Law firms, recruiters, and marketers dish on how they're gearing up for a gold rush from New York's blockbuster move to legalize cannabis

  • New York’s legal marijuana market could eventually reach $7 billion.
  • As cannabis companies gear up, firms that service the industry are readying for a gold rush.
  • Law firms, PR companies, and recruiters that specialize in cannabis are seeing a surge in business.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Over the past 15 months, the law firm Feuerstein Kulick has hired 11 new attorneys, almost doubling in size.

Feuerstein Kulick focuses on cannabis. Some of the hires were to handle increased business from states where marijuana is already legal, but Jeff Schultz, a partner there, told Insider that his firm was also preparing for the potential of East Coast legalization.

Now that bet is starting to pay off. Schultz said his phone is “ringing off the hook” after New York legalized recreational cannabis in late March on the heels of New Jersey and two other states.

“I see the next 18 to 24 months being extremely busy,” he said. “We’re at the center of the storm.”

New York’s legal cannabis market has the potential to balloon into a multibillion-dollar industry, and it’s creating a gold rush for law firms, public relations companies, recruiters, and compliance startups that service the industry.

Cannabis sales aren’t expected to begin until mid- to late 2022, but companies are spending money, staffing up, and building out their New York operations to prepare. 

Legal cannabis could help create 60,000 jobs in New York

Six companies that work with the cannabis industry told Insider that they’ve seen a rush of clients and business since New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed cannabis legislation into law in late March. 

The cannabis industry is set to create close to 60,000 jobs in New York by 2027, both within the industry itself as well as in support roles, according to an economic-impact analysis from Cuomo’s office. The total economic impact could hit $6 billion that year, per the analysis.

Annual recreational marijuana sales could be as high as $5 billion to $7 billion once New York’s market is fully realized, according to estimates from analysts at Stifel and Cantor Fitzgerald.

Schultz said that he’s taking two to three calls a day just from clients and potential clients across the country asking about New York and how they could potentially get a license.

Scott Greiper, president and founder of Viridian Capital Advisors, a New York-based cannabis-advisory firm, told Insider that this past quarter was the best in the company’s history. He attributes that mainly to a flood of investment in cannabis and a spate of mergers and acquisitions across the country.

To gear up for New York specifically, Greiper said he’s been talking with hemp operators in the state looking to apply for THC licenses as well as companies and investors who want to enter the market. He said he expects New York to become a larger part of the company’s practice over the next year.

Greiper added that he expects the influx in business to extend beyond companies that handle cannabis. Law firms and media companies based in New York are more likely to get involved in the industry, too, he said.

“Ultimately this is a consumer-packaged-good brand industry, no different from alcohol or snack foods or tobacco,” Greiper said. 

Fyllo CEO Chad Bronstein.Fyllo

Chad Bronstein, the CEO of Fyllo, a cannabis software and compliance startup that just raised $30 million, said that more law firms in New York and New Jersey have started to use the service.

“We saw a huge uptick when New York approved,” he said.

‘I’m dying to get in’

Karson Humiston, the CEO of Colorado-based cannabis recruiting firm Vangst, said she recently hired a point person for East Coast hiring.

“People are really pumped and excited,” Humiston said. She said Vangst is getting far more calls from prospective applicants than there are jobs available.

Karson Humiston, the founder and CEO of Vangst.Vangst

“We have all these candidates across the board from sales, to marketing, to cultivation, to finance, saying: I’m dying to get in. Help me get a job today,” Humiston said. “But we don’t have any jobs yet.”

Humiston said that will change as dispensaries open next year. For now most hiring is on the consulting side — either to help established cannabis companies apply for licenses or to advise companies from other industries on how they can profit from New York legalization.

“Consultants are going to do incredibly well,” Humiston said. 

Cannabis jobs are shifting east

Sloane Barbour, the chief revenue officer at FlowerHire, a recruiting firm focused on six-figure salaried positions in the cannabis industry, told Insider that he’s seen a shift from the West Coast to the Northeast over the past few months.

The Northeast made up 24% of placements on the platform in 2020 but 40% in the first quarter of this year, Barbour said.

Skye Gould/Insider

“This trend will only continue, and because no infrastructure for regulated cannabis employment at scale exists, the East Coast will really need to import talent from elsewhere and simultaneously build an equitable pipeline of local talent that is trained and ready,” Barbour said.

Ever since New York’s law passed, “it’s just been a mad dash from everyone,” he said. 

Rosie Mattio, CEO of the New York cannabis public relations, marketing, and investor-relations firm Mattio Communications, told Insider that she’s been planning for New York legalization for years.

Rosie Mattio.Mattio Communications

She started the firm in Seattle in 2014, shortly after Washington state legalized cannabis. She moved moved back east to New York in 2017, first operating from a coworking space and then moving into a Midtown office in 2019. 

She said that the history she experienced with the start of legal cannabis on the West Coast is “repeating itself” on the East Coast. 

Now she’s getting daily calls from PR firms looking to break into the industry. She’s also fielding inquiries from other industries like restaurant groups, beauty brands, and retailers who want to get a better understanding of the opportunities that legal cannabis presents.

Architecture firms that want to build flagship stores for cannabis shops in desirable New York City neighborhoods have also been in touch, she said. 

More than a full-time job

“There are lots of nuances to working with cannabis that you can’t understand if you just jump into the space,” Mattio said, adding that keeping up with ever-evolving regulations and oversight is more than a full-time job. 

The lead-up to legalization has been good for the firm’s bottom line, and Mattio said revenue has increased 97% over the past year.  The firm has more than doubled its roster of clients, from 27 this time last year to more than 55. The list includes big names in US cannabis like JW Asset Management, Ayr Wellness, TerrAscend, and Ascend Wellness Holdings.

The firm has been hiring to handle that growth: The company has grown from a one-woman shop to more than 38 employees today. Twenty of those employees were added in the past year.

It’s likely that larger PR and marketing firms will look to either build up expertise in the industry themselves or, perhaps, acquire smaller shops outright.  

“The opportunity here is so huge,” Mattio said. “It’s a massive addressable market in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. They can educate millions of new consumers about cannabis.” 

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