*This post was first published in 2015 and is continuously updated.
In September of 2015, the
American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH) made an announcement concerning their efforts to persuade the legislature
in Pennsylvania to update the law to provide new legal protections for
lawyers in the Keystone State working with the cannabis industry. The
push came as the General Assembly is considering the legalization of medical
marijuana, and it has the support of
Andrew Sacks of
Sacks Weston Diamond LLC, the only lawyer whom ATACH has selected to serve on the group’s
State Level Coalition.
Sacks was quoted in the organization’s press release, saying that
“lawyers representing cannabis businesses must be able to do so
without fear of running afoul of the law or losing their license by representing
members of the industry.” With success, ATACH’s – which
was recently reformed into the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition (PCC) –
effort to include legal protections for marijuana lawyers would open the
door for members of the bar to counsel individuals and businesses in relation
to Pennsylvania marijuana laws, such as with respect to operating a dispensary
for medical marijuana. Without this protection, attorneys would tend to
shy away from providing counsel or representation to businesses in the
medical cannabis industry out of concerns for their professional reputation
Support of the former-ATACH’s legislative efforts is not the only
example of the work that Sacks has been doing to assist with the legalization
of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. In no chronological order:
- On July 26, 2018, he spoke in the Continuing Legal Education seminar to
200+ city attorneys regarding medical marijuana laws and ethical concerns.
He has been chosen to be a guest or lead speaker at numerous seminars for the
Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the
Pennsylvania Canna-Business Seminar, and the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA).
- He personally worked closely with both the Pennsylvania Bar Association
and the Philadelphia Bar Association to establish the Medical Marijuana
and Hemp Law Committees of both groups.
- He has served as the co-chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Medical
Marijuana and Hemp Law Committee, as appointed by the PBA President Sara Austin.
He has been the co-chair of the
Philadelphia Bar Association Business Law Section: Medical Marijuana and
- He is a Cannabis Law Directory Member, and was a Board of Directors member
for the Philadelphia Tri-State Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America
for 6 years.
- He lobbied state senators who were involved in drafting the Pennsylvania
medical marijuana act to include lupus on the list of conditions for which
the drug would be made available as a treatment, as well as to feature
a generalized pain provision in the law.
- He has begun working with doctors and medical groups to advise them on
medical marijuana issues.
He was among the faculty for a continuing legal education (CLE) simulcast
on behalf of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, “Pennsylvania's Proposed Medical Cannabis Act.” It was well attended and the subject of keen interest among attorneys
hoping to learn the latest information about how the state law might affect
their practice and the broader business community in Pennsylvania. Learn
more about CLE
The Legal Intelligencer in a piece about the question of whether attorneys in Pennsylvania might
avoid working with parties in the cannabis industry. Sacks was also quoted
in two other prominent articles from
The Legal Intelligencer about the
Pennsylvania Bar Association's push to update legislation and the
Pennsylvania and Philadelphia bars' opinion on the pot industry.
- The National Lupus Organization requested Mr. Sacks’ assistance in
changing their stance to favor cannabis as a treatment for patients.
He requested of the Philadelphia Bar Association for an advisory opinion
concerning whether lawyers can represent any company or person involved
in the marijuana industry without violating the Canons of Ethics in Pennsylvania,
which led to a
rare combined opinion published by both the Philadelphia Bar Association and the Pennsylvania
- He was on a panel of experts, specialists, and legal professionals at a
series of continuing legal education (CLE) events, during which attorneys
from around the state gathered to learn about the marijuana act and ethical
issues involved with the area.
- He represented a permit winner who can legally grow, produce, and sell
medical marijuana in its facilities and dispensaries ILera Healthcare.
- He represents MJ Freeway in Pennsylvania, which received the state’s
multimillion dollar seed-to-sale contract. The Denver-based company is
tasked with tracking every medical marijuana seed from its initial processing
to when a patient receives it with a prescription. The Department of Health
entrusts contract winners with this responsibility, and so it is considered
an incredible business honor to receive the contract.
- He met with and continually lobbied the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
until he successfully made them agree to open individual grow-sizes from
5 acres to 100 acres. This effectively increased the land used for medical
marijuana growth and research in the state by 20-fold. The Department
of Agriculture also agreed to lift the prohibition of the production of
CBD extracts from hemp due to his efforts.
- He became a lawyer-member of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition (PCC)
after it was formed from ATACH following the successful legalization of
medical marijuana research and dispensaries in the state.
- In 2018, he earned the Committee of the Year award for his work in the
Philadelphia Bar Association’s Committee of Medical Marijuana and Hemp.
- He continues to lobby to get hemp products to be sold in dispensaries alongside
medical marijuana and cannabis products.
- He actively lobbies to get electronic banking in Pennsylvania for the industry,
which would dramatically increase the efficiency of medical marijuana
and cannabis companies. As part of this ongoing campaign, he has been
working with the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities.
- He is in the process of bringing a modern payroll company to Pennsylvania
to better organize how the state handles the payroll of involved industries.
- He is also lobbying to make Chapter 20 – Academic Clinical Research
Centers into a workable legal chapter that will benefit the medical marijuana
industry in the state while also satisfying legislators.
He is striving to find an amicable resolution to the issue of 2nd Amendment gun rights and how medical marijuana card holders can hold onto
those rights. In continuation of his efforts, Attorney Sacks is now preparing
a lawsuit to be filed against the Attorney General of the United States
Jeff Sessions for the ongoing violation of medical marijuana users’
2nd Amendment rights.
He is lobbying The Philadelphia City Council to reduce the distance a dispensary
has to be away from a daycare center from 500-feet to 1-foot, allowing
dispensaries to be placed in more locations and give more patients access
to them. Dispensaries are not smoke shops, like a cigar store, and there
should be virtually no detriment for one being adjacent to a daycare center.
Click here to read his OPED position in
- He regularly takes calls regarding the ever-changing medical marijuana
and hemp laws pro bono. Other legal professionals throughout the state
turn to him for advice on how to approach medical marijuana issues.
He continues to be quoted on
Philly.com due to his insight and knowledgeability. He has also been featured on
Twitter’s “Now This” tweet feed.
- He was able to combine and organize 9 different subcommittees in three
different bar associations — Leaders of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Bar Association on Medical Marijuana and Hemp, and Allegheny Bar Association
on Medical Marijuana and Hemp — which cover the state with more
than 250 lawyers.
- He was re-nominated and reappointed to co-chair both the Philadelphia and
the Pennsylvania Bar Committees of Medical Marijuana and Hemp.
- He was appointed as the editor for both the Cannabis Law Journal and the
Cannabis Law Report.
With the passage of the marijuana act, PCC will be the go-to legal source
for any and all businesses working in the cannabis industry in Pennsylvania.
As the only attorney listed as a member of the former-ATACH and a keynote
member of PCC and other associations, Sacks is positioned as a leading
legal authority in the field of
marijuana law in Pennsylvania, a role he has earned through his ongoing research, lobbying, and advocacy
in the field since 2013.