Erika Gee is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a graduate of its Bowen School of Law, where she was a member of the Law Review. She started her legal career at Wright Lindsey Jennings and then moved to the office of the Arkansas attorney general, where she started as an assistant AG and rose to the position of chief of staff and chief deputy. She returned to Wright Lindsey Jennings in 2015 and is a member of the Government Relations practice group and the leader of the cannabis and industrial hemp team.
You are a recognized authority on the medical marijuana and hemp industries. What is the biggest challenge facing your clients today?
These businesses are so new to Arkansas that the regulatory framework and guidance is still being developed, which can be difficult to navigate. Good relationships and a collaborative approach with state and local officials are so crucial to smooth out rough spots in any highly-regulated industry, and that is especially true for medical marijuana and hemp.
COVID-19 has created unique challenges across all industries. What has been the key to navigating the crisis successfully and safely?
This is a good example of how important it is to be able to pivot your business within the confines of the regulatory structure. Both my pharmacy clients and my marijuana dispensary clients have seen a drastic increase in business and new challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, they’ve had to brainstorm new solutions to try to safely manage the increased volume. Many retail businesses have switched to curbside service, but the regulations don’t allow this with marijuana dispensaries. Instead, they have encouraged qualified patients to submit orders online to pick up inside, which has helped to reduce the length of time necessary for patients to be inside the dispensary to complete their purchase.
What is the best moment of your career so far?
It’s hard to choose just one moment – it is a thrill every time I am able to help a client resolve a serious issue that is threatening their business.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
John Kirtley, executive director of the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy. John and I worked together for many years when I was counsel for the pharmacy board. Our close working relationship gave me so much insight into the way that regulators approach issues with their licensees and helped me to see that I wanted to continue working in this field in private practice.
Tell us the best piece of career or life advice you have received.
Keep your eye on your ultimate goal – it can be easy to get caught up in smaller issues and lose track of what you are actually trying to accomplish.
How do you like to de-stress after a difficult day/week?
I love to cook – a creative cooking project like a new cuisine or a difficult baking recipe uses a different part of my brain than my day-to-day work.