Medical cannabis is quickly becoming a lucrative business in Minnesota, with potential manufacturers and consulting companies wanting to get in on the action. But one group — lawyers — is being locked out of the market so far by their own code of ethics, and they’re trying to get it fixed as soon as possible.
The law firm Thompson Hall sent a petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court last week looking to change the state’s rules for lawyers. Right now, the rules say that lawyer’s can’t give advice to those applying to be one of the state’s two cannabis manufacturers. The conflict boils down to a few lines in the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, basically an ethics guide for lawyers in the state.
The rule in question can be found on page 12 of the code, and it details when it’s legal or illegal to advise a client:
A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage, or assist a client, in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent, but a lawyer may discuss the legal consequences of any proposed course of conduct with a client and may counsel or assist a client to make a good faith effort to determine the validity, scope, meaning, or application of the law.
Now, obviously, medical cannabis is legal in Minnesota, but the drug is still illegal on the federal level. That makes it illegal for lawyers in Minnesota to counsel anyone on manufacturing it, according to the code. If the lawyers’ petition can convince the state Supreme Court to change the rules, though, they could jump back into the cannabis game.
Attorneys in other medical marijuana states have faced the same issues. In Colorado, where medical cannabis dispensaries have been operating for more than six years, the state Supreme Court only recently ruled that attorneys can assist state-legal medical marijuana and recreational marijuana business clients.
Read more over at The Blotter.