Mintz Levin, ML Strategies steer clear of pot clients

'We would like to see clearer guidelines at the federal level,' says spokeswoman

THE POWERHOUSE LOBBYING FIRM ML Strategies and its corporate parent, the law firm of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, are not pursuing clients in the recreational marijuana business while the legal status of pot remains murky.

While other law and lobbying firms have plunged head-first into the marijuana arena, Mintz Levin and ML Strategies have charted a very different course. Nancy Sterling, a spokesperson for both the law and lobbying firms, said the policy on marijuana clients is not a blanket prohibition, but it comes pretty close.

“We are not seeking them out,” she said of clients in the marijuana field. “We would like to see clearer guidelines at the federal level.”

The issue surfaced last week when CommonWealth published a story on lobbying activity in the first six months of 2019, which showed ML Strategies had lost its perch as the company with the most lobbying revenue. ML Strategies was edged out by Smith, Costello & Crawford, a firm that attributed much of its recent revenue growth to marijuana work.

Steve Tocco, the president and chairman of ML Strategies, was out of town and not available for comment before the publication of the story, but once he returned he said a key reason for the softening in revenues at ML Strategies was the company’s decision not to pursue marijuana clients.

“Other than that, we’ve had a great year,” Tocco said. “We’ve refused a lot of people [in the marijuana field] who called and wanted us to represent them.”

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Lobbying records indicate ML Strategies currently has no clients in the marijuana field. In 2018, the firm had one marijuana client, Cultivauna LLC, which was seeking to launch non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beverages.

The law firm’s client list is not available publicly, but Sterling said the firm had some medical marijuana clients, most of whom were transitioning into the recreational field. The law firm’s website contains no mention of an expertise in marijuana representation; by contrast, the website of Foley Hoag LLC highlights the firm’s cannabis practice. “Foley Hoag has been at the forefront of the medical and adult-use cannabis industry since the very early stages of its regulation and legalization in specific US states and beyond,” the website says.