Thursday, August 18, 2016

Ohio board holds attorneys can't advise clients on marijuana business -- UPDATE: Ohio Supreme Court reacts by asking for an amendment to the rules

The last ABA national conference on professional liability featured a panel on ethical issues related to representing clients involved in the legalized marijuana business.  As reported by the ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct Conference Report, "[t]he panelists and other authorities ... said the uncertainties facing cannabis industry lawyers stem from the absence of clear guidance, in the ethics rules or case law, on several questions regarding the propriety of representing marijuana businesses in states that have decriminalized the drug for recreational or medicinal purposes."  For this reason, there is a risk for lawyers of facing professional discipline for providing legal services to marijuana businesses.

Now comes news that the Ohio board that oversees attorney conduct decided last week that attorneys aren’t allowed to help someone establish a legal medical marijuana-related business in the state because using, growing and selling marijuana remains a federal crime.

So, on the positive side, this decision does provide clear guidance for lawyers in Ohio.  But, obviously, on the negative side, it is not what lawyers representing clients in this particular business would want to hear.

I have not read the opinion itself, though, so I can't provide an opinion on it.  I just read the news in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, which did not link to the opinion itself.

UPDATE (8-18-16):  Soon after the advisory opinion was published the Ohio Supreme Court ordered its staff to prepare a draft amendment to alter its professional conduct rules for lawyers in order to clarify the legal services they can offer to clients connected to Ohio's upcoming medical marijuana business.  The Columbus Dispatch has more on the story here.

Thanks to Lloyd Snyder (Cleveland-Marshall College of Law) for the update.

UPDATE (8-19-16): The Law for Lawyers Today has an update on the story here.

UPDATE (9-16-16): Faughnan on Ethics has a comment on the story here.

UPDATE (9-20-16):  The Ohio Supreme Court has adopted an amendment to Ohio Rule 1.2 to allow representation of clients in the legal marijuana business.  Go here for more.

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