10 Questions: Jason Tarasek

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Jason Tarasek practices in two very different areas of law: construction and cannabis. While construction law is very well-established, cannabis law is constantly changing, which requires Tarasek to do a little bit of everything to serve his clients. He answers 10 questions about his practice, professional development, and what he does outside of his job.

1. What made you want to become a lawyer?
I was working as a newspaper reporter in the St. Paul suburbs in the 1990s and, as the constriction of the newspaper industry accelerated, I did not see a bright professional future. As a reporter, I developed a deep interest in the intersection of politics, public policy and law. When I started law school, I did not intend on becoming a practicing lawyer. As I dug into my classwork, however, I realized that I enjoyed it more than I anticipated. Now I’ve been doing it for more than 20 years.

2. What led you to the area of cannabis law?
It has bothered me for a long time that we criminalize people who use marijuana. It makes no sense. I truly believe that marijuana is safer than alcohol. Because the American public has been subjected to a century of misinformation regarding marijuana, however, it remains controversial. Practicing cannabis law is fascinating because it changes every day. I also enjoy doing what I can to reverse the deep harm that America’s racist war on drugs has inflicted upon communities of color.

3. What do you wish other attorneys knew about the area of cannabis law? 
It is incredibly complex. It touches upon tax, banking, criminal justice, constitutional law, business law, regulatory law, family law, intellectual property, real estate, employment law and probably dozens of other practice areas.

4. You practice in both cannabis law and construction law, what’s it like practicing in two very different areas?
It keeps me on my toes. The body of law surrounding construction law is static and well-established. In contrast, cannabis law is dynamic and ever-evolving. While it is common for me to provide clear answers to my construction-law clients, my cannabis-law clients often aren’t as lucky because clear answers often simply don’t exist. If you are risk averse, you will not survive as a cannabis entrepreneur.
5. You’ve advocated for pro-cannabis positions at the capitol, what has been the most challenging part of being a lobbyist? 
Stigma. Many politicians equate marijuana with dangerous drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Because the federal government has listed marijuana on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act for so long, many people assume it belongs there. It doesn’t. One criterion for classification on Schedule I is that a drug has “no currently accepted medical use.” How can that be true when medical marijuana is legal in nearly 40 states, including Minnesota.
6. How do you start and end your work day?
Every morning is a mad scramble to get my kids on the school bus by 8 a.m. Every evening concludes with books at bedtime (my younger son and I are about to conclude the Harry Potter series). I can confidently advocate for adult-use marijuana legalization because I know that – in every state that has legalized marijuana – teen use has declined. Regulation of marijuana, as with alcohol, makes it more difficult for kids to obtain. I talk to my kids about the dangers of marijuana use when their brains are still developing as adolescents. States such as Colorado have used millions of dollars of tax revenue generated from legal marijuana sales to similarly educate teens about the risks of marijuana use. Even for adults, marijuana is not completely safe. When compared to the violence and disease caused by alcohol, however, it is pretty clear that marijuana is safer.

7. If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be doing?
I love kids, teaching and sports. I would probably be a high school government teacher and basketball coach. I learned some of my biggest life lessons from my coaches. I have coached youth sports for years and I find it intensely rewarding and fun. 

8. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 
Subscribe to the paper version of the newspaper. Although you can get all the stories online, there is no substitute for the hardcopy. It presents you with the opportunity to see stories that you might otherwise miss.

9. What book are you reading right now? 
I am looking forward to reading John Irving’s new book, “The Last Chairlift.”
10. Complete this sentence, everybody who knows me knows I love…
Alternative music. If you have never heard the band Metric you don’t know what you’re missing. Smart lyrics, creative songwriting. I just saw them at The Fillmore Minneapolis and they were amazing. 
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