015-2018.  It is with great pride that Kimberly also serves as a Board Member of the California Cannabis Industry Association and co-chair of the Retail & Delivery Committee.  Kimberly is committed to working hand in hand with other cannabis industry leaders to navigate the ever-changing regulatory landscape of California’s robust cannabis industry.

Kimberly maintains the following memberships: California NORML, American’s For Safe Access, National Cannabis Industry Association, California Cannabis Industry Association, Women Grow, the National Cannabis Bar Association and San Diego Leadership Alliance.

Lara DeCaro is a regulatory and business attorney based out of San Francisco. She has concentrated her legal career in the areas of intellectual property, corporate governance and compliance, mergers and acquisitions, commercial transactions, and real property. She is also an experienced mediator.

Most of Lara's clients come from highly regulated industries and she has translated that knowledge into a comprehensive cannabis practice that she has maintained over the past 11 years. She represents the top retail facilities and multiple manufacturing and cultivation facilities across the San Francisco Bay Area in all aspects of their business. Lara is also very active in the legal community. She is a founding board member and former executive officer of the National Cannabis Bar Association and currently sits on the Executive Committee of the Bar Association of San Francisco Cannabis Law Committee.   

Lara commenced her legal career as a litigator in Northern New Mexico, where a brief she authored was submitted to the Supreme Court of Colorado, and made law in her client’s favor. She also successfully defended cannabis and other criminal charges locally. Lara later took a position as in-house counsel for a premier company in the risk evaluation software industry and spent several years in the legal department of a leading bio-pharmaceutical company. Both positions served as important career mechanisms that further developed her knowledge base, business sense, and transactional experience.

Lara earned a double BS from the University of Southern California and her Juris Doctor from Tulane Law School. She is admitted to practice in California, Colorado, and New Mexico (inactive).


Mary Shapiro, Managing Director of Evoke Law, PC, based in San Francisco, California, is an intellectual property attorney specializing in trademark, consumer protection, copyright, and internet law.

For 20 years prior to her legal career, Mary served in a variety of marketing positions in the book industry, including roles in retail, distribution and publishing. Mary started her legal career in 1999 at Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP. There, Mary supported businesses in a variety of industries: technology, medical device, pharmaceutical, wineries, non-profit foundations, and consumer products.

Her cannabis practice began in earnest in 2009, offering specialized legal services in intellectual property and consumer protection. Mary strives to assist cannabis operators in selecting strong and enforceable brand names, with her day-to-day work encompassing clearing, filing, prosecuting, enforcing, and licensing trademarks in the U.S. and internationally.

In 2016, Mary rebranded the firm to Evoke Law, continuing to specialize in serving the cannabis industry. By registering brands and enforcing intellectual property rights, businesses are positioned to expand their brands nationally and globally. In the consumer protection arena, Evoke Law guides cannabis operators through the complex compliance issues associated with packaging and labeling, recalls, and advertising. The firm encourages clients to carefully view each decision from the vantage point of its overall marketing strategies and business objectives, as well as the company’s risk tolerance level. 

Mary has been a leader in bridging intellectual property law, state cannabis regulations, and the cannabis marketplace. In 2015, Mary was a founding Board member of the National Cannabis Bar Association (NCBA), which now has over 700 active members. She currently serves as the Board Secretary, co-chairs the organization’s worldwide expansion (as the International Cannabis Bar Association (INCBA), and is in a leadership role in the Continuing Legal Education program. In 2016-2017, Mary collaborated with industry advocacy groups and fellow legal colleagues, to persuade the California Secretary of State to allow registration of trademarks for cannabis products and services. In early 2018, with the assistance of a technical advisor and expert witness testimony, Evoke Law provided the USPTO with irrefutable scientific evidence that the mature stalks do indeed produce CBD in appreciable quantities without the commingling from other plant parts, including any ‘resinous’ secretions, which debunked the USPTO’s incorrect internal position on this matter, and resulted in the federal registration of a client’s trademark for a hemp-derived product.

