A Growing Business
Jason Tarasek on cannabis law and what’s next
Published in 2023 Minnesota Super Lawyers magazine
By Adam Wahlberg on July 13, 2023
It was just in 2019 that Lanesboro farmer Luis Hummel faced jail time for growing and selling hemp products.
“The authorities said his products crossed the line into marijuana, which is when THC levels pass a certain threshold, and he was charged with several felonies,” says his lawyer, Jason Tarasek. “It was an innocent processing mistake. The charges were eventually dropped, but criminal prosecution is not something to be taken lightly.”
By July 2022, manufacturers like Hummel were breathing easier thanks to Minnesota’s new cannabinoid law, which allows for the sale of edibles with small amounts of hemp-derived THC.
Tarasek advocated for such a change for years. Arriving in Minnesota in 2005 after law school in San Francisco, he had taken note that life in California hadn’t been negatively disrupted after the state legalized medical marijuana. “Weed was everywhere and life didn’t stop,” he says.
Like many legislative followers, Tarasek was surprised when the hemp-derived THC legalization passed in the end-of-session omnibus bill last year. “I didn’t anticipate this happening when it did,” he says.
But he knew it would eventually. In 2018, he launched Minnesota Cannabis Law (which became the Minneapolis office of Vicente LLP on June 1, 2023) to serve what he trusted would be the coming industry. “Canada had recently legalized cannabis, and I thought, ‘If it could happen there, it could happen here,’” he says. “I started advocating and a wall was never erected in front of me.”
Tarasek’s goal is to one day spend 100% of his time on cannabis issues. He sees himself advising stakeholders up and down the product chain, from seed to sale. But the state isn’t there yet.
“When the bill passed, it didn’t come with a licensing requirement—there is virtually no regulation. So there are still a lot of questions, and not a lot of work yet,” he says.
For the past 15 years, Tarasek has worked in construction and property law. Construction and cannabis make for curious bedfellows in a book of business. That’s why Tarasek maintains two LinkedIn profiles and two websites. He’s yet to meet a construction client who is also looking for cannabis counsel—but that day may come.
“If full adult-use marijuana legalization happens in Minnesota, which I think it soon will, we’re going to need to build a lot of grow houses,” he said in late April, the same day the House was voting on the bill. As Tarasek expected, the state passed full legalization in May.
“Cannabis moves at light speed, so I’m already transitioning to it.”
Tarasek is already envisioning how to expand his practice geographically as well. “I’ve worked with officials in South Dakota to get its medical marijuana program off the ground, and I think Wisconsin may be ready for legalization as leaders there are taking note of the tax revenue Illinois is getting. Wisconsin doesn’t like to lose out to Illinois on anything,” he adds with a laugh.
Then there’s the next frontier.
“I’m exploring the possibilities around legalization of entheogens: psychedelics, mushrooms, microdosings. There’s a bill in the legislature to set up a task force. In many ways, this field has more promise than cannabis to help people—particularly with people who have mental health issues like PTSD,” he says. “I’ve talked to enough people who are smarter than me who are convinced that this is the next wave, and it may have an easier path to federal legalization than marijuana because it’s not on schedule one.”
One thing’s certain: Tarasek will likely be in the middle of it.
“I love pushing for reforms when I read rules that don’t make sense,” he says. “That makes me want to change the rules.”
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