MMA Meets MMJ: Lawyer Laura Bianchi Kicking Ass In Arizona Pot-Litics

Many people know the name Laura Bianchi because of the critical role she’s played in establishing and protecting medical marijuana companies in Arizona. Being recently named partner at Rose Law Group with a background of mixed-martial artist meets yogi round out the resume of this rising star in cannabis law.

DOPE: How would you describe the medical marijuana scene in Arizona?

L.B.: With any new and evolving industry we are faced with challenges, difficulties, and hurdles that are unique to the cannabis industry. There is very little case precedent and often times more questions than answers, however, I have watched this industry develop and progress at lighting speed. Every state program has its positives and negatives, however; in general I believe Arizona is one of the better-regulated markets. There is always room for improvement and my hope is as industry professionals and participants continue to regulate from within, our regulatory agencies will begin to place greater emphasis on things like product testing, quality control, and qualitative review processes for Medical Marijuana Dispensary Registration Certificate applicants.

DOPE: What are your thoughts on a legalization initiative being on the ballot in Arizona this year?

L.B.: I believe it’s an important step in the right direction as we continue to waste valuable state and federal resources in an attempt to maintain and support the failed marijuana prohibition program. The Initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will allocate millions of dollars to Arizona’s failing education system, take money out of the hands of the cartels, and create a new regulatory agency that will be better staffed, equipped, and structured to regulate the cannabis industry in Arizona from all aspects.

DOPE: Do you believe previous felony convictions for cannabis related offenses should prohibit individuals from entering the cannabis industry? 

L.B.: I hate to give you the typical attorney answer ha, but unfortunately it really does depend on the specific circumstances of that individual’s crime and conviction. One of the less beneficial components of the Arizona cannabis program is its failure to conduct a qualitative review of Medical Marijuana Dispensary Registration Certificate applications, and the individuals and entities submitting those applications. It’s extremely important from my perspective that the regulators take the steps they can to attract applicants of the highest quality, caliber, and background, with the necessary business aptitude and financial capabilities, so we can ensure the industry itself continues to grow and develop into a regulated, successful, and efficient industry.

DOPE: People consider both law and cannabis to be traditionally male industries. Do you agree? What are your thoughts on the role of gender in your current work? 

L.B.: Certainly the law in many aspects remains a male-dominated industry. A recent study by the American Bar Association showed that in 2016, women hold approximately 24 percent of the general counsel positions in Fortune 500 corporations and just 19 percent in Fortune 501 to 1000 corporations. Women make up only 27.1 percent of the federal and state judgeships as well, so while I believe we continue to make great strides as women in the legal field, statistically it’s clear we still have work to do. Having said that, the cannabis industry is actually thought to be the first billion-dollar industry to be run by women, which is an exciting prospect. As Co-Chair of the Women Grow Phoenix Chapter, I am thrilled to see the number of smart, knowledgeable, dynamic women entering and dominating the cannabis industry in many different aspects. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we discriminate against men either, but more so that as women we are given the opportunity to earn those same seats at the table. I want the opportunity to excel and succeed not because of my gender, but because of my skills, determination, capabilities, and expertise.

DOPE: You’re an MMA fighter and a Yogi. Do tell…

L.B.: Haha well I can tell you I have never ever fit into any “box” in any realm, and this is just another example of that fact. I have been a yogi for over 12 years; it’s a place I go to calm my mind and strengthen myself mentally, physically, and spiritually. It’s a beautiful escape and something I just really enjoy. However, some time ago I injured my lower back and because of my injury I was unable to practice yoga 56 days a week, so I was forced to look for an alternative and that’s when I discovered mixed martial arts. While it may seem like these two worlds are about as far apart as possible, in reality they are not. Both require commitment, discipline, and dedication, as well as a deep respect for yourself and those you practice and train with. I have also found they complement one another as mixed martial arts requires flexibility, focus, and disciplineand yoga that same flexibility, focus, and discipline. I have met some incredible people on this journey and while some may see mixed martial arts as being violent or primitive, once you understand the sport, you begin to see the immense mental focus and abilities it requires, as well as exceptional proficiency in so many different disciplines including boxing, kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, Judo, and so much more. So while it may seem odd, I have found that these two passions actually compliment me and my needs perfectly.

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