On September 20, 2016, the Supreme Court of Ohio adopted an amendment to the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct that clarifies the ethical responsibilities for attorneys under Ohio’s new medical marijuana law (H.B. 523).
Previously, on August 5, 2016, in a non-binding advisory opinion, the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Board of Professional Conduct ruled that attorneys could not counsel or advise clients regarding marijuana businesses in Ohio (Opinion 2016-6). After this opinion, the Supreme Court of Ohio moved quickly in order to clarify an attorney’s ethical responsibilities under H.B. 523. Thus, on August 30, 2016, the Supreme Court of Ohio proposed the following amendment to Prof. Cond. R. 1.2(d)(2):
A lawyer may counsel or assist a client regarding conduct expressly permitted under Sub.H.B. 523 of the 131st General Assembly authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes and any state statutes, rules, orders, or other provisions implementing the act. In these circumstances, the lawyer shall advise the client regarding related federal law.
After the commenting period ended on September 18, 2016, the Supreme Court of Ohio adopted the proposed amendment verbatim on September 20, 2016. Now, attorneys may counsel and advise clients regarding conduct expressly permitted under H.B. 523, and if they do, attorneys must also advise clients of related federal law.
However, Prof. Cond. R. 1.2(d)(2) does not address an attorney’s use of medical marijuana or ownership of a medical marijuana business. Therefore, pursuant to the advisory opinion, an attorney’s use of medical marijuana or ownership of a medical marijuana business may reflect adversely on the attorney’s honesty or trustworthiness and fitness to practice law.
A copy of the amendment can be found here.