The top 7 law firms advising on marijuana megadeals worth billions

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Summary List Placement

The cannabis industry is in the grips of deal mania as companies race for scale. 

In the past year, these deals have taken various forms, including SPAC rollups and mergers between cannabis giants like Aphria and Tilray and Trulieve and Harvest Health & Recreation, among many others.

But cannabis mergers and acquisitions are unlike M&A in other industries because cannabis is federally illegal in the US. That heightens the need for specialized lawyers who understand the intricacies of doing business in the industry.

For some law firms, the cannabis deal rush has proved to be a windfall. It has also been an opportunity for others to push into a rapidly growing industry and create networks — and a pipeline of future deals — while their rivals are still on the sidelines.

Insider has put together its third annual list of the top law firms in the cannabis industry. You can read our 2019 edition here and our 2020 edition here

This year, we used a different methodology. We pulled the 10 largest cannabis-industry deals worldwide since the start of 2020, including M&A, capital raises, and debt financing, and pinpointed which firms worked on them. We used data from Viridian Capital Advisors, CB Insights, and Pitchbook.

From there, we compiled a list of firms that worked on at least two of the deals. While there are many firms that have built extensive cannabis practice groups across intellectual property, litigation, and M&A, this list is focused on those that have advised on the largest deals — so, of course, there are firms that didn’t make the cut this year. 

The firms are ranked by the dollar amount of deals they worked. Read on to see the full list.

DLA Piper

Involved in cannabis since: 2020

Biggest past-year deals:

  • Tilray-Aphria merger ($3.9 billion)
  • Trulieve-Harvest acquisition ($2.1 billion)

Key individuals:

  • Christopher Giordano, partner and cochair of DLA’s New York corporate group (Tilray-Aphria)
  • Jon Venick, corporate partner, New York (Tilray-Aphria)
  • Russel Drew, corporate partner, Toronto (Tilray-Aphria and Trulieve-Harvest)
  • Derek Sigel, partner and cochair of DLA’s Canadian capital markets group (Trulieve-Harvest)

About:

DLA Piper is one of the world’s biggest law firms but is relatively new to the cannabis industry. It worked on 2020’s two biggest cannabis deals, representing Aphria in its merger with Tilray and counseling Trulieve on Canadian legal matters when it acquired Harvest Health & Recreation.

According to its website, DLA has advised clients big and small on transactions, disputes, and the thicket of regulatory and compliance issues that arise for companies in the medical- and recreational-cannabis industries.

Blake, Cassels & Graydon

Involved in cannabis since: 2014 (medical) and 2018 (recreational)

Biggest past-year deals: 

  • Tilray-Aphria merger ($3.9 billion)
  • Subversive Capital’s acquisition of Caliva and Left Coast Ventures ($425 million)

Key Individuals:

  • Kathleen Keilty, partner and cochair of cannabis group (Tilray-Aphria merger)
  • Norbert Knutel, partner and member of investment products and asset-management group and cannabis group (Subversive’s SPAC deal)
  • Jeff Glass, partner and founder of investment products and asset-management practice (Subversive’s SPAC deal)

About: 

Attorneys at Blake, Cassels & Graydon, known as Blakes, have expertise in the details of cannabis legality, including medical marijuana, edibles, concentrates, vaping, CBD, and cultivation.

Blakes works with businesses directly involved in cannabis — from manufacturers and retailers to financiers — as well as those affected by its legalization. 

The firm was involved in two of the 10 major deals Insider looked at in 2020: Tilray’s merger with Aphria and Subversive Capital’s acquisition of Caliva and Left Coast Ventures. 

Cooley

Involved in cannabis since: at least 2018

Biggest past-year deals:

  • Tilray-Aphria merger ($3.9 billion)
  • Subversive Capital’s acquisition of Caliva and Left Coast Ventures ($425 million)

Key individuals:

  • Steven Tonsfeldt, mergers and acquisitions partner (Tilray-Aphria merger)
  • Alan Hambelton, partner and leader of Cooley’s Seattle corporate practice (Tilray-Aphria merger)
  • John Robertson, partner in charge of the Seattle office (Subversive’s SPAC)
  • Laura Medina, emerging-growth company and venture-capital partner (Subversive’s SPAC)

About:

Cooley was involved in two of the past year’s biggest deals: it represented Tilray in its tie-up with Aphria and California-based Left Coast Ventures in its complex merger with Subversive Capital Acquisition Corp.

