The Evolution of the Cannabis Industry with Hirsh Jain on The Legal Lunch Byte

In another groundbreaking episode of The Legal Lunch Byte, viewers were treated to an insightful conversation with Hirsh Jain, a notable figure in the California cannabis scene and the founder of Ananda Strategy. Jain’s deep dive into the challenges and advancements within the cannabis industry, particularly in California, provided an illuminating look at the state of cannabis regulation, culture, and law. As cannabis legalization continues to unfold across the United States, discussions like this on The Legal Lunch Byte are essential for educating and guiding the cannabis community and stakeholders.

Hirsh Jain’s Roots in Cannabis Culture and Law

Jain’s journey into the cannabis world is as engaging as it is educational. Having grown up in Northern California, cannabis was a significant part of his community and personal growth. This early exposure, paired with his professional experiences at Airbnb, uniquely positioned him to dive into the cannabis industry with a vision to shape its regulatory environment. His work with Ananda Strategy focuses on navigating the complex and evolving legal landscape that surrounds cannabis, making him an invaluable source of knowledge on cannabis law and regulation.

Challenges Facing the California Cannabis Market

During his conversation on The Legal Lunch Byte, Jain highlighted the specific hurdles that the California cannabis sector faces, from stringent regulations in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco to broader issues impacting the entire state. These challenges are not just bureaucratic but deeply intertwined with the cannabis culture and lifestyle of Californians, presenting a unique puzzle for businesses and policymakers alike.

The Role of Ananda Strategy in Shaping Cannabis Policy

Ananda Strategy’s pivotal role in helping cannabis businesses thrive amidst a shifting regulatory framework is a testament to Jain’s vision. His approach to building a regulatory architecture around the cultivation of innovative cannabis companies is noteworthy, highlighting the importance of adaptive strategies in the face of emerging industries like the cannabis industry.

Advocacy and the Future of Cannabis

Jain’s advocacy for a better-informed and legally supported cannabis community shines through his educational efforts. Through initiatives like cannabis education and public speaking engagements, Jain fosters a more knowledgeable cannabis community ready to tackle the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. His insights on cannabis trends and experience point to a future where cannabis is not only accepted but integrated into our cultural and economic fabric.


Hirsh Jain’s feature on The Legal Lunch Byte serves as a beacon for those navigating the ever-evolving world of cannabis, from entrepreneurs to advocates. As the industry continues to grow, the wisdom shared by leaders like Jain will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping its path. California, with its rich cannabis culture and pioneering stance on legalization, stands at the forefront of this movement, making Jain’s insights not only timely but essential for anyone interested in the future of cannabis in America and beyond.

In an era where cannabis is moving from the shadows into the spotlight of mainstream acceptance, conversations like those on The Legal Lunch Byte provide a vital platform for discussion, learning, and advocacy. It’s more clear than ever that the journey of cannabis, from taboo to mainstream, is not just about the plant itself but about the communities, laws, and cultures it touches.

The Legal Lunch Byte | Episode 23 | California Cannabis Industry Challenges – YouTube


(00:02) welcome to another episode of legal lunch bite really happy today to have HS Jane joining us from Ananda Strategy HS thanks for spending some time with us today I’d love to hear more about your background you and I are just meeting for the first time so we we like to keep these very natural but I know you’ve been working with our firm a little bit so please give us some of your background professionally and then start out with how you got involved in cannabis yeah absolutely uh it’s great to be here uh with you Jonathan you know

(00:29) I uh have been working in the cannabis space for six years now formally but really you know cannabis has been a big part of my life for a long time you know I grew up in in Northern California and like many you know kids of Northern California of my generation we were introduced to cannabis at a young age you know probably younger than than we should have but you know it made an enormously positive impact you know sort of on my life and I very quickly understood that a lot of what I was told about cannabis was inaccurate even as a

