Executive Director

Chris Davis

The National Cannabis Bar Association is excited to announce new leadership for the organization! We welcome Chris Davis as the new (and first) Executive Director. Chris brings a clear and fresh products- and services-driven vision to NCBA. We are thrilled to bring him on board and grow the organization under his leadership. 

Since its launch in June 2015, NCBA has experienced exponential growth and the board is excited about what we've built with the help of our members over the past 2 years. This growth has created a need for a dedicated Executive Director to continue to expand the membership and the offerings for our members. NCBA remains not only relevant to this industry but crucial in the face of recent political shifts, and our mission is essential to this industry. Chris is taking the helm at an extraordinary time and we are thrilled to have him lead the organization in its growth.

Chris, an attorney and member of the bar in both California and New York, joins us from Practical Law, a Thomson Reuters company, where he was an integral member of the Practical Law Finance Team. While at Practical Law, Chris was one of two editors that launched a new practice area for Financial Services, creating and curating content that caters to in-house finance attorneys. Throughout his five years at Practical Law, Chris was recognized for his work and interpersonal relations, first by becoming a Senior Associate Editor tasked with managing the Finance team's Associate Editor group, and then by becoming the first junior editor to make the jump to the senior editorial team, where he worked in finance and banking regulation. Prior to becoming a member of the Practical Law team, Chris worked in securities litigation in New York. 


Our Founding Board

Shabnam Malek, Esq.            President
Brand & Branch LLP     California

Shabnam Malek is President and Executive Director of the National Cannabis Bar Association and a partner at Brand & Branch LLP. She advises clients on domestic and international trademark clearance, rights, registration, and enforcement. She also represents clients in disputes, develops worldwide expansion strategies, and negotiates and drafts agreements, including settlement agreements, co-existence agreements, trademark license agreements, and interstate license agreements. In addition to trademark law, Shabnam practices promotions law, privacy law, and all things internet.   

Shabnam's professional affiliations include the International Trademark Association and California Bar Association, where she serves on committees, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Queen’s Bench. She regularly speaks about intellectual property issues pertaining to the cannabis industry, and co-authored an article title, “Likelihood of Confusion – Three Areas of Uncertainty in Trademark Law,” IP Litigator, September/October 2010. Shabnam has been named a Northern California Rising Star three years in a row by Super Lawyers Magazine.


Lara Leslie DeCaro, Esq.                                                  Secretary
Leland, Parchini, Steinberg, Matzger & Melnick, LLP     California

Lara L. DeCaro is a business attorney and mediator. She has concentrated her legal career in the areas of intellectual property, corporate governance and compliance, commercial transactions, real property, estate planning, and mediation. Most of her clients come from highly-regulated industries and, since 2009, she has translated that knowledge into a comprehensive medical cannabis practice. She has also represented event venues, entertainment providers, art galleries, authors, banks, recycling companies, investors, franchisors, an airport, and various small business owners.
Lara received a certificate in mediation in 1999 from the American Arbitration Association through Tulane Law School. She is a member of the New Mexico Senate Memorial 57 Advisory Council and the New Mexico State Bar Association ADR Committee, which authored the rules in New Mexico for alternative and effective dispute resolution.


Amanda Conley, Esq.   Treasurer
Brand & Branch LLP     California

Amanda Conley is Treasurer of the National Cannabis Bar Association and a partner at Brand & Branch LLP.  Amanda has a diversified practice focused on intellectual property and legal issues in emerging technologies and in the cannabis industry, including trademark and copyright counseling, enforcement, and litigation; advising on privacy and data security practices; recovering domain names through Uniform Dispute Resolution Proceedings; and representing clients in district court litigation and before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

Amanda has represented a variety of companies including large computer software and hardware companies, cannabis-infused edibles producers, start-ups focusing on technology, cannabis, home design, education, and gaming, and a major grocery store chain. Amanda speaks on privacy and intellectual property issues and at cannabis industry conferences. Before attending law school, Amanda worked as a statistician for the Institute of Behavioral Sciences in Boulder, Colorado. Amanda also serves as the co-chair of the Bay Area chapter of Women Grow.


Matthew Abel, Esq.
Cannabis Counsel, PLC        Michigan

Matthew Abel has been a criminal defense lawyer in Michigan for 30 years, and is Executive Director of Michigan NORML.  Matthew founded Cannabis Counsel, P.L.C., a five-attorney Detroit, Michigan boutique cannabis law firm. Mr. Abel is a lifetime member of the NORML Legal Committee and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and a member of Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, the National Lawyers Guild, and serves on the legal committee of the ACLU of Michigan.   He is a frequent speaker on marihuana law.  Mr. Abel co-authored an article in Volume 58 of the Wayne Law Review, THE FEDERAL CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT DOES NOT PREEMPT THE MICHIGAN MEDICAL MARIHUANA ACT.  

Matt holds a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University Law School, Master of Science in Public Administration and Bachelor in Philosophy from Central Michigan University, and Associate in Criminal Justice from Castleton University.  Mr. Abel is an Eagle Scout.


Leland Berger, Esq.
Oregon CannaBusiness Compliance Counsel, LLC    Oregon

Following over three decades in private practice, the last two decades focusing on representing medical cannabis patients and their providers statewide, Portland attorney and activist Leland R. Berger created Oregon Cannabusiness Compliance Counsel, LLC in 2013.

Mr. Berger co-drafted the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act and lobbied on its amendments and assisted in drafting several dispensary initiatives and legalization initiatives, including Ballot Measure 91. As Oregon continues to navigate through the process of regulating the production and distribution of both medical and adult use cannabis, Oregon Cannabusiness Compliance Counsel, LLC gathers the best available information to be able to provide the best legal advice. Mr. Berger’s practice is not limited to advising Cannabusiness, however, he continues to take on criminal cases, appeals and assist in drafting legislation and initiatives. He is admitted to practice in all courts of the state of Oregon, in the US District Court for the District of Oregon, in the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and before the United States Supreme Court.

Mr. Berger’s activism includes not only defending protestors but also citizen lobbying and public speaking at events nationally. Leland is a member of the National Cannabis Industry Association, the Oregon Cannabis Industry Association, the NORML Legal Committee, Americans for Safe Access' Board of Legal Advisers and the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. 


Rachel K. Gillette, Esq.
Greenspoon Marder, P.A.,     Colorado

Rachel K. Gillette is a cannabis business attorney based in the Denver-Boulder area of Colorado. She served as the Executive Director of Colorado NORML from 2013 tthrough 2016 and currently sits on their Board of Directors. Rachel's practice is focused on advocating on behalf of medical marijuana patients and caregivers, marijuana consumers, and the advocacy and representation of state and locally licensed medical and recreational marijuana businesses. Rachel’s practice represents numerous marijuana business taxpayers and marijuana business owners before the Internal Revenue Service, including marijuana business taxpayers facing tremendous tax challenges due to the IRS's application of 280E. Rachel also assists marijuana businesses under state, local, and federal tax audits. Rachel is highly involved in the political discussion surrounding the ongoing development of Colorado's regulatory model of cannabis legalization under Amendment 64, passed by 55% of Colorado voters in 2012. She is committed to ending the prohibition of cannabis at the national level and ensuring state licensed and legal marijuana businesses are fairly taxed and regulated.


Judge Shelli Williams Hayes, Esq. (Retired)
Co-Founder, 40 Acre Pharm, LLC and Co-Owner, Sweet Leaf Kitchens, LLC    Illinois

Judge Hayes is admitted to the New York Bar and the Illinois Bar.  She served as a Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois for 18 years.  While on the bench, Judge Hayes acquired courtroom legal experience in business, marketing and management. As a trial lawyer with Earl L. Neal and Associates, Chicago, IL, her legal practice specialized in real estate matters, condemnation, zoning,
litigation and municipal law.  She left private practice to serve as the Director of Real Estate Management, Cook County and also Assistant Chief Attorney, Cook County Forest Preserve.

Judge Hayes was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Minority Cannabis Business Association in September 2015. 
Her memberships include advocacy in the Illinois Women in Cannabis; Minority Cannabis Business Association; Illinois Cannabis Bar Association, National Cannabis Bar Association,and Illinois Cannabis Industry Association.  Judge Hayes received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York and her Juris Doctorate Degree from Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Bloomington, Indiana.  
She is a mother of four, a wife and a medical cannabis advocate. Her new cannabis business venture is Sweet Leaf Kitchens, LLC which she is the Founder and Co-Owner and is a mobile edibles company in Illinois.


Josh Kappel, Esq.
Vicente Sederberg L.L.C.     Colorado

Joshua Kappel, Esq., is partner at Vicente Sederberg LLC. A law firm dedicated to marijuana policy and business law. At Vicente Sederberg, Josh routinely provides advice to marijuana businesses about licensing, regulatory compliance, finance, general business and transactional matters, and the intersection of state and federal law.

In addition to his work with Vicente Sederberg, Josh is currently the Associate Director of Sensible Colorado, advocating for patient and consumer rights. Josh has testified at numerous public hearings on issues related to medical and recreational marijuana, presented at various conferences, and routinely writes articles about myriad marijuana issues.


