Pubdate: Tue, 25 Mar 2014
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2014 The Denver Post Corp
Author: John Ingold


Court: Lawyers Must Ensure Businesses Obey State Law

Colorado's lawyers now have the state's permission to work with 
marijuana businesses, after the Colorado Supreme Court approved a 
rule change Monday that eliminates the threat of ethics sanctions.

The new rule gives lawyers the go-ahead to work with marijuana 
businesses-even though those businesses are breaking federal law-so 
long as the lawyers don't help businesses also break state law. The 
updated rule, signed by Chief Justice Nancy Rice, states that a 
lawyer "may assist a client in conduct that the lawyer reasonably 
believes is permitted by these constitutional provisions and the 
statutes, regulations, orders, and other state and local provisions 
implementing them." The rule requires lawyers also to advise their 
clients about federal marijuana laws and policies.

The notice of the new rule states that justices Nathan Coats and 
Allison Eid dissented, though no explanation was given.

Colorado's constitutional amendments legalizing both medical and 
recreational marijuana left Colorado lawyers in a professional 
pickle. Because ethics rules prevent lawyers from helping clients do 
illegal things, the Colorado Bar Association last year declared that 
lawyers could be in trouble for doing more than giving basic advice 
to marijuana businesses.

Arranging a lease, negotiating a contract or soliciting financial 
help would all violate ethics rules, according to the bar 
association's analysis.

Though no attorney had ever been disciplined for working with a 
marijuana business, the opinion alarmed the growing number of lawyers 
in Colorado who specialize in cannabis law. They argued that lawyers 
are crucial in helping marijuana businesses negotiate Colorado's 
complicated regulations.

The Supreme Court held a public hearing on the rule change earlier this month.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom