No Longer Up in Smoke? Ohio Lawyers May Now Advise Clients on the Marijuana Business

An amendment to an Ohio Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2 (Scope of Representation) permits lawyers to assist clients who are involved in the state-authorized medical marijuana business. The amendment was adopted in response to the Supreme Court of Ohio’s advisory opinion finding that counseling clients to engage in conduct that violates federal law—even if state law authorizes the conduct— and therefore also violates Ohio’s Rules of Professional Conduct. The Court suggested an amendment to the rule as a possible solution.

The amendment modifies Ohio Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2 by adding a subsection that specifically allows a lawyer to counsel a client regarding activities expressly permitted by the state’s medical marijuana law, on the condition that the lawyer also advises the client about a related federal law. The amendment does not address the Ohio Supreme Court’s concern that a lawyer who uses medical marijuana or participates in an Ohio regulated marijuana business commits a “technical” violation of federal law that may impact his trustworthiness, honesty or fitness to practice law. The opinion reserves that assessment to be applied on a case by case basis.

Twenty-four states have legalized medical marijuana, and most of those states have issued ethics opinions saying that legal guidance relating to the industry does not violate ethics rules so long as the client is informed about the illegality under federal law.

To read the Ohio Supreme Court advisory opinion, click here

To read the Ohio Supreme Court proposed amendment, click here

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