California state bar considering rule change to protect marijuana lawyers

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A proposed rule change in front of the California state bar could provide more protection for attorneys who work with marijuana businesses, but only if one of two proposals gets initial approval.

According to The Recorder, a state bar commission is weighing two recommendations to the state Supreme Court on possible additions to the state’s Rules of Professional Conduct that would explicitly protect lawyers that work with state-legal MJ companies.

The proposals being considered do not specifically identify the marijuana industry but instead clarify the ability of attorneys to advise clients on issues where California law may be in conflict with federal or tribal laws.

The commission is taking public comment on the issue through 5 p.m. July 3, and if the Supreme Court agrees, the recommendation could go into effect Nov. 1.

Although plenty of attorneys already work with the cannabis industry, at least one has faced criminal charges for working with a client in the marijuana space: San Diego-based attorney Jessica McElfresh was charged last year with multiple felonies related to her client’s MJ business.

McElfresh’s case is ongoing; the next court hearing is scheduled for July 23. McElfresh declined to comment to Marijuana Business Daily.

Other states have also taken steps to protect attorneys that work with companies in the marijuana trade, including Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, Oregon, Nevada and Washington state.