The Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct has determined that local lawyers who help marijuana entrepreneurs launch their businesses or offer advice would be violating its code of professional conduct.

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The non-binding, advisory decision is a blow to prospective cannabis entrepreneurs who want to set up a medical cannabis business in the state – as well as lawyers who want to serve new companies. The board did note, however, that the high court could change the rules of conduct to give lawyers a clear green light.

The board’s seven-page opinion was issued in response to three questions Ohio lawyers asked about the state’s new medical marijuana law, which goes into effect Sept. 8:

  • Can Ohio lawyers ethically advise an MMJ company on how to conduct business?
  • Can lawyers own or be a part of an Ohio MMJ business?
  • Can lawyers use medical cannabis?

The board said no in each case, noting that participating in or abetting a federally illegal activity – even though the activity may be legal at the state level – would “adversely reflect on a lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, and fitness to practice law.”

The board did leave open this potential remedy: “The Supreme Court may amend the Rules of Professional Conduct to address this conflict.”