It’s High Time for a Change

Several states now allow the use and sale of medical or recreational marijuana; however, the drug remains illegal under federal law.  As more states move toward legalizing marijuana, the legal ethics rules governing an attorney’s permissible representation of a client are being questioned.

For example, in Nevada, lawyers are requesting ethics advice and a modification in the rules because Rule 1.2 of the Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct prevents lawyers from advising clients on conduct they know to be criminal.  Thus, Nevada and other marijuana-friendly states face pressure to amend their ethics rules to address the changing legal landscape.  King’s County, Washington, which includes the city of Seattle, has a new rule designed to better guide its attorneys: “A lawyer shall not be in violation of these rules or subject to discipline for engaging in conduct, or for counseling or assisting a client to engage in conduct, that by virtue of a specific provision of Washington state law and implementing regulations is either (a) permitted, or (b) within an affirmative defense to prosecution under state criminal law, solely because that same conduct, standing alone, may violate federal law.

It remains to be seen as to how this clash between state and federal law will impact lawyers who are requested to advise on the burgeoning marijuana business in various states throughout the country.

To read about Nevada’s current posture click here.

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