27 May 2016
The state is now looking to change these rules.
An interesting report and well worth a read
York Daily Record reports
Pennsylvania attorneys face legal risk for advising prospective medical marijuana suppliers
Although medical marijuana is now legal in Pennsylvania, anyone desiring to get involved in this new market has to proceed without the advice of a business attorney.
That’s because, despite recent legislation legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, it remains a crime for Pennsylvania attorneys to discuss contracts with clients who would like to supply the product to the pharmaceutical market.
The commonwealth’s Rules of Criminal Procedure state that attorneys are forbidden from advising their clients on conduct the attorney knows to be criminal.
And the manufacture, possession, distribution and use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law where it is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance.
But now, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, through its disciplinary board, is seeking input from lawyers and non-lawyers on amending the state rule as it pertains to the now legal conduct in the commonwealth — the production and distribution of medical marijuana.
The court’s request for public feedback is a response “to numerous inquiries received regarding advice to clients regarding the marijuana business,” according to a media release from the disciplinary board.
York attorney Suzanne Smith said, “Obviously, there is a need for the lawyers’ involvement — it’s business and contract issues. Plus, there will be all the new laws associated with legalizing medical marijuana.
“However, … there are still federal laws that are potentially being violated. I don’t think the state can grant ‘immunity’ from federal charges. But, other states have had legalized marijuana for some time and we have not heard of federal charges being filed.”
The proposed rule amendment would require attorneys to advise their medical marijuana clients of “the legal consequences” that remain under federal law.
Marcee Sloan, assistant secretary for the Disciplinary Board, said, for attorneys who violate the current state rule pertaining to giving legal advice for criminal conduct, “There is no per se discipline in Pennsylvania. Each case is decided on totality of facts.”
York attorney Chris Ferro, a strong proponent for the legalization of medical marijuana, said of the amendment proposal, “It’s a reasonable and necessary step to allow attorneys to conscientiously counsel this (new) industry without fear of ethical issues surrounding the federal prohibitions of the use and possession of a schedule I narcotic.”
York attorney Douglas France said the proposed amendment would protect Pennsylvania lawyers from sanctions that are applicable under the current commonwealth rule.
“However,” he said. “Pennsylvania lawyers may still be technically complicit under federal criminal conspiracy laws themselves ….”
Sloan explained that following the comment period, the disciplinary board will send a recommendation to the state Supreme Court justices who will determine if the proposed amendment should be accepted.