Jason KleinEsq.
Offit Kurman           Washington, D.C.

Jason Klein is a recognized leader in providing legal advice to East Coast businesses and investors in the legal cannabis industry. His core expertise lies in application and licensing, compliance, and transactional support for dispensaries, cultivation centers, processing facilities, investors, and ancillary businesses in the cannabis market.  Working with current and future investors and operators, he helps to identify opportunities, secure capital, put together successful teams, and ensure operations run smoothly in highly regulated markets. He has worked across the country including DC, MI, CO, CA, AZ, MD, NY, MA, ME and NJ.  Jason holds a JD, MPA in economic development, and BS in physics, all from Indiana University - Bloomington. He is a licensed attorney in DC and Michigan, but is available for consulting within the East Coast and Midwest.


Robert Raich, Esq.
Robert A. Raich, P.C.     California

Robert A. Raich practices law in Oakland, California, where he specializes in medical cannabis law, business law, political law, and lobbying.  A graduate of Harvard University and the University of Texas School of Law, he previously practiced law with Eber, Nakagawa & Kitajo in San Francisco and with the Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C.

Robert Raich has spoken across the United States and internationally on the regulation of medical cannabis.  He was the attorney in both of the U.S. Supreme Court cases ever to consider medical cannabis issues: United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative, 532 U.S. 483 (2001), and Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005).  Mr. Raich was a member of the California Attorney General’s Medical Marijuana Task Force (Chairman, Caregiver Issues Subcommittee), and he has taught classes on medical cannabis to cadets at the Oakland Police Department’s Police Academy, as well as continuing education classes to other lawyers.  Mr. Raich is a member of the Board of Directors of California NORML.


Jonathan Robbins, Esq.
Akerman, LLP          Florida

Jonathan Robbins, a partner in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida office of the national law firm, Akerman, LLP, brings 22 years of experience handling complex regulatory proceedings and litigation matters to the NCBA. 

In 2014, Jonathan formed Akerman's Regulated Substances Task Force to help clients navigate the myriad laws that govern regulated substances, including, of course, medical and adult-use cannabis – a first for a national law firm.  Jonathan serves as the Chair of the Task Force and, together with his team, represents numerous clients in virtually all aspects of the cannabis space, including: licensing, lobbying, land use / zoning, litigation, banking, intellectual property and corporate transactions.  Jonathan has lectured and has been published on the issue of legalization of medical cannabis and is frequently quoted regarding this subject-matter in local and national publications.  Additionally, Jonathan recently had the honor of moderating a well-publicized debate between Florida's most influential advocate for the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida and its opposition.


Mary Shapiro, Esq.
Evoke Law    California

Mary L. Shapiro started her law firm in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District in 2009 after ten years at the renowned firm Townsend and Townsend and Crew, LLP. At Evoke Law, Mary counsels a broad range of clients in owning, enforcing, protecting and profiting from their intellectual property. True to her founding mission of providing practical and affordable intellectual property legal counsel, she simultaneously adds real business value (rather than merely creating legal expenses) for private and public companies alike. In the first 20 years of her business career, Mary worked her way up in the publishing world from book retailing to publishing, and rose to vice president of marketing and corporate communications for an international book distributor. At the time, as a purveyor, not yet a protector, of intellectual property, she was not yet aware of how perfectly her combined experience in marketing and publishing would serve her legal career later in life.


Mitzi Vaughn, Esq.
Greenbridge Corporate Counsel     Washington

Mitzi Vaughn is the Managing Attorney for Greenbridge Corporate Counsel. She also oversees Greenbridge’s Washington state practice, advising the cannabis industry regarding corporate, transactional, and employment matters, as well as adult-use and medical cannabis regulations.  Mitzi has represented a wide variety of cannabis industry leaders: nutrient manufacturers, cultivators, processors, retailers, real estate developers, investors, consultants, and software companies.

Mitzi is a member of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), the Coalition for Cannabis Standards & Ethics (CCSE), and the Washington Marijuana Business Association (MJBA). She is on the Advisory Council of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), the founding committee of the Ad Hoc US Coalition for Global Drug Policy Reform, and the founding board of the National Cannabis Bar Association.

Alex Zavell                    Senior Regulatory Analyst
Robert A. Raich, P.C.     California

While not officially a board member, NCBA would not exist without the hard work of Alex Zavell. Alex served as Senior Regulatory Analyst for Robert A. Raich, P.C. He worked with Rob to organize what eventually became NCBA, at the behest of Shabnam and Amanda. Due to his own individual commitment, interest, energy, initiative, personality, and ability, Alex became an indispensable fixture at all of our meetings and contributed in innumerable ways to the organization.