Last week, my colleague Jesse Mondry and I spent an hour discussing the challenging state of the cannabis industry and how it’s been impacting those who are considering litigation or other dispute resolution options. If you weren’t able to attend the webinar, below are some of the key discussion points and takeaways.
We’re seeing even more breach of contract actions
This isn’t surprising. As the industry grapples with the downturn, there is just an overall inability to comply with preexisting agreements or payment terms. In particular though, breach of contract claims have been even more rampant in the purchase and sale context because people are just not paying up – so much so that California even proposed a program to deal with how extensive the problem is becoming.
We’re also seeing an uptick in LLC and partnership disputes
This isn’t new either, but as companies fail to perform as advertised several years ago, LLC member and partnership disputes have steadily increased as well. As Jesse covered, it’s important to get things documented well – he specifically mentioned he’d love to see more provisions relating to the accounting aspect of the business in operating agreements – to clarify the potential issues on the front end.
The sad truth is, if you’re dealing with a business that’s sinking, you need to adjust your expectations
We’ve increasingly had to have difficult conversations with our clients that it probably doesn’t make economic sense to pursue a potential defendant because it’s just not worth it. Winning a lawsuit or arbitration, which takes a year or so in the very best case scenario, doesn’t mean anything if the judgment you’re awarded isn’t enforceable against your defendant. We’ve really had to counsel our clients to (1) adopt a mentality of cutting their losses when and where that’s appropriate, and (2) be more flexible with how they negotiate a potential settlement or approach pursuing their claims. Sometimes, that means entering into payment plans you wouldn’t normally tolerate. Other times, it means making a deal for fifty cents on the dollar.
Get creative in cannabis litigation– and do it while you have the leverage!
Settlements involving a confessed/stipulated judgment or personal guaranty can be really motivating for debtors to make good on their commitments. In the case of partnership disputes, maybe a receivership makes the best sense. These are the kinds of options that we’ve been working into our resolutions and settlements more often these days.
And if you’re on the flip side (debtor), embrace honest communication and good faith gestures
People know the industry is hurting. If you owe money and want to avoid litigation or collection efforts, do your best to communicate what you’re capable of and commit to what you can. The worst thing you can do is overextend yourself and default on whatever agreement you’ve come up with – that only creates a sense of distrust and animosity for everyone involved.
Bankruptcy still isn’t really available
Bankruptcy isn’t an option – the courts have consistently indicated debtors who work in the cannabis industry or derive meaningful income from cannabis activity (directly or indirectly) cannot use bankruptcy, a federal mechanism, so long as marijuana remains illegal under federal law. We covered that bankruptcy protection has been afforded in really limited circumstances but, overall, don’t count on it.
For a similar webinar and post on these topics, also check out: