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Connecting the Dots: What Blockchain Technology, Generative AI and Cannabis All Have in Common

Updated: Jan 23

By: Ambur C. Smith

This year marked the 8th annual DC Startup Week. Striving to be the premier entrepreneurship conference and community in the DMV for founders by founders, DC Startup Week is at the vanguard of innovation in the nation's capital and beyond. As a law firm committed to empowering founder-led start ups across industries, our Founder made sure to attend. The following are her major takeaways.

I began my career as a Commercial Finance and Banking Associate at an Am Law 200 law firm in Cincinnati, Ohio. Home to major financial institutions and corporations like Fifth Third Bank, Western and Southern Financial, Procter and Gamble, GE Aerospace, and more, Cincinnati proved to be the perfect breeding ground for a Midwest native and political strategist pivoting into corporate law. While first year Associates in New York and DC firms scrambled for low level research projects, my positioning in a less competitive market ensured I was managing sophisticated and high net-worth clients across states before the ink was dry on my year 1 review. Eager to explore other practice groups, I also began conducting research on barriers to banking for cannabis businesses and even managed the submission of successful dispensary applications in Illinois. After 2 years, and a brief pivot back into politics during the 2020 general election, I launched my practice recognizing the industries that defined my introduction to the legal profession, were at the forefront of a legal and economic revolution.

Fast forward to 2023 and the pre-pandemic banking and cannabis industries are still under construction. For this reason, it is more important than ever for all those interested in creating more inclusive and equitable industries to lean into their curiosity and engage with members of a global community of tech, financial and legal innovators. In doing so, you will be able tap into another through-line I noticed between industries discussed during DC Startup week, and those that have defined my career to date - DISRUPTION.

Disruption is Inevitable and Necessary

Decentralized finance (DeFi), rooted in digital, immutable ledgers (blockchain technology), financial technology (Fintech) and Web3 innovations, disrupts the traditional financial system by eliminating the need for human intermediaries who have historically denied entire communities access to their systems. With 1.4 billion unbanked people worldwide, the opportunities to promote financial inclusion leveraging DeFi and related technologies are endless.

Web3, which includes fintech, as well as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), virtual and augmented reality, generative AI, and machine learning is disrupting the technology, fine art and entertainment industries, among others, by ensuring artists and innovators can more easily produce and own the rights to their creations, and associated royalties, in a digital environment; while expanding the reach and value of art and innovation in the physical world.

Cannabis is disrupting the pharmaceutical and tobacco industries by giving Americans alternative ways to manage their mental and physical wellness, with or without a doctor's prescription. Simultaneously, our criminal legal system is being called to task about the incarceration of millions during a biased War on Drugs that disproportionately targeted low level, nonviolent drug offenders of color.

As adolescents, disruption was hardly something any of us were rewarded for, but in industries that dictate our ability to experience upward mobility and the pursuit of happiness, disruption is both inevitable and necessary. The evidence is in the growing numbers of start ups and venture capital firms committed to solving these industries' problems by developing and investing in emerging technologies. If you fit either of these descriptions, contact our firm today to see how we can support you in connecting the dots and bringing your disruptive and thus transformative vision to life - legally.

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