By James E. Peters

As previously reported in a Reminger Report back in September of this year, in June of 2016 the Ohio legislature passed a law to allow medical marijuana in Ohio.  The law, which was passed was significantly more stringent than similar laws passed in other statesā‚.  The law passed in Ohio allows medical marijuana through a controlled program regulated by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy and the Ohio Department of Commerce.

Shortly after the announcement of the new law, The Board of Professional Conduct of the Ohio Supreme Court issued Opinion 2016-6.    This Opinion concluded that because marijuana is still illegal under federal laws, that Ohio lawyers cannot provide any legal services for a client that is involved with establishing and/or operating a medical marijuana enterprise, without adversely reflecting upon the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness and fitness to practice in violation of Ohio Professional Conduct Rule 8.4 (h).

Based upon the conclusions stated in the Opinion, Ohio lawyers arguably could have faced disciplinary sanctions and potential loss of their licenses to practice law, if they provided legal services to their clients who were involved in the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers in the State of Ohio.

The Ohio Supreme Court formally took action to nullify the findings of Opinion 2016-6, by formally amending the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct to specifically allow Ohio Lawyers to provide legal services on behalf of clients engaged in Ohio's medical marijuana enterprise.  

Ohio Professional Conduct Rule 1.2 (d)was amended to read as follows:

 (d)(1)    A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage, or assist a client, in conduct that the lawyer knows is illegal or fraudulent.  [but.....]

 (d)(2)   A lawyer may counsel or assist a client regarding conduct expressly permitted under Sub. H.B. 523 of the 131 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.  

Please take particular note of the mandate stated in the last phrase of the last sentence of Rule 1.2 (d)(2),which requires the consulting attorney to advise the client of the overlapping federal laws and the legality of their proposed activity from the perspective of federal law.

If you have any questions with respect to this issue, or any other attorney disciplinary issue, or legal professional liability, contact one of our Legal Professional Liability Practice Group members.

1.   California, Colorado, Washington, and Maine allow recreational use of marijuana in addition to use for qualified medical purposes.

This has been prepared for informational purposes only. It does not contain legal advice or legal opinion and should not be relied upon for individual situations. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the Reader and Reminger. The information in this document is subject to change and the Reader should not rely on the statements in this document without first consulting legal counsel.


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