The International Cannabis Bar Association (INCBA) is about to host its dynamic Cannabis Law Institute (CLI), the preeminent annual conference for cannabis law practitioners. Bringing together a diverse array of legal experts, policymakers, and industry pioneers from around the world, CLI 2023 will take place June 8-10 at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. As the global cannabis landscape continues to transform, the event will provide attendees with invaluable insights and practical knowledge to navigate the complex legal framework surrounding the industry.

What Will The 2023 INCBA Cannabis Law Institute Offer?

Jason Horst, President of the INCBA, says that CLI 2023 “is instrumental in shaping the future of the cannabis industry, fostering innovation, and ensuring compliance with evolving legal standards." The conference offers legal professionals the opportunity to network and share cutting-edge legal strategies from some of the sector’s most influential figures.

Spanning three days, CLI 2023 will feature a robust program packed with keynote addresses, panel discussions, and breakout sessions, covering a wide range of critical topics. Among various subjects addressed, attendees will learn about emerging legal trends, regulatory challenges, business opportunities, and social equity issues in cannabis.

Who's Speaking At The 2023 INCBA Cannabis Law Institute? Congresswoman Barbara Lee And More

On the opening day of the conference, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, will appear in a fireside chat with Shanita Penny, founder and CEO of Budding Solutions, in a conversation that looks toward the future of federal legalization. Regulators from numerous states will share their expertise, such as Dominique Mendiola, Senior Director for Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division; Axel Bernabe, Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Director for New York’s Office of Cannabis Management; Matt Lee, General Counsel for the California Department of Cannabis Control; and William J. Tilburn, Director of the Maryland Cannabis Administration. Additionally, INCBA’s curated lineup of esteemed speakers throughout the three-day program includes Americans for Safe Access founder Steph Sherer, the foremost international expert on medical cannabis patient advocacy; Randal John Meyer, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce; Dr. Gillian Schauer, Executive Director of the Cannabis Regulators Association; Dr. Patrick Cournoyer, Senior Science Advisor and Lead for Cannabis at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); Christine Delorme of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); Scheril Murray Powell, Chief Operating Officer of the JUSTUS Foundation; and Lauren Rudick, Managing Principal of Rudick Law Group.

Onstage presentations at the 2022 INCBA Cannabis Law Institute (C) INCBA

An Interview With INCBA President Jason Horst: What To Expect From The 2023 Cannabis Law Institute

Ahead of CLI 2023, INCBA president Jason Horst spoke to Honeysuckle about the conference’s incredible speaker lineup, exciting panel discussions, and how the event is helping to indelibly shape the future of cannabis law.

JASON HORST: CLI 2023 was curated quite differently from prior years. INCBA’s Continuing Legal Education program is designed as a deep dive into five pressing legal issues in the cannabis industry: Federal Policy, Interstate Commerce, State Cannabis Regulation, Overcoming Operational Hurdles, and International Opportunities. We have scheduled three 1-hour sessions on each of these subjects. For example, our Interstate Commerce topic starts out with an exploration into the Dormant Commerce Clause, segues into what’s happening in the courts and statehouses (three states have already passed legislation setting the stage for interstate commerce—Oregon, California, and, just this month, Washington), and concluding with a session on what interstate commerce could look like in practice. This last session features Gillian Schauer, Executive Director of the Cannabis Regulator Association, as well as Will Tilburg and Axel Bernabe, key cannabis regulators in Maryland and New York, respectively.

New at this 6th Annual Cannabis Law Institute is a 3-session specialty credit program, focusing on ethics, competence, and elimination of bias. Each session has been tailored to address common issues facing lawyers in the cannabis industry. The session titles speak volumes: “Surrounded by Stressors: Attorney Suicide Risk, Mental Health, and Competence,” “Ethics - Balancing Zealous Advocacy With the Duty of Candor,” and “Conscience, and Elimination of Bias - Unmasking Social Equity: A Multifaceted Analysis of State Programs.”