(00:56) young person so that was a real light bulb moment for me and as time went on got more and more involved with cannabis advocacy efforts and so when I went to college at UC Berkeley I joined the public defender office as the Cannabis lead which would essentially be defending students that were accused of cannabis violations by the university which back then you know could impact your financial aid or potentially get you kicked out of school and so that kind of animated my interest in criminal justice issues and then when I went to

(01:24) law school at Harvard I did a lot of work on the war on drugs and was really lucky to study with really eminent legal Scholars you know people like Charles Ogletree who passed away last year and was one of the great race and criminal justice Scholars of his time you know people like Lonnie Ganir who passed away a couple years ago and you know worked for the NAACP legal defense fund so that sort of uh academic lens on the War on Drugs was very enriching and then finally Jonathan I think like many people you know over the course of my

(01:54) career I developed a set of skills that I thought could be applicable to cannabis and I watched the growing cannabis movement with enthusiasm and interest and then you know jumped into it uh six years ago and you know kind of in short before I was working in cannabis I worked at Airbnb the tech company for a number of years and helped to build out their policy team legalizing Airbnb in cities and states and in countries around the world and I had this thesis that that same skill set you know helping a newly legalizing

(02:25) industry build a regulatory architecture around it uh could be applicable to cannabis and so so that’s what motivated me to jump into cannabis and it’s been the most fulfilling thing that I’ve I’ve done in my career fantastic and so tell us what Ananda Strategy does yeah you know so at Ananda Strategy we work with all kinds of actors you know in the Cannabis ecosystem and really what we do is we help them make sense of a very complicated and evolving regulatory environment and allow them to achieve

(02:54) their goals in the context of that shifting regulatory environment so you know a number of the folks that we’ve worked with are some of the leading retailers in the country you know so if you know we’re talking about California which is where I’m speaking speaking to you from right now you know companies like The Art is Tree companies like Airfield companies like Wheelhouse helping them identify the jurisdictions where they can open up new dispensaries and be really successful and you know it’s a it’s a really exciting thing to

(03:20) help bring cannabis to a community and help the community understand that this can be a successful and professional retail business so we work with a lot of retailers uh we also work with a ton of Brands and help them after they’ve established a successful brand navigate other states and determine you know where they should enter what the regulatory environment is you know what kind of um regulatory issues they’ll face in those States and so these are Brands you know really cool Brands like Mammoth Distribution for example you

(03:50) know which has famously The Heavy Hitters Vape product and Almora another popular brand helping that really great and popular brand expand into other states is really exciting and you know another example that I’ll give you is a product called Level you know a very unique ProTab product it basically resembles kind of a pharmaceutical pill and is a high does cannabis product um that can be useful to people who are experiencing more kind of acute issues postsurgery and so that kind of represents the future of cannabis

(04:18) consumption and it’s been fun to make that product available in these states in the Midwest and and across the country so those are a couple of examples when it comes to Brands and and retailers um we also serve on the board of SC Labs which is one of you know the leading testing labs in the country and I know labs are are less sexy to some people but if the legal Market is going to function as it should we need that to have integrity and you know we also work with some of the leading investment firms um in in the country and again

(04:44) help them make sense of how things are evolving at the at the state level um and how that might impact their their portfolio companies so it it’s just a pleasure to work with all of these different types of actors of different sizes and help them achieve their goals in in light of the regulatory knowledge that we bring so which states are you particularly uh interested in or what what’s maybe some interesting things um going on in various States I’m I’m not so I started out in my background uh

(05:13) legal industry for 13 years now started out in Maine when cannabis started coming online in Maine around 2014 and uh and then I joined the firm here to to join the China practice because I speak Chinese and then I found out we had a cannabis wing and and I needed to help there initially so I I dove in deep into cannabis for a while but I have not for the last couple of year I’ve kept one one eye on the screen really but haven’t done a lot deep into cannabis so just from where you’re sitting what are some of the interesting

