Lawyers and pot dealers have long intersected in criminal court, but as marijuana goes mainstream, attorneys have been working to keep sellers and growers legit.
Marijuana divisions are popping up at law
firms to advise pot shops on where they can locate, what their websites
can say and how to vet new clients.
Marijuana has become a multi-billion-dollar
industry. California and more than 20 other states have legalized the
drug for medical use, and the pot business has gotten a boost from more
recent approvals of recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon,
Washington state and Washington, D.C. Pot advocates hope growth
continues, as they push for voters to approve recreational pot in
California, Arizona, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts next year.
drug remains illegal under federal law, however, and the American Bar
Association's rules of professional conduct prohibit lawyers from
assisting in criminal conduct.
With this in mind, attorneys say
they focus on providing advice about what state marijuana laws do and
don't allow, and decline to answer questions about how clients can bend
But for law firms with other practice areas, there is also concern about how non-pot clients will view their marijuana work.
the Seattle, Washington-based law firm of Harris Moure, the marijuana
practice group has a completely separate brand - Canna Law Group - with
its own website.
law, in many ways, is no different from other legal practices,
attorneys say. It involves contracts, real estate transactions,
trademarks and regulatory compliance. What is unique, though, is the
constant prospect of running afoul of the law.
issues that come up also often have little or no precedent, said Dan
Garfield, an attorney at Foster Graham Milstein & Calisher in
Garfield, whose firm got into the marijuana
field several years ago, was recently working on an appeal of a federal
court's ruling that a couple did not qualify for bankruptcy protection
because their assets largely stemmed from marijuana enterprises.
For marijuana entrepreneurs, legal guidance can bring peace of mind.
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