Mitch Kulick is a co-founder and partner of Feuerstein Kulick and is the head of Feuerstein Kulick’s Cannabis, Securities and Corporate Departments.

Mitch brings a wealth of practical experience and knowledge to his practice and clients as a result of the many hats that he has worn during his 25-year legal career. Mitch’s current client base is primarily comprised of companies, funds, and investors focused on the cannabis industry both in the U.S. and abroad. Mitch advises his clients in all aspects of the cannabis space ranging from corporate governance to capital markets transactions to regulatory compliance. Mitch has also worked directly with state regulatory and licensing bodies in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Maryland, and New Mexico.

Prior to co-founding Feuerstein Kulick, Mitch was the General Counsel of Steep Hill Labs, Inc., the country’s first commercial cannabis lab (Oakland 2007) and a current Feuerstein Kulick client. At Steep Hill, Mitch was the Company’s liaison to Steep Hill’s investors and government regulators and also served as the in-house investment banker and lawyer for the Company. Mitch is a charter member of the International Cannabis Standards Board and has been a featured speaker in numerous Cannabis seminars and other industry group functions.

Prior to joining Steep Hill, Mitch spent the previous 8 years as the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for Iroquois Capital — an active hedge fund and private equity fund in New York City — where he was heavily involved in the drafting of the fund formation documents and advised the fund managers on all aspects of the ’33 Act, ’34 Act and the Investment Advisors Act of 1940. Mitch also gained invaluable experience as an enforcement lawyer in the Northeast Regional Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission and has leveraged that experience to provide practical advice in his representation of funds, investors, and companies in the context of SEC and DOJ matters.

Mitch began his legal career in the New York office of Greenberg Traurig, where he worked on complex corporate reorganizations, labor disputes and securities litigation matters.

Mitch graduated from the University of Michigan (with Honors) and received a JD from Hofstra University School of Law, where he was a member of the Law Review.


Nicole Howell is one of California’s most respected and effective cannabis business and regulatory attorneys. Industry executives, private investors, and public companies turn to Nicole for her perspective and proven track record in advising the industry’s most successful operators through California’s challenging and dynamic market.

In serving as general counsel to the state’s movers and shakers, Nicole has guided her clients over the major (and novel) corporate and regulatory hurdles unique to a market in its first decade of existence. Her role as lead regulatory counsel in successfully closing one of 2019’s largest and highest profile Canadian public company acquisitions of a beloved California enterprise demonstrates her skill in navigating bet-the-deal matters of first impression. Her work in structuring the legal framework for the state’s most innovative and fastest growing delivery provider illustrates her dedication to rolling up her sleeves to craft creative legal solutions that fuel business growth. Bold businesses and brands rely on Nicole’s counsel to be rooted in a rich understanding of the nuances, rules, and relationships that go into winning a successful outcome.

Nicole works actively with local and state legislative and regulatory efforts, having served as a member of State Treasurer John Chiang’s Cannabis Banking Working Group, as Chief Policy Advisor to the California Growers Association, on the Board of California NORML, and currently is involved in other industry and business related organizations, including the National and California Cannabis Industry Associations, International Cannabis Bar Association, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and the Executive Committee of the Cannabis Section for the San
Francisco Bar Association.

Nicole has been recognized as one of the top 75 “Most Important Women in Cannabis” by Cannabis Business Executive, of the “30 Most Powerful Cannabis Lawyers” by MG Magazine, annually ranked by Super Lawyers magazine since 2012, and recognized for several years running as an “Attorney to Watch” by Chambers and Partners USA. In 2018, the firm was recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine in the nation’s top five cannabis firms. Nicole regularly speaks, teaches, and writes on the topics of cannabis and hemp business and regulatory law, and the decriminalization of plant medicines and other emerging therapeutics.

