Medical Marijuana Is Legal In Ohio, But Attorneys Aren’t Allowed To Help Pot Businesses

Craig Boudreau | Vice Reporter

Ohioans who are looking to start a medical marijuana business cannot get help from attorneys, despite medical marijuana being legal in the state.

The Board of Professional Conduct in Ohio, under appointment of the Ohio Supreme Court, ruled it could be a potential ethics violation for an attorney to undertake the cause of helping someone establish a marijuana-based business, The Columbus Dispatch reported Thursday.

“Even though the completion of any of these services or transactions may be permissible under Ohio law and a lawyer’s assistance can facilitate their completion, the lawyer ultimately would be assisting the client in engaging in conduct that the lawyer knows to be illegal under federal law,” the board wrote in its opinion.

Ohio state Democratic Rep. Dan Ramos told marijuana-based website Leafly the opinion is “deeply troublesome from a constitutional standpoint,” since there was specific language written into the law that allows attorneys to represent these businesses.

The Cannabist reported in June that those holding a law license cannot be disciplined “solely for engaging in professional or occupational activities related to medical marijuana.”

The board’s opinion means that any lawyer who involves themselves in such matters could be operating counter to federal law and open themselves up to ethics violations — which could mean disciplinary action, or even a loss of their law license.

The opinion also states that, despite medical marijuana being legal in Ohio, attorneys cannot use medical marijuana. The board said its opinion reflects similar rulings that have taken place in Colorado, Maine, Connecticut and Hawaii.

“I would probably think twice about representing that kind of a client in Ohio. … I don’t how you do business without an attorney without running into trouble very quickly,” Khurshid Khoja, founder of San Fransisco-based Greenbridge Corporate Counsel — which represents the marijuana industry — told The Columbus Dispatch.

“It’s a pretty untenable position,” Khoja concluded.

Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich signed the medical marijuana bill in June, allowing patients suffering from any of 19 ailments to obtain a prescription. However, dispensaries are not expected to be in operation for another two years, according to Leafly.

Rick Dove, director of the Board of Professional Conduct for the Supreme Court of Ohio, told The Daily Caller News Foundation if the DEA ruled to reschedule marijuana, this may not be an issue.

The DEA ruled Thursday it will not reschedule the drug from its current Schedule I status.

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