Legal: Rebecca Rutenberg, Vicente
With more than 50 cannabis clients, legal wizard Rebecca Rutenberg is plenty busy for the foreseeable future, helping them win licenses all over the U.S. East Coast, from Florida to Maine.
“I’m in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Florida, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, a little bit in Maine, and of course Maryland,” said the Boston-based lobbyist.
And she doesn’t see that career focus changing anytime soon, as the industry itself continues to grow and more states legalize marijuana.
“As more states continue to pivot over to adult use, my focus will probably stay there for the time being. There’s never a shortage of things to do in this industry,” Rutenberg laughed.
Rutenberg first entered cannabis practice around 2014, she recalled. At the time she’d been working in government affairs for emerging industries, and when Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana, a flood of businesses soon needed legal help. Rutenberg found that her expertise matched up with those needs perfectly.
“I quickly found out that all of the land use, campaign-style tactics that our firm was using for our more traditional clients were equally applicable to cannabis,” Rutenberg said. “My first client knew everything about growing marijuana and nothing about permitting it, and we were successful. From there, it just skyrocketed, and my practice went from being about 5% medical marijuana to almost 100% marijuana.”
She even helped found New York-based Ascend Wellness Holdings, but left the company in favor of a position at Vicente LLP because “I decided I liked having my fingers in a lot of different projects.”
Rutenberg said her message to fellow women in cannabis would be to simply trust your instincts.
“The hardest lessons I’ve ever learned were that, whenever I went away from whatever my gut was telling me was when I was sure to fail. So trust your gut. Move forward with conviction,” Rutenberg said.
“And have a good time with it,” she added with a laugh. “We’re only here for a short time, so having a good time is what gets you through it.”