Prior to founding Clark Howell LLP (originally Clark Neubert LLP) Nicole practiced law at the San Francisco firms Clarence Dyer & Cohen LLP and Farella Braun + Martel LLP, where she earned a reputation as a tenacious, solution-oriented advocate in high stakes, parallel civil, criminal, and regulatory matters.

Sabrina Fendrick has over ten years of political, industry, and advocacy experience as a cannabis policy professional. She engages with officials on all levels of government, as well as industry representatives, advocacy groups, and community stakeholders on related policy issues, with a recent focus on California's emerging industry. She assists with the development of local ordinances, legislation, and regulation, while also providing testimony for local, state and federal hearings. Sabrina is a company spokesperson to the media, a regular presenter at industry conferences and a liaison to lawmakers and legal experts.

Sabrina has been actively involved with the state’s regulatory and legislative process since the inception of the comprehensive statewide regulatory framework that was codified in 2015 by the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. In 2016, Sabrina assisted with the development of, and coalition outreach for California's Proposition 64 - The Adult Use of Marijuana Act. In early 2018, she led the notably successful effort to cut Berkeley’s local adult-use cannabis tax rate in half.

Before her arrival at BPG in 2015, Sabrina spent over six years working for the Washington D.C.-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). She is an active member of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) Policy Council and the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) Retail Committee where she served as chair from 2017-2019. She is also a member of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) Cannabis Advisory Group and the ASTM International Committee D37 on Cannabis. 

Tom Hicks is a California licensed (Bar No. 238545), San Francisco-based attorney and graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law.

Tom brings a multi-faceted perspective to his legal practice. He has over 20 years of litigation, business, collaborative, policy, education, and leadership experience in the private, public, non-profit, and “pro bono” sectors. Tom is guided by a pragmatic, results-driven advocacy on behalf of clients.

As the Executive Director of the National Cannabis Bar Association (NCBA), Christopher Davis has overseen the development and implementation of all that NCBA offers its members today, including its annual Cannabis Law Institute, the proliferation of NCBA educational programs across the country, and other benefits NCBA offers to support its member-attorneys in their daily practice of law. 

Chris shifted his focus to the cannabis industry in 2015, first as a volunteer editor at the National Cannabis Bar Association, and then by representing cultivators in Northern California. Before that, Chris was a Legal Editor in the Finance and Banking Regulation group of the Practical Law Company (now a facet of Westlaw), and was also a securities litigator in New York.

Chris is a member of the California and New York Bars, and is a graduate of UCLA (cum laude) with degrees in Business/Economics and Accounting, and The George Washington University Law School (with honors). 

Judith is Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary at Left Coast Ventures, Inc., the parent company of a collection of vertically integrated companies in the California cannabis and U.S. hemp CBD spaces.

She joined the company after a stint as General Counsel at Lagunitas Brewing Company, the Heineken-owned craft brewery, where she was instrumental in bringing to market the first U.S. cannabis product to be sold under a global brand name. For Judith, beer begat cannabis, and wine begat beer, with her first seven years as an in-house lawyer spent acquiring vineyards, advising wineries, and trying to talk her way into foot-stomping parties as legal counsel for Sonoma County wine company Jackson Family Wines. Before this twisting path of vice, her legal career occurred in six-minute increments as a Big Law Intellectual Property attorney in San Francisco.      

Judith handles all aspects of corporate and cannabis law, and she enjoys waking up every day to see how the law has changed again in this nascent industry while she slept.

Before watching three seasons of “Ally McBeal” in one weekend, signing up for the LSAT on a lark, and moving to NYC in a Honda CRX packed with books, Judith was a PhD candidate in English Literature and Women’s Studies in Boston. She has a seven year old daughter who thinks mommy’s company makes green tea and who recently rated her reluctant distance-learning teacher as “One Star; Does Not Recommend,” as well as an ever-growing menagerie of ill-behaved pets.