Jessica C. McElfresh has focused on cannabis law and policy since 2010. Currently she focuses on local and state applications, regulations, and compliance. Her practice also includes business, election, land use, and ethics, as well as criminal and license defense. She represents cannabis retailers, distributors, cultivators, manufacturers, and testing labs, as well as landlords and ancillary businesses. Jessica has guided clients through successful applications in jurisdictions such as the City of San Diego, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, King City, and the County of San Diego. She has authored and advised on ordinances and ballot measures to regulate cannabis businesses at the local level, including Measure U in La Mesa and Measure V in Lemon Grove.
She represents clients in state and federal court for offenses including homicide, arson, embezzlement, and weapons charges. Seventy-five percent of her cases have resulted in dismissals, no charges filed, or reductions to misdemeanors or infractions. Jessica represents people facing discipline or loss of their state and local licenses, particularly in the cannabis industry. She has unique experience with the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege and the duties of an attorney under investigation or facing criminal charges. She regularly lectures on the ethical considerations in a cannabis practice, including conflicts of interest, business partnerships with clients, and withdrawal from representation.
Outside of her law practice, Jessica is an advocate for cannabis and broader drug policy reform. She is an advisory board member for A New PATH, an organization dedicated to promoting therapeutic rather than punitive drug policies. Jessica has also served as a consultant for the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California about how Proposition 64 affects criminal justice reform and individual rights. She is a proud member of the International Cannabis Bar Association’s Professional Responsibility and Ethics Committee.
Jessica grew up in San Diego and graduated summa cum laude from Scripps College before attending the University of San Diego School of Law on a Dean’s Honor Scholarship. She has spoken at conferences and taught continuing legal education classes for organizations and law schools including the National Cannabis Industry Association Business Summit & Expo, International Cannabis Bar Association, California NORML, San Diego County Bar Association, and University of San Diego School of Law. She was selected as a Rising Star by Super Lawyers from 2017 through 2020.