It’s helpful, Tara Tedrow opines, that marijuana jokes are low-hanging fruit.
“Listen, if we can get people to crack a smile before engaging in a conversation that tends to be politically polarizing, that is great,” she notes. A useful philosophy by which to abide when you’re in her position.
A senior associate for Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A., Tedrow is co-chair of the firm’s Cannabis & Controlled Substances Group. She represents investors, cultivators, technology developers and doctors, among others in the medical marijuana field.
Tedrow will also be teaching the University of Florida's first course titled "Medical Marijuana Law and Policy" this fall.
It was an easy segue for the land use attorney, who had been tracking the issue – and the laws developing around it – for years before medical use was legal here in Florida.
“In 2014, I could see the laws were about to change and I knew there would be no other, more impactful area of law that would come about in the state of Florida, or nationally, in my lifetime,” Tedrow told GrowthSpotter. “I knew that it would be an area that if you got involved, you could impact the outcome. You would really be able to provide legal counsel in what is an ever-changing, very complex area of the law…. I loved the challenge of being able to creatively approach issues and come up with solutions for clients.”
But she also just liked the challenge – period.
Tedrow’s parents, she believes, wouldn’t say they knew she’d be an attorney when she grew up. “I think they’d say they knew I was going to be whatever I wanted to be.
“I was fiercely independent, which still rings true today, but as a very young girl, I was always a self-starter,” she explains. “Very outgoing, an off-the-wall sense of humor from a young age. I love people, and I love helping people – always have – but I had an edge to me in that I loved to argue … I just enjoyed the intellectual curiosity that comes along with debate.”
That’s why she became involved in competitive debate in high school, after discovering that she had zero athletic aptitude. “(In middle school sports) I always got the spirit award. I was the best at being benched and still smiling,” she laughs.
Traveling an hour each way for high school in Celebration, where the debate program was top-notch, Tedrow had found her “sport.”
She won three Lincoln-Douglas Debate national championships before her high school career was over, a record that still stands today. With her success came a presidential scholarship for debate at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, one of the nation’s most prestigious programs.
“The whole point of debate is to allow you to be objective, and to get critical thinking skills that no other activity will ever teach you. It changed me personally, professionally and academically…. It trained my mind to be a good lawyer in the future, but it also trained me to be a better person, in understanding what civil and civic discourse should be like, from a very young age.”
And so it should be noted that Tedrow, solidly Millennial at age 31, has no social media accounts.
“It’s unfortunate,” she says of the online chatter, but she is definitely doing her part to raise the game.
Tedrow is a founder and co-executive director of the Central Florida Debate Initiative. She was also appointed this past January to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission by Gov. Rick Scott.
“Lowndes encourages all of our attorneys to get involved in the community, to take an active leadership role, and when I started as an associate, I realized that the schools I used to compete against, and even the school I competed for, no longer had debate programs.”
And so Tedrow gathered together interested educators, along with Beth Eskin, a nationally recognized debate coach at Timber Creek High School with one of the state’s best programs. Together they jump-started a program with about 50 kids competing in after-school debates, which has grown to a multi-school contingent that now brings competitors to the national stage.
“These are invaluable communication skills that will serve you no matter what career you have,” she says of debate. “It’s not just for lawyers and politicians and lobbyists. These skills are good for every student to have.”