Marijuana Business

When Experience Is a Liability

In some states, a marijuana conviction can exclude you from the newly legal industry.


Daniel Fagundes, who was arrested for growing medical marijuana that he supplied to a Las Vegas dispensary, found himself excluded from that state's newly legal recreational industry because he had been convicted of a felony: possession with intent to sell. In California, by contrast, Rodney Hampton's felony record from his days as a pot dealer in San Francisco gave him a leg up when he applied for a license to sell marijuana there.

As those examples suggest, the seven states that currently license marijuana suppliers to serve the recreational market (regulations are pending in Maine and Michigan) have reached strikingly different conclusions about the propriety of letting people with pot records participate. In several states, experience in the field can be disqualifying. Here are the relevant rules.

Alaska: No one convicted of a felony in the previous five years or a Class A misdemeanor involving distribution of marijuana in the previous two years can own or work for a marijuana establishment.

California: A license to operate a marijuana business can be denied based on convictions "substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business." If a drug conviction does not fit that description, it cannot be the sole basis for rejecting an application.

Colorado: No one convicted of a felony involving a controlled substance in the previous 10 years can own or work for a marijuana business, unless it was a marijuana use or possession offense that is no longer a felony.

Massachusetts: No one convicted of a felony can own a marijuana establishment, unless the offense was limited to marijuana and did not involve distribution to minors.

Nevada: No one convicted of an "excluded felony offense" within the previous 10 years can own or work for a marijuana business. That category includes some marijuana offenses but excludes conduct permitted by Nevada's medical marijuana law.

Oregon: A license to operate a marijuana business can be denied based on convictions "substantially related to the fitness and ability of the applicant to lawfully carry out activities under the license." Convictions for marijuana possession may not be considered, and neither may convictions for manufacturing or delivering marijuana (except to someone younger than 21) as long as they are at least two years old. The same rule applies to most employees.

Washington: Applicants for marijuana business licenses receive points based on their criminal records: 12 points for a felony, five points for a gross misdemeanor, and four points for a misdemeanor. A score of eight or more is disqualifying. Felonies more than 10 years old and misdemeanors more than three years old do not count. Neither do marijuana possession misdemeanors, unless there are more than two. A single marijuana felony "will be considered for mitigation on an individual basis."

[The entry for Massachusetts has been corrected; a conviction for distributing marijuana to minors is disqualifying, as opposed to marijuana distribution in general.]