Ohio Supreme Court Modifies Rules to Allow Attorneys to Advise Medical Marijuana Businesses

Just yesterday, the Supreme Court of Ohio modified the Rules of Professional Conduct that govern attorneys’ ethical responsibilities to allow attorneys to counsel and assist the public, including potential businesses, regarding Ohio’s medical marijuana law. The amendment to the rules was needed after the Board of Professional Conduct released an advisory opinion in August indicating that, since marijuana is still illegal federally, advising clients under Ohio’s new law could present ethical problems.

The amendment states that attorneys can counsel and assist clients regarding any conduct expressly permitted under House Bill 523, the bill that legalized medical marijuana. Further, attorneys can provide counsel and assistance regarding any state statutes, rules, orders, or other provisions implementing that act. However, the attorney must also advise the client regarding the federal laws related to marijuana.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor indicated that the Court placed this rule change on an accelerated calendar to clear up the uncertainty surrounding attorneys’ ability to provide advice and counsel to clients on the new law. The amendment took effect on September 20, 2016.