“an attorney engaged by a marijuana practitioner to do the work that lawyers traditionally do for businesses necessarily puts herself at risk. Because all lawyers have an obligation not to knowingly assist criminal conduct – and because their clients’ conduct is by definition criminal – attorneys who do any legal work for MMJ clients face the possibility of both significant ethical and criminal consequences for their actions.”
Sam Kamin – University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Eli Wald – University of Denver Sturm College of Law
August 17, 2012
While marijuana remains a prohibited substance under federal law – one whose manufacture, possession, or distribution is a serious felony – 17 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for certain medical uses. This tension between state and federal law creates confusion for all of those who work in the emerging medical marijuana (“MMJ”) industry. As marijuana moves from the shadows to the storefronts, it becomes a business. Businesses have employees, shareholders and leases; they must comply with state and local zoning ordinances and pay their taxes. In most businesses, proprietors turn to lawyers for help with these and other legal issues. Lawyers incorporate businesses, they write leases and employment agreements, they help navigate the labyrinth of regulatory compliance and ensure that taxes are being paid promptly and accurately.