Ohio’s lawyers have ethics questions about medical marijuana


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Attorneys are asking whether Ohio’s new medical marijuana law that bars employers from disciplining professionals from working with marijuana businesses applies to them.

Lawyers have submitted at least two requests for formal opinions on the matter to the state Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct. Only the state’s high court can discipline licensed attorneys.

Attorneys want to know whether lawyers can use medical marijuana, own or operate medical marijuana businesses and represent marijuana cultivators, processors, dispensaries, patients and caregivers. The new medical marijuana law bars professional license holders from being disciplined “solely for engaging in professional or occupational activities related to medical marijuana.”

The law also allows employers to fire workers who are medical marijuana patients if they violate drug-free policies put forth by their employer.

State rules prohibit lawyers from knowingly assisting a client to break the law and from committing an illegal act that reflects “adversely” on the attorney’s honesty or trustworthiness. Lawmakers have made medical marijuana legal in Ohio, but it is still illegal on the federal level.

Ethics panels in most of the 24 other states that have legalized marijuana have allowed attorney involvement in the marijuana industry. However, Hawaii’s disciplinary board issued an opinion last year that attorneys could give legal advice about the state’s medical marijuana law, but couldn’t provide legal services to help establish a marijuana business. The panel said that would be considered assisting a federal crime.

The Board of Professional Conduct is examining the issue and is expected to issue an advisory opinion in August. The state Supreme Court is asking lawyers with related questions to submit them by July 11.

The state is still putting together the rules and licensing network to allow the growth and prescribing of medical marijuana, which must be available in the next two years.

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