Cooley is known for representing major tech companies, but it has represented cannabis companies and investors in deals, disputes, and regulatory issues. Tilray in particular is a repeat client, having worked with Cooley’s lawyers since its 2018 initial public offering.

Bennett Jones

Involved in cannabis since: 2013

Biggest past-year deals: 

  • Trulieve-Harvest acquisition ($2.1 billion)
  • Cresco’s acquisition of Origin House ($496 million)
  • Subversive Capital’s acquisition of Caliva and Left Coast ventures ($425 million)

Key Individuals:

  • Sander Grieve, partner, head of mining industry team (Trulieve-Harvest deal)
  • Aaron Sonshine, partner and head of cannabis law practice (Cresco-Origin House deal)
  • Curtis Cusinato, vice chair and partner, cohead of mergers and acquisitions practice (Subversive’s SPAC deal)

About: 

Bennett Jones was one of the first major law firms in Canada to enter the cannabis sector.

Since then, the firm’s cannabis practice has worked with hundreds of cannabis businesses, focusing on both US multistate operators and Canadian companies. Bennett Jones offers services including exchange listings, capital raises, and M&A transactions.

The firm was involved in three of the major deals Insider looked at: Trulieve’s acquisition of Harvest Health & Recreation, Cresco’s acquisition of Origin House, and Subversive Capital’s acquisition of Caliva and Left Coast Ventures. 

Stikeman Elliott

Involved in cannabis since: at least 2015

Biggest past-year deals:

  • Curaleaf’s acquisition of Grassroots Cannabis ($830 million)
  • Subversive Capital’s acquisition of Caliva and Left Coast Ventures ($425 million)
  • Curaleaf’s acquisition of Emmac Life Sciences ($290 million)
  • Ayr Wellness’ acquisition of Liberty Health Sciences ($290 million)

Key individuals:

The firm declined to specify the lawyers who led its engagements for Curaleaf, Subversive, and Ayr Wellness.

About:

Stikeman Elliott is one of Canada’s largest business law firms. The firm’s lawyers worked with Curaleaf on two acquisitions, walked Ayr Wellness through its purchase of Liberty, and represented Canaccord Genuity, the financial advisor to the cannabis SPAC Subversive Capital Acquisition Corp., in its complex merger

From 2015 to 2018, Stikeman regularly worked with Aphria, with The Globe and Mail reporting that the two parted ways after a transaction that drew short-seller scrutiny. The firm declined to comment.

Cassels Brock & Blackwell

Involved in cannabis since: The firm started practicing in the cannabis industry in 2014 and founded its cannabis practice group in 2016.

Biggest past-year deals:

  • Canopy Growth’s term loan financing ($750 million)
  • Subversive Capital’s acquisition of Caliva and Left Coast Ventures ($425 million)
  • RIV Capital’s spinout from Canopy Growth ($450 million)

Key individuals:

  • Jonathan Sherman, partner, securities group, and cochair, cannabis group
  • Jamie Litchen, partner, securities group (and active in cannabis and mining groups)

About:

Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Calgary, Alberta, and Toronto, Cassels has represented some of the largest cannabis companies on the biggest deals since dipping its toes into the industry in 2014.

The firm put together the framework for Canopy Growth’s paradigm-shifting deal to acquire Acreage Holdings in 2019 and has built up an extensive cannabis practice group.

“At Cassels, we have been fortunate to be at the forefront of cannabis M&A activity since inception of the Canadian cannabis industry. As the market continues to develop, both in Canada and the United States, companies are actively looking for accretive acquisition opportunities,” Sherman and Litchen said in a statement.

“In addition, with U.S. cannabis legalization efforts continuing to progress, many companies are looking at opportunities to cement themselves as market leaders in advance of the inevitable competition.”

Editor’s note: The correct value for the RIV Capital spinout is $450 million, not $170 million.

Loeb & Loeb

Involved in cannabis since: at least 2014

Biggest past-year deals: 

  • Curaleaf’s acquisition of Grassroots Cannabis ($830 million)
  • Curaleaf’s acquisition of Cura Partners ($390 million)

Key Individuals:

About: 

Loeb & Loeb was involved in two of the 10 major deals Insider looked at in 2020: Curaleaf’s acquisition of Cura Partners and Curaleaf’s acquisition of Grassroots. The firm does not appear to have an official cannabis practice, according to its website, but attorneys from many of its other practice groups have been involved in deals in the cannabis space over the past few years. 

Loeb & Loeb declined to comment on their work on specific cannabis deals.

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