Our session on mental health is designed to help our colleagues understand that attorney wellness is not merely a buzzword; it is directly related to competence to practice and meeting duties to clients. Led by Rae Guyse (Ritter Spencer PLLC), panelists will provide an honest and supportive discussion about harm reduction, stress management, and mental health among attorneys. A primary goal is to learn how to support colleagues in recovery or who are struggling – and how to recognize and manage these challenges in one’s self.

Which other panels do you think will be the most surprising, educational, or insightful for this year's program?

Having worked to develop the content for this Cannabis Law Institute for the last 6 months, it is truly hard to choose, but that said, we have some standout sessions planned:

*Complementary sessions considering how/whether federal and state governments are addressing intoxicating cannabinoids derived from hemp, that do not fall under the Controlled Substances Act. We are extremely fortunate to have representatives from the FDA and FTC speaking!

*Complementary sessions addressing the supply chain-one on how different states are designing licensing programs to regulate the variety of operators, e.g., retailers, delivery services, cultivators, manufacturers, testing and more, and one on legal issues specific to contracting within the supply chain, among and between different operator types.

*And, a unique and timely session titled, “From Legacy to Legal: Balancing Incentives and Enforcement,” examining key issues around the balance jurisdictions must strike between deploying enforcement as a means to support a regulated market and enacting legislation to support incentivizing unlicensed operators to transition to the regulated market while avoiding a War on Drugs 2.0.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (foreground, right) signs the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act (C) U.S. House of Representatives

Congresswoman Barbara Lee is scheduled to speak about pathways toward federal legalization and national cannabis reform! What insights do you expect we will hear from her fireside discussion with Shanita Penny?

California Representative Barbara Lee, Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and Candidate for U.S. Senate, has long been a champion of legalization and regulation of cannabis and recognizes that this is a racial justice issue. In discussing the passage of the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement) in the House of Representatives in 2022, she remarked, “It’s about the thousands of people of color who sit in jail for marijuana offenses while others profit. It’s about finally repairing the harms of the War on Drugs on communities and families across the country.” Rep. Lee’s prior legislation has served as the foundation for the legislation that is currently being moved through Congress.

The speaker lineup is remarkably diverse, with great representation from women and BIPOC thought leaders. How does this reflect INCBA's commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), and the overall inclusive nature that the cannabis industry strives for?

We are proud that our speaker lineup includes many women and BIPOC speakers, both groups that are persistently underrepresented in the legal sector. This is something that we strive for with each legal conference that we host and reflects a commitment to diversity and inclusion that dates back to the organization’s founding. This commitment is also reflected in the organization’s work with social equity accelerator programs around the U.S.

What else should prospective attendees know to look forward to?

In addition to the above, Amanda Reiman, Chief Knowledge Officer at New Frontier Data, is keynoting on the subject of “The Intersection of Law, Policy, and Science: Contradiction or Complement?” There is a paradox between rooting laws and policy in evidence, when the underlying research is biased and/or the behavior highly stigmatized and stereotyped, such that policies and laws may not reflect reality, and in some cases may directly contradict it.

And we have our 2nd Annual Summary of Precedential Rulings and Litigation Trends. Cannabis law is quickly evolving and the past year has seen major legal developments for the regulated marijuana and hemp industries. Moderated by Paul Demko, Cannabis Editor at POLITICO, a panel of experts will identify and comment upon important court rulings and litigation trends.

CLI 2023 is coming together through the work of many teams! Would you like to give a shout-out to your sponsors?

Of course, we couldn’t host this 3-day immersive educational and networking event without the support of our sponsors. We welcome and express gratitude to all our sponsors, and especially INCBA’s annual sponsors: IMA, Clio, Dutchie, Marino PR, and Cannabis NewsHub.

The 2023 INCBA Cannabis Law Institute takes place June 8-10 at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. For tickets and more information, visit

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Featured image: Group photo from the 2022 INCBA Cannabis Law Institute (C) INCBA