Bridge West Consulting had an opportunity to speak with Jeffrey Hoffman, Cannabis Attorney. It was a pleasure speaking with Jeffrey, and we enjoyed learning about his cannabis industry expertise, his “Ask Me Anything” video series on LinkedIn, and his passion to help those dealing with cannabis convictions. We welcome you to read this ‘Ask the Cannabis Expert’ blog, follow Jeffrey on LinkedIn, and tune into his future live LinkedIn video sessions, ‘Ask Me Anything About Cannabis Legalization in New York.’
Please tell us about your background and how you started serving the cannabis industry:
Jeffrey Hoffman, a cannabis attorney in New York City, has been an avid supporter of cannabis and the industry since the 1980s – as he likes to say, “I’ve been getting high since Reagan.” A long-time follower of the Grateful Dead, Jeffrey was actually at the July 7, 1989, Philadelphia show where the Dead closed JFK Stadium.
After the show, Jeffrey said, “They condemned the stadium, and it was torn down shortly thereafter.” He continued, “It’s the only show where the Dead ever went from ‘Estimated Profit’ into ‘Standing on the Moon’ – setlists are very important in the currency of this band. In the realm of Grateful Dead shows, it would have been pretty apocalyptic just with that, but the Dead literally closed JFK Stadium. There’s a great website that talks about this show.” Jeffrey also said, “The Summer Tour of 1989 was the last tour where they allowed what was called ‘camping and vending’ in its true form. The main entrances to stadiums were almost like promenades. Basically, these promenades would become what would be known in the world of Grateful Dead touring as ‘Shakedown Streets’ (like the Dead song), and this is where people would play music and sell food, clothing, and tour paraphernalia (among other things).”
Jeffrey’s background includes a wide range of experiences from management consulting to entrepreneurship and owning several businesses. While Jeffrey was attending law school in the mid-90s, the Internet was becoming popular, and he decided to start a web development studio. For most of the 1990s, Jeffrey was not focused on being a lawyer. During the early 2000s, he concentrated on the technology and software industries, where he stayed until the 2008 recession.
At the same time, Jeffrey founded a law firm with a friend from law school and they focused on helping the startups. The firm was acquired by one of the largest law firms in the southeast and Jeffrey said, “The timing was great for us because the Internet bubble crashed – literally blew up – right after the firm was bought.” Then Jeffrey ‘kept doing the tech thing’ until it came to an end with the financial crisis.
Jeffrey continued his entrepreneurial streak and founded or worked at a few sustainability startups that got acquired. Then, Jeffrey shifted his focus to a mobile food vending business in New York City where he and his partners deployed the first fleet of Nathan’s Famous hot dog carts on the streets of Manhattan. Jeffrey left that business in 2019 right before COVID decimated the mobile vending industry in New York City. The timing proved fortuitous, as New York was just on the verge of legalizing adult-use cannabis.
Tell us about your early entry into the cannabis industry:
In 2013, Jeffrey taught an online cannabis law course. He said, “It was one of the first continuing legal education (CLE) classes in the United States about cannabis legalization. Colorado and Washington legalized cannabis in November of 2012, and then I taught this CLE class in January of 2013.”
Jeffrey continued, “This is probably the earliest video footage of me screaming about the expungement of cannabis convictions. At the time, Rhode Island had proposed one of the earliest such bills, but unfortunately it took a while for New York to get with the program. So, I sort of went into stealth mode waiting for my state to get its ducks in a row. And then finally we got our act together in 2021 and were off to the races.”
How did you start your “Ask Me Anything” video series on LinkedIn and how does it work?
At first, Jeffrey focused on attending cannabis industry events. He had always enjoyed the “Ask Me Anything” sessions on the popular website Reddit, and he soon realized that cannabis industry supporters really appreciated this “Ask Me Anything” style. “Ask Me Anything” has served to help Jeffrey build an audience through speaking engagements and in networking and building relationships with other cannabis industry experts.
Over the past few years, LinkedIn introduced “LinkedIn Live” with the ability to broadcast via the LinkedIn platform. Jeffrey said that he wondered, “Why is nobody answering questions about cannabis? If no one else is, I am going to be that guy.” Therefore, he began answering people’s questions regarding cannabis legalization in New York. Every week, Jeffrey hosts live LinkedIn broadcasts where people can submit questions about cannabis, and he will answer their questions live.
Jeffrey explained that his “Ask Me Anything” series are weekly live events. He said, “During every live session, I will answer half of the questions that are posted in the chat. The other half of the questions are gathered throughout the week.” Jeffrey continued, “Lately, I get a lot of live attendees and more questions than I can answer in every live session. Following every week’s live session, I put all the questions that I don’t answer into a Google doc, and the other half of the questions are added to the historical list. During every session, half of the questions that I am answering are live in real time.”
Jeffrey said, “It seems that ‘Ask Me Anything’ really resonates with folks. At this point, people don’t even call me by my name anymore. At a recent event, I was literally introduced as: this is Mr. Ask Me Anything.”
He continued, “I’m a pretty friendly guy on LinkedIn. If you just hit me up on LinkedIn and have a question about what’s going on, a lot of people are surprised because I’ll just say, ‘Here’s your answer.’ I just love connecting and communicating with folks in this industry.”
What do you think about legalization in New York?
Jeffrey shared, “I want to make it very clear, because when I talk to a lot of people, they say, ‘Isn’t it great that we’re about to have a cannabis industry in New York?’ And I have to chuckle and say to them, ‘We’ve had a cannabis industry in New York as long as I’ve been alive. Now, we’re about to have a *regulated* cannabis industry.” He continued, “Nobody is more excited that we’re about to have a regulated cannabis industry here in New York than me. Nobody. But as excited as I am about this, my primary focus is the justice issues: expungement of convictions and no more incarceration for cannabis. For me, these are by far the most important things that come from the Cannabis Law.”
What is your focus serving the cannabis industry?
As a cannabis attorney, Jeffrey focuses his efforts on serving clients dealing with cannabis justice issues, work which is supported by his “business work” in the cannabis space. Jeffrey said, “Justice issues are incredibly important to me. I led the team which got Humberto Ramirez (one of the LPP Three) out of jail in New Jersey, and we are actively working on several expungement issues in New York. If you are incarcerated or if we are working on your 440 motion to clear your record, you never get a bill from me. I am quite aware of the privilege I’ve had in our society, so I am morally obligated to act accordingly.”
On a personal note, what do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies or interests?
Jeffrey explained, “These days, I don’t have a lot of free time, of course, as you can imagine. When I do have any free time, I like to watch my favorite football (soccer) teams – Ajax Amsterdam and the Oranje – with my crew. Also, one of my very favorite musicians is Brian Eno. He was a founding member of Roxy Music, basically invented ambient music, and was the producer of The Joshua Tree by U2 as well as the best Talking Heads albums. I like to listen to his music, and that of other groups such as The Orb, very loudly. As consumption lounges start opening in the city, hopefully some will have phenomenal sound systems, and we will host ‘Listenings’ where we turn one on (everyone knows cannabis makes music that much better), and then listen to the best music very loudly.”