Sam Howzit

Ohio Court Amends Rules to Allow Attorneys and MMJ Companies to Work Together

Ohio’s Supreme Court has amended their rules of professional conduct giving attorneys the green light to assist medical marijuana companies, according to a report.

“A lawyer may counsel or assist a client regarding conduct expressly permitted under [state medical cannabis law] authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes and any state statutes, rules, orders, or other provisions implementing the act,” the new rules state. “In these circumstances, the lawyer shall advise the client regarding related federal law.”

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said the court needed to accelerate the rule changes because attorneys “needed to know the dos and don’ts as quickly as possible.”

Last month, the court’s Board of Professional Conduct had issued a non-binding opinion that barred legal professionals from helping individuals seeking to establish legal medical marijuana businesses due to federal marijuana laws.

That opinion also barred attorneys from owning or working at a medical marijuana business and participating in the program — the rule changes do not address those two issues; however, they could be clarified in medical marijuana regulatory rules being drafted by officials.

Thomas Haren, an attorney who requested the initial advisory opinion, said he was satisfied with the court’s decision but would have liked to see more leeway in interpreting the state law.

“The only time that we may still have a gray area is on the margins where a client asks an attorney to determine whether something is permitted under the law and it’s not clear,” Haren said in the report.

Ohio’s medical marijuana law took effect on Sept. 8, but it could take as long as two years for the program to be active.      

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