Ethical Issues in Representing Clients in the Cannabis Business: “One toke over the line?”
In his timely piece, Dennis A. Rendleman, Ethics Counsel at the American Bar Association, examines the ethical issues that arise when representing clients in the cannabis business. He provides a summary of the states which permit the manufacture, distribution and use of recreational or medical marijuana, and then moves on to discuss the federalism conflict. Mr. Rendleman also discusses whether the ABA Model Rules and Ethics Opinions restrict what a lawyer may do in counseling or assisting clients involved in cannabis businesses in states where medical and/or recreational use of cannabis is permitted. Existing rules and ethics opinions from other jurisdictions are examined and the author delves into a more thorough application of the Model Rules when state and federal laws conflict. The author ultimately concludes that a lawyer does not violate the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, specifically Rule 1.2(d) or Rule 8.4(b), when advising or representing a client in establishing, operating, or withdrawing from a medical or recreational marijuana business permitted by state law.