Legal Ethics and State Marijuana Laws
Created on March 31, 2015
To date, 23 states have recognized the medical use of marijuana, and four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational manufacturing, distribution, and possession of marijuana. Given the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws, however, questions abound about whether lawyers may ethically advise and assist clients in complying with their state’s marijuana laws, or whether they would be running afoul of state and federal ethical rules governing lawyers’ conduct were they to do so.
While a handful of states have weighed in on the subject, the majority of state bar associations and ethics committees have remained silent on the issue. It is therefore imperative that lawyers in states with medical or recreational marijuana laws proceed with caution when contemplating advising or assisting a potential client on issues involving state medical or recreational marijuana laws.
This course surveys the conclusions reached by the various state bars that have considered this evolving issue, and will explore lawyers’ personal exposure under far-reaching federal civil and criminal laws such as conspiracy, asset seizure and forfeiture, and money laundering.
I. Recognize conflict between federal and state laws on the issue of legalization of medical and recreational marijuana
II. Understand the relevant federal criminal and civil statutes that may be implicated by assisting with marijuana-related businesses
III. Gain insight on federal enforcement priorities under the Controlled Substances Act
IV. Comprehend the ABA’s Model Rules 1.2 and 8.4
V. Survey the decisions of the various state bar associations and ethical committees that have considered the legal ethics of advising or assisting clients in complying with their state’s marijuana laws in the face of federal marijuana prohibition
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