Ohio recently passed a medical marijuana law. Many attorneys were submitting inquiries about the ethics of attorneys being able to provide legal services to medical cultivators, processors and dispensaries or clients that wanted to do business with these entities.
The Board of Professional Conduct of The Ohio Supreme Court recently stated that Ohio attorneys are prohibited from counseling or assisting a client to engage in conduct that the lawyer knows to be “illegal” under any law. As such because federal law prohibits the sale and distribution of marijuana it is still an illegal act.
As such attorneys that engage in providing legal services to the Ohio Medical Marijuana business could be subject to ethics violations.
Beyond the ethics violations, attorneys in other states working with Marijuana clients have had their trust accounts seized and been subject to federal criminal prosecution.
Some Attorney Malpractice Insurance carriers have refused to write Lawyers Professional Liability Insurance for a law firm that engages in working with Marijuana clients. Even if the Attorney Malpractice Insurance carrier will write the attorney working with Marijuana clients, they may find themselves without insurance coverage for those clients. Most Attorney Malpractice Insurance Policies have exclusions for attorneys that commit illegal acts.
The dilemma that all attorneys face when dealing with Marijuana clients is just because it is legal under state law, it is still illegal under federal law. Picking the wrong client at the wrong time could subject the attorney to disciplinary actions and criminal prosecution.