Attorneys should be aware of the unique ethical questions presented by representing cannabis clients. State bar associations have not taken a firm stance on representing clients in an industry that is unequivocally illegal under federal law. The bar associations that have released ethics opinions on advising cannabis clients typically stress the importance of informing clients that cannabis is illegal under federal law, and that a client could still face civil and criminal penalties despite legalization by a state. It’s therefore critical to have a disclaimer to that effect in any cannabis fee agreement. A cannabis lawyer should also explain that attorney-client privilege may be limited to cannabis’s federal status, and that (perhaps paradoxically) they cannot advise/assist a client in violating federal law. Rather, states typically instruct that a cannabis attorney may only advise a client how to strictly adhere to state law. These considerations also ought to collectively make any cannabis lawyer think long and hard about taking equity in exchange for representation.
DISCLAIMER: THIS INFORMATION IS STRICTLY EDUCATIONAL AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE