If you’re thinking about launching a cannabusiness in Nevada, Las Vegas specifically, “don’t shoot from the hip.”
Clark County Nevada is home to the famous Vegas Strip. It’s a place that has and always will be the most fascinating intersection of industry and regulation. Outside entrepreneurs coming to Vegas thinking they’ll hit it big often find it to be a very challenging place.
In Clark County it’s important to work with a business lawyer who has a strong local network, a track record of successful industry clients and perhaps most importantly, influence.
There’s one woman who brings these three valuable assets to the table. As a managing partner of her business law firm located in the heart of Las Vegas, Black & LoBello – Tisha Black is a veteran business lawyer with 20 years of experience in real estate and cannabis law.
In addition to her law practice she’s worked on legislative committees that have shaped the laws in the real estate industry. Just this past year she even ran for the highly influential role of Clark County Commissioner, a powerful local government position that oversees businesses operating in Las Vegas.
She comes from a big family and the Black’s roots run deep in Clark County. Her father was a well-known local developer who also ran a gaming company.
After the recession sent Nevada into a financial tailspin – while her construction company clients folding, Black saw a new industry emerging. The Cannabis opportunity offered the only hope for bringing new jobs back to Nevada.
I connected with her this week to get her thoughts on doing business in Vegas, the cannabis industry and her advice to cannabusiness entrepreneurs who are looking to penetrate the Las Vegas market.
Tisha, as an experience real estate attorney, what first brought your attention to the cannabis industry?
Back in 2008-09, my firm Black & LoBello was working with a lot of construction industry clients. They were the bulk of our clients: developers. When the recession hit, it hit Nevada hard. Our state had the most foreclosures in the country at the time.
I witnessed the impact the recession had on our community first-hand. My father is a developer who also ran a gaming company in Vegas so it hit close to home.
It was a challenging time for our region. But while this was happening, there was a new industry emerging…Cannabis. It became the only viable option for an entrepreneur here, it was the only way to create jobs.
I started attending the working group meetings. These were the groups crafting regulations for the new cannabis industry. At the time I thought, ‘well I know about structuring companies, the regulations, maybe I can be of service to these cannabusinesses looking to get started in Nevada.
I got 2 applicants approved immediately and from there just gained more ground in the industry. I put together a list of companies who were looking to get their cannabis dispensary licenses, got on the phone and made calls. I quickly became known as one of the few Nevada lawyers who were successful with getting licenses approved. Aside from just licensing, I’ve worked with companies in cultivation, production, dispensaries and laboratories as well.
Can you talk about the role you’ve played in local industry and legislative working groups, to progress the cannabis industry?
Yes, I ran for the position of Clark County Commissioner with the goal of making it easier to do business in Vegas. I didn’t win it but that won’t stop me from working to create a more business-friendly government here. It’s something I am deeply passionate about.
I did take on a role as the President of the Nevada Dispensary Association which has become the largest cannabis trade organization in the state of Nevada.
Outside of Nevada, I’ve been successful in getting clients approved to do business legally and provide consulting for clients in other jurisdictions as well.
Nevada has a unique regulatory body due to Las Vegas being such a unique city. Can you talk about how that effects the cannabis industry?
The road to opening the cannabis industry here was bumpy. We had no testing in place for the products, there was no experience to guide us in the early days. The Cannabis industry here is modelled off the gaming industry and very highly regulated. As far as setting up the regulatory process we didn’t have any models so we borrowed them from the gaming industry. For example, the edibles companies were looking to the restaurant industry for guidelines on how to operate legally.
I’ve been here since the beginning and it’s awesome to see the progress being made.
What are your Thoughts on the Cannabis Industry as a whole?
There’s nothing more exciting than what’s going on right now with cannabis. I mean yes, there is a lot of money to be made in the industry but at the same time, the tax rate is 60% which is intense. Not a lot of that money makes it to the bottom line. I think that goes over a lot of people’s heads. No other type of business is paying that much in taxes.
Cannabis represents a big opportunity but it’s going to be important that players in the industry work together to create best practices and set up an efficient system so that business can succeed.
Thoughts on Entrepreneurship?
I love the entrepreneurial spirit. Deal-doers! It’s in my DNA. I come from a big family, a family of businesspeople. My family has this entrepreneurial spirit and I guess because of that I’ve had to be the one to think about how we can mitigate the risk.
But I love a challenge and that’s what the cannabis industry has been. I think of myself as a hard worker and this work is unconventional and rewarding. It’s been such a journey to be here since the ground level and I’ll continue to work on providing more structure for the cannabis industry in Nevada.
Do you have any general advice to cannabusiness owners launching companies?
If you’re looking for long-term success in the cannabis industry, don’t shoot from the hip. You’ve got to structure your business the right way and assemble a team that knows what they’re doing. There’s a lot of details to get right, in order to be successful.
Find an attorney that understands your local and state regulations. Don’t spend your seed money on paying huge bills to attorneys that may not understand your jurisdictions regulations. It’s vital that you make sure you work with a lawyer who has a deep understanding of the jurisdiction you are building your business in.