The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals is seeking public comment on a proposed amendment to the Rules of Professional Conduct which would explicitly allow attorneys to work with medical cannabis businesses in the state.
The proposed new section to the rules reads:
“A lawyer may counsel or assist a client regarding conduct expressly permitted under Senate Bill 386, the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes and any state rules, regulations, orders, policies and procedures implementing the aforesaid act, as amended. In these circumstances, the lawyer shall advise the client regarding related federal law.”
The change is proposed by Charles M. Johnson of law firm Frost Brown Todd, LLC. after the West Virginia Office if Disciplinary Counsel issued a warning to attorneys in the state claiming that “the use of medical marijuana by licensed West Virginia attorneys remains illegal under federal law and is thusly a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct” and that “the representation of growers, processors, dispensaries, certifying physicians and other intending to participate in the medical marijuana program … by West Virginia licensed attorney will subject them to discipline and perhaps prosecution.”
The proposed rule change would only address the representation issue.
“The [Medical Cannabis Act] established a complex regulatory scheme, and it would be difficult for prospective participants in the medical cannabis program to implement effective programs complying with the MCA and the new regulations without the assistance of a lawyer well versed in the MCA and the rules adopted by the [Office of Medical Cannabis]. In addition, counsel for the OMC, and lobbyists and lawyers in the legislature that are engaged in prospective changes to the MCA or rules to be adopted thereunder may also be placed in ethical quandaries.” – Johnson, in the amendment proposal filing
All comments must be received by the Appeals Court by Feb. 16.
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