Een interview met Vicente Sederberg Partner & Composite Agency Medeoprichter Jeffrey Welsh


Translating…


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Jeff Welsh headshot. Man with bald head and pronounced dark beard.

Jeff Welsh photo credit Angel Ooriggi

photo credit Angel Ooriggi

Now, this is a part of the cannabis business that I’m intrigued to know more about…I have a very personal reason why the work of respected counsel Jeffrey Welsh resonates with me. I grew up in an extremely conservative part of New Jersey where time stands still since cannabis prohibition took hold in the 1940s.  There, cannabis is vilified instead of celebrated. Stigmas abound in this divided county— where cannabis arrests are more common than jay-walking tickets. That’s why I wish there were more individuals like Mr. Welsh in the world. The engagement of individuals like him will push the removal of certain stigmas, allowing for greater transparency in cannabis and entertainment. That’s what inspired me to interview him.

Jeff & Luke at the Cannabis Business Awards in front of the Civilized Magazine backdrop

Jeff & Luke – Cannabis Business Awards – photo by Matt Heien

– photo by Matt Heien

Warren Bobrow: Please tell me about Vicente Sederberg & Composite? What brought you to the cannabis business? What did you do originally?

Jeffrey Welsh: I was born and raised outside of Philadelphia, and began my career on the performance side of the entertainment industry. After several years of touring and recording professionally as a saxophonist, I decided my skill set would be best served on the business side of the entertainment industry, and headed to Pepperdine Law School in 2010.

 It was at Pepperdine where I met my future business partner Luke K. Stanton, and began my foray into the legal cannabis community. After law school graduation, I accepted a position in Corporate Business Affairs at the largest talent agency in the world, William Morris Endeavor, now Endeavor, while simultaneously continuing to work in the legal cannabis industry part time with Mr. Stanton. In this position, my goal was to develop an understanding of the entertainment industry while concurrently connecting entertainer-advocates with projects and groups actively working in the cannabis space. 

 In 2015, Luke and I decided that it was time for us to hang our own shingle, and founded Frontera Law Group to help entrepreneurs and businesses navigate the complex legal and regulatory landscape of the emerging cannabis industry in California. We were fortunate enough to grow Frontera into one of California’s leading specialty cannabis business firms, helping to develop an array of best-in-class cannabis companies, brands, producers and ancillary service providers across the state.

 In April of 2017, I co-founded a full-service creative agency, Composite. Composite helps guide and grow brands in the legal cannabis industry, and helps to legitimize the perceptions of the cannabis industry through branding, advertising, marketing and content services.

 In October of 2019, Luke and I were fortunate to join forces with Vicente Sederberg as Partners in the Los Angeles office. Vicente Sederberg is known for its unparalleled knowledge, experience, and influence in the cannabis and hemp industries. VS offers a full suite of corporate, legal, policy, regulatory, and research services for all types of cannabis businesses, ancillary businesses, trade associations, nonprofits, and governmental bodies. Since its founding in 2010, VS has helped shape cannabis and hemp policies across the nation and around the globe.   

Jeff DJ Sax

Jeff DJ Sax

– photo credit Antonio Javiniar

WB: Do you have a mentor? Did you always want to do what you do today? Who inspired you?

JW: I’ve been fortunate to have exceptional mentors throughout every stage of my career. At an early age, my parents instilled strong work-ethic into my core makeup, and have been endlessly supportive throughout my professional career permutations (from musician to lawyer to entrepreneur). 

When I started playing the saxophone in fourth grade, that was the first time in my life that I felt like I found my calling. For whatever reason, music seemed to come naturally to me, and my musical abilities developed quickly, which led me to The Hartt School, a performing arts conservatory located in West Hartford, for my undergraduate studies. At Hartt, I studied under Carrie Koffman, who is an exceptional educator and was my first professional mentor. Carrie approached her profession with unbridled enthusiasm and dedication, and under her wing I committed myself to the pursuit of musical and personal excellence. I credit a ton of my success both during and after my musical career to the four years I spent with Carrie, and I am forever grateful for her guidance.

