Melody Kramer’s Green Leaves and Brownies Teaches Cannabis Law à la Dr. Seuss

The cannabis industry has been notoriously confusing when it comes to rules and regulations, largely due to the fact that it remains federally illegal. This continued status means cannabis law varies widely from region to region, and operators are required to jump through countless, ever-changing hoops just to remain compliant.

Trial lawyer and writer Melody A. Kramer has familiarized herself with cannabis law enough to know how complicated it can get, and that realization has fueled her latest effort and passion: writing Green Leaves and Brownies: A Paradoxical Explanation of Cannabis Laws, a lighthearted, Dr. Seuss-style book that educates people on the ins and outs of the plant from a court perspective. 

Leafwire: How did you first found your law practice?

Melody Kramer: I loved the intellectual exercise of sorting out legal problems. One of my middle school history teachers used to read the class case facts and have us guess the legal outcome. I tended to guess an outcome entirely different than everyone else in the class—however, it was always the right one. 

I was also inspired by my uncle, Wilfried Kramer. He wasn’t a lawyer and didn’t even have a college degree, but he worked his way up to be the Clerk for the Third District Court of Appeals in Sacramento. I loved hearing about his cases; it helped me realize I needed to get immersed in the legal world too.

I founded my law firm just a couple years out of law school and have been a trial and business lawyer ever since. Some of the work I love, but I also became disillusioned with the profession in many ways. I decided my quest needed to be making lawyers actually useful to real people—or at least humorous.

LW: What did that realization lead to?

MK: I founded Legal Greenhouse, which is a think tank and experimental playground for various projects to make legal information more accessible to everyone.  

Legal Greenhouse Publishing has published two books so far: Why Lawyers Suck: Hacking the Legal System, Part 1, and Green Leaves and Brownies: A Paradoxical Explanation of Cannabis Laws.

LW: What was your intention with publishing these books?

MK: I thought there were other ways I could share my legal expertise beyond one-on-one client work. I wanted to do things that would help educate and change the legal profession. Publishing books that talk about the legal system in a humorous, engaging way is one of those things.  

Why Lawyers Suck has some great stories that explain the lawyer mindset to the general public—essentially breaking down why we’re nuts, and how to deal with it as a client.

Green Leaves and Brownies was born from a simple writing prompt I received in a writing group. I sat down with a few people in my group, fleshed the topic out a little more, and realized it would be neat to have as a book. Later that week, I was at Toastmasters. Their speaker had to cancel at the last minute, and they asked if I could give a speech in their place. I decided to present what I’d been writing, and ended up receiving an award for Best Speech of the Night. I thought I was really onto something. From there, I connected with a childhood friend who is also an artist, and she helped pull together the illustrations that really bring the story to life. 

LW: How have you serviced the cannabis industry throughout your career?

MK: For about a year, I worked with California Cannabis Lawyers dealing with the business side of the industry. But, I’ll be honest, I got a bit spooked when a local attorney who had a similar practice got slapped with felony charges relating to that representation. I was a single mom, and that kind of risk wasn’t something I was willing to take on at the time.

But although I don’t service the industry directly, I still get clients coming to me for peripheral cannabis issues relating to their day-to-day business practices. “Can my company’s health plan pay for medicinal cannabis for employees? Can a trust pay for a beneficiary’s recreational cannabis? How do I handle employees that I suspect are coming to work high? Can my employer make me take a drug test and then fire me for off-the-clock cannabis use?” These are very real issues that require thoughtful review and legal research.

LW: What about cannabis law interests you?

MK: I love the intellectual challenge. As far as I’m concerned, cannabis law is one of the most complicated areas of the law. For example, in California, there are over 200 different “jurisdictions” governing cannabis growing, processing, sales, and use. From town to town, county to county, there are all different regulations and permissions. There is also the overlap between federal and state laws, and not just what is on the books, but also how various laws are enforced or not enforced. It’s totally fascinating.

LW: What do you find unique about cannabis laws? 

MK: Cannabis laws are significantly tethered to politics and social mores—and precious-little reliance on science. The substance we are talking about is a natural product derived from a common plant that grows wild in many places in the US, and it’s not nearly as well understood as it should be. Knee-jerk political reactions ended up with a Class I designation, even though that defies science relating to this substance.

LW: What are some of the challenges of cannabis law?

MK: The overlapping jurisdictions, and just trying to nail down what you can and cannot do with respect to growing, processing, selling, buying, and using. 

I’ve recently been doing some field research, visiting dispensaries in different states and talking to the proprietors. It has been so fascinating to understand what is working for their businesses and what challenges they have. 

Just a few months ago, I was on vacation and visited a local dispensary, looking to share my Green Leaves and Brownies book with them. Within 60 seconds of walking in the door and identifying myself as a lawyer, the owner handed me a letter he’d received from the state department that regulated dispensaries listing some new regulations. He pointed to one sentence in a five-page letter and said “Do you know what this means?” 

I took a look at the sentence and realized that, if you interpreted this vague language in one way, his business was toast, but if you interpreted it another way, he was totally in the clear. How do you run a business that way, not knowing from day to day whether your business is legally compliant or not?

This is what people in the cannabis business space are dealing with every day, and I cannot imagine how hard that would be having to constantly worry whether your hard work is going to be taken away by the government without notice.

LW: What’s your favorite thing about cannabis law?

MK: I love that it was fodder for my Green Leaves and Brownie Dr. Seuss parody book. As a trial lawyer, I spend a lot of time giving people bad news, or trying to dig them out of a bad situation. With my book, I’m hoping people can have a good laugh and learn a little about cannabis laws at the same time. And considering how rapid cannabis laws are changing, I’m sure I’ll need to do a follow-up book at some point.

LW: What does the future of cannabis law look like?

MK: Change, change and more change. Lawyers know that the law is an ever-changing landscape in most areas, but that’s so much more the case for cannabis law.

LW: What is some expert advice every cannabis operator should keep in mind when it comes to laws and regulations?

MK: Find a good, experienced cannabis lawyer—or two. Start meeting and collecting contact information for lawyers who handle various aspects of cannabis law, because you may need them at some point. Getting to know lawyers long before you need them is the best way to build trust when you aren’t in some legal distress. 

You should also be proactive when it comes to keeping up with impending legal changes that may affect your business. That way, it’s less of a surprise for you later on.

Be very deliberate, and do your due diligence with everyone you do business with. If something goes wrong, your legal remedies aren’t as straightforward as other industries’. Don’t get sucked into business with sketchy people or those with criminal connections either, because that can put an extra target on your back and nobody needs that.

LW: What’s on the horizon for you and Legal Greenhouse? Any upcoming announcements or news?

MK: I am exploring some additional ways to meet the legal and business needs of cannabis businesses, both through BuddingLegal—a curated directory of expert cannabis lawyers—and “Can I Cannabis?” an app for users that allows them instant access to what they can and cannot do in terms of possession, purchase, and use of cannabis where they are, and to connect them with local cannabis businesses. 

While I work through the logistics and legal parameters for those projects, I will be continuing in my quest to make lawyers useful—or at least entertaining. In the coming year I expect to publish my second book in my “Hacking the Legal System” series. It will be titled How to Train Your Lawyer, which is somewhat of an operational manual for dealing with lawyers and how to make them a useful part of your business team.  
For now, you can purchase your copy of Green Leaves and Brownies at (including discounts on bulk orders) as well as Amazon and other online booksellers. 

Older Post
Newer Post