NM Lawyers Warned About Working With Medical Cannabis Clients

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Producing and selling medical cannabis is allowed under state law in New Mexico, if all state regulation and licensing requirements are followed. But the State Bar of New Mexico released an ethics advisory opinion Wednesday cautioning lawyers about providing legal assistance, in the form of business formation and contract negotiation, to medical cannabis companies.

While lawyers can counsel clients on the legality of business ideas and ventures, the opinion reads, providing business assistance to a medical cannabis company is not ethical, as the production and sale of cannabis is a federal crime.

On Wednesday, NPR reported that the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) kept cannabis on the list of schedule I drugs after a push by democratic governors to get the designation changed. According to the DEA, schedule I drugs “are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote are also considered schedule I drugs.

Because cannabis is still a schedule I drug, and so is illegal according to federal law, the the State Bar of New Mexico’s Ethics Advisory Committee cautions lawyers to only provide counsel or assistance to cannabis producers in a way that doesn’t facilitate the production or selling of cannabis.

“A New Mexico lawyer may represent non-profit producers, courier and manufacturers of medical cannabis and approved laboratories, to the extent that representation is not in the form of impermissible counseling to engage in or providing ‘assistance’ in the commission of crimes,” the statement reads.

Larry Donahue, owner and attorney at Law 4 Small Business, says he works with a lot of companies that are involved in the cannabis industry. He says cannabis producers, and other companies that work with them want the same legal help as everybody else, but this new opinion, and the federal laws, make it difficult.

“It basically says that any lawyer or attorney working with a company involved with medical cannabis in New Mexico is violating professional rules of conduct,” Donahue said. “So you could get disbarred for working with a cannabis company. We are having to step back and not help cannabis-based clients anymore.”

According to the opinion, the Arizona State Bar Committee and the Illinois State Bar have both stated that working with medical cannabis companies could be allowable, Colorado and Maine both came to the same conclusion as New Mexico.

“As producing and distributing any type of cannabis, including medical cannabis permitted under state laws, is illegal under federal law,” the New Mexico ethics opinion reads, “a lawyer may not provide prohibited counseling or assistance.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: NM Lawyers Warned About Working With Medical Cannabis Clients
Author: Marissa Higdon
Contact: Albuquerque Business First
Photo Credit: None Found
Website: Albuquerque Business First