We had the good fortune of connecting with Graham Pechenik and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Graham, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I had been working close to a decade at big law firms as a patent lawyer, and although I was working on high profile cases with lots of talented and ambitious people, it felt very bureaucratic and I wasn’t finding much personal satisfaction. I knew I wanted something different, but I couldn’t really imagine what it would look like. In 2015 I went with my friend to a cannabis business conference, and although I had enjoyed cannabis since high school, gotten involved in some of the reform efforts, and grown a handful of times, I had never been to an expo like this before. I had little idea how much entrepreneurship and innovation was going on in the space, and the amount of energy and intensity just blew me away. I spent the whole weekend talking with different people about their cannabis-related inventions, and kept hearing the same story from many, about how they struggled to find a good lawyer to help patent their invention—because law firms were hesitant to take on cannabis clients, they couldn’t afford $800 or more an hour in fees, they couldn’t find a lawyer who understood or cared about cannabis culture, or some combination of the three. I came away from all the conversations of the weekend feeling confident I could find work with cannabis clients, and incredibly excited about the potential. I immediately signed up for every other upcoming cannabis conference I could find, and by the time I went to the next one, I had a website, a stack of business cards, and my own firm “Calyx Law.” And ultimately I found the personal satisfaction I had been missing—by working directly with people to help protect their inventions and businesses, and sharing in their passion for them.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
By now it’s been five years that I’ve been working with cannabis clients to apply for patents at Calyx Law. I’ve filed dozens of patents on a variety of inventions including new chemical compounds, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical formulations, methods of treatment, extraction processes and equipment, mechanical devices, and software. Alongside, I’ve also done trademarks and licensing, as well as some regulatory work. In the last few years I’ve also started doing more and more relating to psychedelics, and now it’s a majority of my practice. Part of that has been because existing clients have started moving into the psychedelics space, and part of that has been because psychedelics are actually closest to my heart. In college, I chose my majors in Biochemistry and Cognitive Neuroscience after my first psychedelic trip with psilocybin mushrooms inspired deep curiosity about the chemical and neural bases for the changes in consciousness I experienced, and brought forward positive changes in my personality. Initially I thought I could have a career researching psychedelics. However, that idea was sort of scoffed at by my professors, and I was encouraged to think about law school instead, as a way to advocate for cognitive liberty and the legalization of psychedelics. So in a way, I’ve found another path to where I wanted to end up—but instead of creating novel psychedelics myself, I’m helping others to patent theirs and to build psychedelics businesses around those patents. Every day I feel fortunate to be doing this work, especially because sharing in the passion of others still brings me deep personal satisfaction. I also feel amazed about how quickly both the cannabis and psychedelics spaces have been progressing—from having to sneak away for a joint in college to starting a law firm to focus on cannabis, and from only using encrypted messages to talk about mushrooms to being invited to speak about them at legal conferences. I believe further legalization of cannabis and psychedelics will have incredible benefits for our physical and mental health, and positive impacts on society and our broader culture. I’m delighted and very thankful to be part of the conversation.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I spend almost every waking hour in front of screens, so when I’m not working I always want to be outside. Luckily though, it’s easy to find parks and open space in the city. When I’m in LA, that usually means grabbing a coffee at All Time in Los Feliz and walking in Griffith Park; in SF, it means a coffee from Philz in the Mission, and walking up Bernal Heights Hill. Then, simply sitting and looking at the city view. I also volunteer twice a month for the National Park Service as a park interpreter, answering questions at the info table and giving 15 minute “tree talks” to visitors. I’ll keep my cell phone off, and one quiet day in the woods is what gets me through the stress of the next two weeks. I definitely believe we need an occasional forest bath. My girlfriend Emily and I also have a community garden plot where we get away to get our hands dirty, and during the rainy season you can find us roaming and foraging for wild mushrooms. So when I have guests in town, I try to share these same favorites with them—taking a walk with a coffee as the sun’s just coming up or going down, heading out of town for a hike, maybe even harvesting a few beans in the garden, if I can convince them.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Basically everything I’m thankful for in life has someone else’s love, support, and encouragement at the root of it, whether family, friends, or mentors, so I’d need a whole book to name everyone. As for starting Calyx Law in particular, the biggest shoutout goes to Brendan Kelly, the founder and CEO of CEAS Collective, and one of my best friends. Brendan was there at my first cannabis conference, and watching how Brendan was navigating the cannabis industry from success to success was a huge inspiration. Once I jumped in he introduced me to some of my first clients, and became one himself. It’s my clients in general that really deserve all the credit and recognition, as it’s only because of their trust that I’m able to do the work I enjoy. And for all the other people who have put up with me over the years, and helped me to flourish in a multitude of ways, I think you know who you are; thank you!