When I started working at Endeavor, I was essentially fresh out of law school and had minimal professional legal experience. My boss at Endeavor, Courtney Braun, was instrumental in my legal and business development. Courtney taught me how to think and act like a lawyer, and from her I learned how to remain calm in the midst of chaos. The pace of work at a talent agency can be crippling to a young professional. I credit Courtney with not only helping me survive, but thrive. Courtney’s guidance gave me the confidence I needed to start my own business ventures, and to embrace the leader inside of me.

More recently, I have been fortunate to cultivate a strong personal relationship with Brian Kelley of the band Florida Georgia Line. Brian’s entrepreneurial vision and approach to life has inspired me to tackle all of my professional and personal initiatives with fearlessness and zest. Brian feels like the brother I never had!

I’m certainly neglecting to mention a host of other colleagues and professionals in my orbit. I’m extremely blessed to have friends and colleagues who remain at the pinnacle of their profession. My hope is that I can have the same impact on the lives of up and coming professionals in the cannabis and entertainment communities. 

WB: What are your goals in business — six and twelve month?  What about obstacles, and stigmas?

JW: My goal at Vicente Sederberg is to grow and develop the media and entertainment practice of the firm until we are the go-to firm for anything involving the intersection of cannabis/hemp and entertainment, and to play a key role in positioning VS as the preeminent cannabis and hemp law firm in the world.  

The biggest obstacle for our industry is overcoming generations of misinformation and propaganda specific to cannabis and its consumers. We place a tremendous amount of responsibility on ourselves to destigmatize through professionalism and education. In terms of the legal community specifically, the role of a California cannabis lawyer five years ago was not to create a successful business enterprise for their client, but to keep them out of jail. For that reason, we take great pride in protecting our clients from bad actors, or those looking to take advantage of a nascent marketplace to the detriment of our clients. The most common misconception we see from outsiders looking to cash in on the “green rush” are those who fail to understand the nuanced challenges of the industry. There is nothing simple about navigating a business that remains illegal at the federal level. Insurance and bank accounts are challenging to obtain and maintain, traditional advertising and marketing methods are highly restrictive, licensure requires millions in financing, and legitimate cannabis businesses still have to compete with a very healthy black market, which will be a constant presence until States have generated enough tax revenue for meaningful enforcement.

Jeff and his parents in Italy.

Jeff & Parents in Italy

– photo credit to Italian waiter

WB: Do you have a favorite food memory? What does your favorite meal look like? Made by whom — living or not? 

JW: My mother’s side of the family is Italian, so my favorite food memories growing up involve sitting around my Grandmom’s dinner table on Sunday, and being presented with enough food for a small army. Italian food will always have a special place in my heart, and I was fortunate enough to take my parents to Italy last year, which was their first time visiting. In terms of specific food, I have to go with the classics: chicken parmesan, pasta with homemade gravy (Italians refuse to call it sauce), and fresh warm bread. Ironically, my father (who is English and Welsh) is probably the best cook in my immediate family (sorry, Mom!), and he always cooks for me when I go back to the East Coast for the holidays.

WB: What is your passion? 

JW: I have to start with my clients here. These are individuals who have sacrificed their liberty, or in some cases, their lives, for cannabis. We are acutely aware that we stand on the shoulders of the operators and activists who gave us an opportunity to be where we are now. As an industry, we have the ability to effectuate tremendous social, political, and financial change at a global scale. The legalization of cannabis will make our world a better place for all those who live in it, and I am honored to play a small part.

Outside of cannabis, music will always be my core passion. I am fortunate to still be able to perform in the greater Los Angeles area about once a month, and it’s very important to stay active in the music community, as I feel it’s both a meaningful differentiator but also keeps the creative side of me alive.  

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