The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission announced yesterday that it will hire a diversity consultant to examine what steps it could take to improve racial diversity in the state’s medical marijuana industry.  The announcement comes after a losing applicant for a medical marijuana license filed a lawsuit against the Commission alleging that its selection process for coveted marijuana growing licenses ignored a statutory mandate to consider the racial diversity of the applicants. The complaint alleges that the Commission was “derelict in its legislatively mandated duty to ‘actively seek to achieve racial, ethnic, and geographic diversity when licensing medical cannabis growers.’”

Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus has also criticized the lack of racial diversity in the Commission’s licensing process.  Of the 30 business that were cleared for growing and process licenses in 2016, minorities held leadership positions in only two.
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As state laws regarding medical and recreational marijuana evolve, lawyers face a variety of ethical issues relating both to counseling clients in marijuana related businesses (MRBs)and to financing or participating in MRBs.

The ethical dilemma stems from the fact that while state laws continue to expand the legality of marijuana, its use and possession in any form is still against federal law.  Most state ethical rules contain a rule similar to Rule 1.2(d) of the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct (Model Rules) which states:

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 a proposed course of conduct with a client and may counsel or assist a client to make a good faith effort to determine the validity, meaning, or application of the law.

The dilemma created by Rule 1.2(d) is that it does not make a distinction between state and federal law.
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Earlier this month a major US bank told the Alaska Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office that it can no longer accept credit card payments for licensing fees.  This followed on the heels of the closing of several business accounts of marijuana related businesses (MRBs) by Alaska banks and the closing of personal accounts maintained by

On August 16, in the case of United States v. McIntosh[1], the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, reversed decisions from the District Court for the Northern District of California denying the appellants’ request for  relief against the Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) in connection with indictments brought against them for violation of the Controlled Substances Act.  The Court held that the appellants had standing to seek relief under a rider to the Consolidated Appropriations Act[2] prohibiting the DOJ from spending funds to prevent states’ implementation of their medical marijuana laws (“§ 542”).
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Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

The Justice Department can’t interfere with states’ medical pot laws.

Note: we’re preparing a blog post on this topic – keep watching