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New Mexico Bar Association Cautions Attorneys to Avoid Medical Marijuana Clients

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The New Mexico State Bar Association cautioned attorneys statewide that assisting clients in the medical marijuana industry is prohibited by federal drug laws. It is also prohibited by professional conduct rules. Attorneys were advised to “proceed with caution” before providing legal services to any medical marijuana growers or dispensaries.

More than two dozen states in the U.S. face the same issues given that marijuana remains a Schedule I narcotic, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican.. The New Mexico Ethics Advisory Board has mixed answers to questions about attorneys complying with state codes of conduct while assisting medical marijuana businesses.

The committee’s opinion includes that, “At one end of the spectrum, the committee is in general agreement that negotiating contracts for the purchase of cannabis would be directly assisting the client to engage in criminal activity. At the other end of the spectrum, some committee members opined that forming a general alternative medical business, which could possibly include the prescribing and distributing of medical cannabis would not be such assistance.”

Joe Conte said, “I think it’s still a gray area”, in response to the ability for attorneys to represent nonprofit organizations but cannot assist any marijuana industry-related businesses in “committing a crime.”

In Arizona and Illinois, attorneys can represent clients in the marijuana industry. The State Bar of Arizona ruled that there is a safe harbor from prosecution for state-licensed growers and dispensaries.

Some lawmakers, such as William Slease, the New Mexico Supreme Court Disciplinary Board chief counsel, claims that there is no prevalent problem with attorneys representing clients in the medical marijuana industry.