By Natan Ponieman and Javier Hasse.
Bob Hoban is recognized as one of the world’s top leaders in cannabis policy. His firm, the Hoban Law Group, has been at the epicenter of the commercial expansion of cannabis as a legitimate business worldwide.
Benzinga recently spoke with Hoban, who recalled his first steps in the industry and explained how he managed to nurture and turn his firm into a go-to consultancy for cannabis businesses, policy-makers and international governments.
Since 2008, Hoban has worked with more than 35 different countries in developing public policy solutions for the legislation and regulation of commercial cannabis.
The Rutgers University alum spent most of his life in the Northeast and eventually moved to the West in 2008. He started a law firm focused on representing medium-sized businesses.
Less than a year later, the firm was solely focused on cannabis companies.
Hoban was a cannabis consumer, but had no connections to advocacy groups or cannabis ventures. As the cannabis industry started to develop in Colorado, he saw an opportunity.
That there was a side to cannabis law that was not being covered. Most activists and advocates had focused on making cannabis legal, but not many businesses or jurisdictions knew what to do after that.
“Once a country legalizes something, what comes next?" Hoban asked. "And I always said, well, that's the opportunity."
Since its early beginnings, the Hoban Law Group was focused on providing the answer to that question.
“The industry then needs professional leadership," he added. "It needs advisors, it needs lawyers that are skilled in much more than just policy advocacy."
Being A Part Of The Cannabis Boom
Hoban’s firm provided part of the fuel that fed the industry’s growth.
Winning the Cannamart case in late 2009 put Hoban at the center of attention. His firm managed to stop a local jurisdiction from shutting down a cannabis business on account of the request being unconstitutional.
Hoban never described himself as a grassroots cannabis activist, even though he has been involved in numerous causes over time. He explains his role as a necessary evolution in the cannabis space.
“We were not the ones that were advocating for the legal change. But once the legal change occurred, we were the ones that brought it into a commercial environment,” he explains.
In 2011, Hoban began teaching cannabis policy at the University of Denver. Backed by the university’s status, he became the point-person for national governments looking for advice on developing a cannabis policy program.
Despite its strong focus on policy development, Hoban has always liked to define his firm as an ally of cannabis businesses.
In 2010, when the CBD industry was taking its baby steps, the Hoban Law Group developed a growth strategy for CannaBest, a Southern California CBD company. With Hoban’s assistance, the company went from $500,000 of CBD sales to $5 million in less than three months, kickstarting the subsequent CBD craze that soon followed.
Finding Success In A Business Approach To Law
For Hoban, his firm’s success stemmed from a clear vision: he needed to steer the firm as any other business.
“If you look at any large ‘Am Law 200’ law firm, the only reason those firms exist is because their initial partners said: ‘Look, we want to create a clearinghouse for really, really great lawyers, but we want to build it like a business.’ Law firms don't become businesses, except if you execute specifically towards that target.”
Part of the business strategy of any company that connects to an industry in an ancillary fashion is to drive commercial success for its clients. Hoban describes his firm’s personnel as guides who help cannabis businesses navigate the industry.
“We are guides first, we are industry experts second, and we are top quality lawyers third,” he said.
For Hoban, the commercial aspect of the industry is as important as the legal side because it drives growth. The cannabis industry, no matter the location, can and should be regulated into four lanes:
First, an industrial lane, which describes industrial hemp and its applications.
Second, an over-the-counter marijuana lane, which encompasses the dispensary system.
The wellness and nutraceuticals lane comes third. These are CBD and hemp-derived products which are non-psychoactive.
Lastly, there’s the pharmaceutical lane, which encompasses formulas for specific conditions.
In his lectures, which involve multiple talks at the United Nations, and other international bodies, Hoban advises jurisdictions to regulate cannabis according to these four business verticals.
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