BEST OF THE INDUSTRY 2019: Christopher McHugh
Over 1,000 Greenway readers made nominations online for the Best of the Industry 2019. This inaugural reader’s choice presentation is unique – the 2020’s is sure to look a little different.
Find features about the winners of categories in the Businesses & Professionals section in Greenway Magazine and online. For the CBD, Patient Care, and Advocacy sections, check out the categorical winners in the Spring 2020 issue of Greenway Patients Magazine and online.
Winners of these reader’s choice awards were recognized at the MoCannBizCon after party on March 2, 2020, at the incredible St. Louis Union Station.
These winners are definitive leaders in the culmination of this industry. Greenway Media congratulates each awardee on being recognized by their peers.
Christopher McHugh is a pretty unique lawyer. He was the first to file an appeal, the vast majority of his clients won licenses, and he’s always quick on the draw with wit and context.
For about ten years after law school, McHugh practiced in criminal defense, prisoners’ rights, and First Amendment law. In the next ten years, he was a litigation attorney in complex civil cases mostly between businesses in the trucking industry. All of that experience was extremely helpful when he made the switch to cannabis law. The benefit of his time as criminal defense, prisoners’ rights, and First Amendment attorney is somewhat obvious, perhaps the exact perspective Greenway readers believe makes McHugh one of the best in the industry.
“But my experience in trucking might have been even more valuable,” McHugh said. “Because that industry is so heavily regulated at both the federal and state level, I gained a lot of experience dealing with agency regulators, which has come in very handy in cannabis.”
It isn’t just trucking that makes McHugh stand out from attorney stereotypes.
“I come from a very blue-collar background. My grandfather was an electrician at Boeing in Wichita. My father worked in airplane manufacturing all of his life. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. All that means normally I take a very practical approach to problems. I hate form over function. I like getting to the core of the matter as quickly as possible. Whether I’m right or wrong, let’s find out now. No reason to waste time or money.”
In 2019, McHugh moved to Joseph, Hollander, and Craft, where he was joined by Andrew Goodwin, who also practices cannabis law alongside McHugh. As the industry develops, so has McHugh’s practice in accordance to industry demand.
“My focus is on licensing and regulatory compliance, but I’ve developed friendships with attorneys who know organizational and investment documents, tax, probate, real estate, and construction, and know it cold,” McHugh said. “I want to offer my clients one-stop shopping for everything they need in their business, and those relationships are how I do that. And I love collaborating. A good piece of advice for Cannabis businesses is never hiring a real estate attorney (for example) who doesn’t know and work well with a compliance attorney.”
“I’m not only an attorney in the space, but I’m also the co-founder and CEO of Vertical Enterprise LLC, which is a licensed medical marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and dispensary company in St. Joseph, Missouri,” McHugh said. “I’d like to think that gives me a real edge because I don’t just represent clients in the Cannabis industry, I experience the industry and its challenges in the same way as my clients. So I can appreciate all the problems my clients have from their perspective. That has given me some insight that I wouldn’t otherwise have.”
McHugh looks like a genius now from his own and his client’s success in the application period, but why did he ever get into it?
“Candidly, the initial attraction was I saw the money being paid to so-called cannabis lawyers in other markets and thought it looked like a good business opportunity,” McHugh said. “What I learned, though, was that it’s a great privilege to be a part of the industry. People don’t believe me when I say I love being a lawyer in the cannabis space, but it’s true. What’s not to love? The people are great. The challenges are never-ending. And we all get to be part of and contribute to standing up an entire industry. Such a privilege.”