(05:41) State developments in and which states are these you know I think two of the most exciting states to me right now are Ohio and Florida and these are two states that are exciting I think for very similar reasons and so you know Ohio last November voted um to approve adult use sales and legal sales in Ohio could literally start any day now you know they’ll probably happen sometime in late June and the reason why Ohio is so exciting is it’s the first big red state to legalize adult use cannabis now we’ve

(06:11) had other small states that are red say Montana Missouri and Alaska come online but Ohio is the quintessential Republican state you know no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio and the fact that Ohio pass cannabis legalization by such a wide margin over the objections of their conservative state legals really shows you how bipartisan an issue this is and so Ohio is very symbolically exciting and you know in addition to being a big state of 12 million people it’s also situated in a region of the

(06:41) country that is pretty conservative so in addition to those 12 million people there are millions of people from West Virginia from Kentucky from Indiana from Western Pennsylvania that will be an hour or two from a legal adult use dispensary for the first time and so I see Ohio is really opening up that part of the the mid-West you know for so long cannabis legalization has been a coastal phenomenon and Ohio is anything but that so I’m I’m so excited for there to be a great summer of robust cannabis sales in

(07:10) Ohio and for those headlines to really Bubble Up throughout the country and you know the second state that I’ll flag is Florida which I think is exciting for many of the same reasons I think anyone who’s been paying attention to American politics especially over the past five to 10 years knows that Florida is kind of the epicenter of deep red politics in this country uh right now and you know Florida this November will vote on cannabis legalization and they make it a little bit harder in Florida it’s the

(07:37) only state where you have to get 60% of the vote not just 50 so it’s an uphill climb but I believe Florida will pass and again I think Florida will be exciting for many of the same reasons as Ohio it is a big red State there’s 23 million people there it will show that even in red America these are considered Freedom issues now cannabis is not considered a cultural sin but you know has a Freedom orientation and then you know finally I’ll just say again Florida in addition to those 23 million people

(08:06) is kind of the only state that touches almost every other state in the Deep South you know like Jacksonville and Tallahassee are right on the Georgia border Pensacola Florida is right there near Mississippi in Louisiana and so I see Florida as really opening up the Deep South you know which thus far has been an island of prohibition and then finally you know Florida gets 140 million tourists a year many of them International tourists if we can show the rest of the world that there is a safe and regulated you know way um to to

(08:37) manage cannabis then I think it can really have um impacts especially Across the Western Hemisphere so I’m so excited um about those States and I think everyone should be too yeah it’s very very interesting thank you uh so on the federal level and I I’ve seen the headlines but haven’t Dove too deeply into What’s Happening Now what kind of the federal policy developments are significant right now or on the horizon you know I I think the the main one is federal rescheduling and look I think we

(09:02) could spend an hour or two trying to unpack this very complicated issue so I’ll do my best to just provide a brief synopsis I think what is exciting is as many folks you know watching this may already know uh the Biden Administration has you know requested a rescheduling um of cannabis believing that you know cannabis belongs as a schedule three drug rather than a schedule one drug again as many folks may know a schedule one drug is a drug that’s considered to have no medical value and a high potential for abuse and cannabis has

(09:30) been on that schedule for a half a century which is why cannabis prohibition um has you know endured for for so long but the B Administration you know the Department of Health and Human Services recommended a rescheduling to schedule three um in recent months the doj has proposed a rule that would kind of codify that rescheduling public comment on that rescheduling process ends on July uh 22nd so we have about a month left and you know as many folks watching this may know there’s a difference between a proposed Rule and a

(10:00) final rule of course but I think there is you know a very strong likelihood that we could get a final rule that codifies cannabis as schedule three before the presidential election there’s been a lot of speculation that you know Joe Biden will kind of use that as a feather in his cap as he attempts to to win a second term but you know the reason this is so exciting and and look I know this is a complicated issue there’s some people who will properly identify that this doesn’t go far enough that alcohol and nicotine you know are

