Fox News reported over the weekend. AFloridalawyer who told his clients they were legally allowed to grow cannabis was ordered by a Jacksonville judge last month to pay a couple almost $370,000, it has emerged.
The ruling comes roughly three years after the pair sued him for bad legal advice.
Ian Christensen was disbarred on January 18 after charging people nearly $800 for a “patient identification card” and other services, which he said would prevent his clients from being arrested for growing or having the drug on them, even before the state had legalized medical marijuana. The Florida Supreme Court described his actions as “incompetence and extremely serious harm to clients.”
Scott and Marsha Yandell took his advice and were subsequently raided by a SWAT team in February 2015. At the time, he told the couple “they had nothing to worry about,” as long as it was for a medical purpose, according tothe Florida Times-Union.
“If a patient can prove to a law enforcement officer that cannabis is the safest medication available to treat their diagnosed condition, they are NOT subject to arrest,” his website stated.
According to a Florida Supreme Court order, Christensen spent years charging his clients with this misguided legal advice prior to the 2016 approval of Florida Amendment 2, which allows the use of marijuana for debilitating medical conditions. He conducted business as “Health Law Services,” where he charged people $799 for a package deal that included a doctor’s visit, legal services, documents and the ID card.
The Yandells sued the former lawyer in 2016, andhe was ordered on July 29 to pay the couple nearly $370,000 for lost wages due to their arrests. Marsha Yandell lost her nursing license after 25 years and Scott lost his engineering job of 15 years.
Christensen blamed his actions on being “inexperienced, young and naïve in the advice he gave and the positions he took in dealing with individuals already involved with marijuana,” according to court documents. He stopped practicing law in 2015 and no longer lives in Florida.
“Obviously the challenge at this point is going to be collecting on [the judgment],” Bonderud said. “It appears to me that he is not going to voluntarily pay anything, so it will be incumbent upon us to discover assets or discover income sources and to go after them. That’s what we’re going to do for as long as the judgment is valid.”
Simple Justice Blog posted on the story in January
Ian Christensen: Alt-Legal In The Weeds
Try it. Screw the old lawyers who harp on things like law and ethics to keep young lawyers down. It’s a new world, and the only thing that matters is your passion. So Ian James Christensen decided to follow his dreams.
[I]n 2013, less than three months after being admitted to The Florida Bar, Respondent founded IJC Law Group, P.A., and began offering legal services and advice to clients. At the time, Respondent had no training in the area of medical marijuana. Six months later, Respondent formed Health Law Services (HLS), and five months after that, incorporated Cannabinoid Therapy Institute (CTI). Respondent listed IJC Law Group, P.A., as CTI’s registered agent and nonlawyer Christopher Ralph—a self-professed expert in the medical marijuana industry— represented himself as CTI’s director. Ralph was also the “Legal Administrator and Consultant” for HLS.
Weed lawyer. Create a medical marijuana ecosystem, from medical necessity to “Official Legal Certification,” so his client could show any police officer that he wasn’t just a pothead, but a certified medical marijuana user. Cutting edge stuff, and all the gurus said young lawyers should seize the world and make it their own. Christensen was owning it.
Except for one detail. It was a complete sham. There is no such thing in Florida, and this baby lawyer was essentially selling pot licenses written in crayon to unsuspecting clients who believed he had the authority to do so. It didn’t work out well for his clients.
That certificate was supposed to give Christensen’s clients an affirmative defense and inform police of their right to use, possess and grow cannabis based on medical necessity.
“Respondent did not tell his clients that this affirmative defense would not apply, if at all, until after the clients were arrested, charged and prosecuted,” the justices wrote in the unsigned opinion.
To add insult to stupidity, Christensen gave clients a “grow sign,” to put out in front of their homes so the police would be on notice that they weren’t growing illegal weed, but medical marijuana.