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.