(10:28) not scheduled and so cannabis being scheduled is is not intellectually defensible but nonetheless this is the first crack in the armor of fed Federal Prohibition in half a century it is the first time that the federal government has acknowledged the medical utility of cannabis and perhaps crucially it’ll change the tax treatment of these cannabis businesses so they have a Fighting Chance at profitability and if we want the Cannabis movement in this country to succeed we’re going to need to have these be viable businesses so I

(10:56) think that is something that everyone should be paying attention to um around this fall as it gets finalized excellent so let’s go International this is where I spend most of my time thinking and doing work um what’s happening on the international stage that is worth uh flagging for the audience today you know I think what’s exciting is now in the year 2024 we can more credibly say that cannabis is becoming a a global phenomenon and that in really every region of of the globe you were having people talk about

(11:26) cannabis for the first time which represents a dramatic difference from where we were uh several years ago and it’s a reminder that the United States for better and sometimes For Worse sometimes sets the the the table for the international agenda on issues like drugs you know it was the United States and our policy of drug prohibition that led the War on Drugs to spread throughout the 20th century and now we have the opportunity to hopefully lead uh in a better way and so there’s so much going on internationally but

(11:53) perhaps one or two things that I’ll call out as the most significant developments um one would be Germany uh everybody knows that Germany is the biggest economy uh in Europe it’s arguably the California you know of Europe and can you know impact the the rest of the continent and as many folks may know as of April 1 of this year a landmark new legalization law in Germany took effect now that law that passed will not resemble the commercial model that has evolved in the United States but crucially what this law in Germany does

(12:24) that legalizes that quote unquote legalizes cannabis is that for the first time it reclassifies cannabis not as a narcotic but as something that has medical utility so already in the past few months you were seeing the rates of medical prescriptions in Germany um expand e exponentially Germany is developing a medical cannabis market for the first time so that’s very exciting and it kind of mirrors what’s going on in the United States as we’ve reclassified uh cannabis so that is exciting and then also there is what you

(12:54) might call decriminalization going on people who have small amounts of of cannabis possession uh will not be criminally charged for for having that and so look there’s some people that will point to the limitations of the German model they will note that it will likely be several years before we see a robust commercial infrastructure there that mirrors what we have in the United States and that’s totally fair but that is a momentous step forward for Germany and you are already seeing the Echoes of that in many other countries whether it

(13:21) be France whether it be Spain you you see prohibition similar to what we’re seeing in some states in the US slowly start to melt away and so I think that’s one exciting development to pay attention to which is what might happen you know in Europe and you know I think another development that I’ll point out is what has happened in Thailand and I think Thailand is actually a little bit of a different story whereas Germany is proceeding incrementally is saying hey let’s classify this as a medicine and

(13:47) slowly build comfort with cannabis Thailand given its kind of fractional politics had a coalition a couple years ago that essentially decriminalized cannabis entirely that legalized it outright which led to a proliferation of these cannabis establishments across the country and the reason I bring up Thailand is that after this occurred now with a new sort of Coalition in power there’s been an effort to re in that explosion of cannabis activity and so I think Thailand both shows the promise that even in more conservative Asian

(14:18) countries people are opening up to cannabis but it also illustrates that drug policy reform is not linear that you know our goal here should be essentially Shifting the Overton window incrementally over time to help build comfort with cannabis and that there is a risk to um moving too quickly and and inspiring backlash so I think Thailand also presents an interesting lesson and you know perhaps the final thing I’ll note and you know we probably don’t have time to go through all of these examples is that there are so many major

(14:46) countries across the world that are tackling cannabis for the first time whether it’s Australia you know and they’re building up of a a medical pipeline or South Africa that recently repealed one of the last apartheid laws which criminalized cannabis and is now slowly and steadily legalizing cannabis and so I’ll conclude by saying what is so exciting is that you have all of these organic developments around the world and if the US really steps up it has the potential to influence a lot of those countries uh around the world uh

(15:16) towards better drug policy excellent uh this has been fascinating 15 minutes goes by very quickly but I really appreciate your time today and sharing your expertise and certainly we’ll look forward to following Ananda Strategy and all the good things you’re doing thank you so much for having me