Technically, medical marijuana is legal in the state of Ohio – but the state is still working on regulations and expect it could take up to two years before medical marijuana is available to patients legally. One of the concerns that has been addressed – to an extent – is how medical marijuana laws will impact attorneys. Originally, due to the conflict between state and federal law, it was unclear whether or not attorneys could help clients hoping to enter the industry or patients looking for legal advice – but the Ohio Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday (9.20.2016) amended the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct to allow such attorney client relationships.
“A lawyer may counsel or assist a client regarding conduct expressly permitted under Sub.H.B. 523 of the 131st General Assembly authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes and any state statutes, rules, orders, or other provisions implementing the act. In these circumstances, the lawyer shall advise the client regarding related federal law.”
For attorneys, this means that when clients come to them looking for advice, whether it be on the legalities of working in the industry, help with filing an application for a license or a patient or parent of a patient looking for information – there will be nothing that prevents lawyers from providing them with legal advice. However, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the lawyers should also be providing them with information regarding federal laws as well – seeing as how federal law still trumps state law even if the federal government is unlikely to act.
This ruling came quicker than many have expected – but Chief Justice Maureen O’Connell says this was in order to ensure that attorneys knew the do’s and don’ts before they decided to act or turn away clients. Some firms with out of state ventures in the cannabis industry were already advising clients on these matters – but now all attorneys know that they can work with cannabis industry clients without fear of disbarment.
Unfortunately, there are still a couple of things that were not resolved – including whether or not attorneys can use medical marijuana – or start a medical marijuana industry business themselves. During the Supreme Court’s commenting period, attorney Thomas Haren said that he specifically asked these questions and an answer regarding them was never even hinted at. For now, at least they know they do not have to turn away clients – but anything else in regards to lawyers’ rights within the state’s medical marijuana industry will have to wait for now.