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Meet Leafwell’s Legal Operations Manager, Zach Levin

We sat down with Zach Levin, Leafwell’s legal operations manager, to discuss what drew him to the cannabis industry, how he makes sense of the complex patchwork of state-level marijuana laws, and more.

In this exclusive look behind the Leafwell curtain, Levin makes complicated legal topics, such as compliance, digestible. He also shares which key legal developments he’s watching and addresses common misconceptions about medical marijuana laws.

Please note that Zach’s answers do not constitute legal advice, and you should always check your local and state laws.

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What Does a Typical Day Look Like for You?

The day-to-day of an attorney, compliance manager, or anybody in the legal industry is hard to visualize. That’s because we all wear a lot of different hats.

Let’s say it’s a Monday, and we’ve had a weekend full of legal updates. The first part of my day — maybe the first hour — will be looking at what happened over the weekend to determine what needs addressing in our operations that week.

After that, I’ll take two to three hours to do high-level thinking tasks. That could include conferring with outside counsel for niche matters such as intellectual property or filing for corporate governance. Then, I’ll do my cross-department and team interviews and meetings through lunch.

Afterward, a big chunk of my day is used for looking at contracts and paperwork to help our teams push their operations toward the finish line. I use my legal education and experience to help them maintain compliance as they do that.

I save the end of the day for research and development: What’s on the horizon? What’s going to come? That’s a major part of what I do. I have to stay very nimble and forecast what’s on the horizon.

You Mentioned Compliance. What Does Compliance Mean for a Company Like Leafwell?

Compliance efforts are essentially a company’s response to the legal requirements set forth by federal and state law.

They entail designing, drafting, ironing out, implementing, and monitoring the policies and procedures we follow based on changes in the law.

Compliance isn’t just crucial to ensure the uninterrupted flow of operations for Leafwell. More importantly, it’s crucial for the uninterrupted provision of services to the state marijuana program patients whom we serve — and we serve patients in many jurisdictions across the United States.

So, compliance is at the heartbeat of what we do. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to do what Leafwell does best, and that’s help our patients meet and attain the best medical outcomes possible.

I’m extremely hopeful that the DEA will have a very productive review session in its efforts to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

I think what that action would do — and what it could potentially do — for patients, medical professionals, legal professionals, and financial professionals in the cannabis space is begin a reform movement toward more standard practices and consistency.

That’ll all start with the DEA’s action. So, fingers crossed, I’m very, very hopeful for that.

Any Idea When That Might Happen?

Leafwell's legal operations manager, Zach Levin.
Leafwell’s legal operations manager, Zach Levin.

It’s not very easy to pinpoint a date or even a period at times. That’s just the nature of dealing with bureaucracy and this slower-moving legislative process.

However, many governors and leaders at the state level have been urging the Biden administration to corral the DEA and get them focused on their rescheduling efforts.

The DEA has begun its review. I’d be very disappointed if they didn’t finish it by the end of the year. It being an election year might throw a wrench into their plans.

But I’m hopeful to see this rescheduling effort go through by the end of this year, and if not, hopefully by Q1 or Q2 of 2025.

What’s the Most Fun Part About Your Job?

A really fun part of my job is discussing policy, laws, and best standards of practice with other professionals. That includes accountants, lawyers, and even doctors in the medical field or the medical marijuana space.

Meeting these seasoned professionals in this budding — no pun intended — space who come from storied, long-tenured careers in adjacent spaces and getting their perspective on the Wild West that is cannabis law is super insightful.

And for me, it’s fun to hear those multiple perspectives. I think of compliance issues as these big 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles. Figuring out that puzzle gets easier whenever you look at situations and problems through new lenses.

There are many, many misconceptions because the law is constantly evolving. I’ll condition this response by saying you should always check local and state laws. This isn’t legal advice.

That said, something many medical patients seem to get wrong regarding medical marijuana certifications and workplace protections.

In many state programs, medical marijuana recommendations don’t necessarily rise to the level of a prescription because of the DEA’s federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

So, where some prescription medications are afforded workplace and employment protections, medical marijuana recommendations aren’t. And that’s where a lot of patients end up getting confused.

That confusion could result in lost job opportunities or getting unjustly fired because of workplace drug tests that patients maybe wouldn’t have had to take if medical marijuana certifications were recognized as prescriptions.

If the DEA reschedules cannabis this year, that can change in the sense that patients can expect that those protections might be afforded to them in state programs in the next year or so.

Good luck. You’re going to need it. And you’re going to need to be determined. However, we need people like you in the legal industry and the cannabis industry.

Before you jump into this space — whether it be legal or cannabis or both — when you’ve found your purpose, your passion, and it aligns with your career choice, it doesn’t feel like work as much.

If you can do that, you can be happy in any career you choose. It’s crucial in law.

If your head’s in the right place and you’re determined, we need more people like you in this space. And I heavily encourage you to come in and join the party because it’s the Wild West out here, and we could use some company.

This interview has been lightly edited for concision and readability. Stay tuned for more Behind the Leafwell Curtain interviews, and check out our patient stories series on YouTube to hear medical marijuana patients talk about their journeys with cannabis in their own words.

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