NJ Lawyers Can (Ethically) Use And Invest In Cannabis

By: Peter J. Gallagher (LinkedIn)

In a recent opinion, the New Jersey Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics ruled that attorneys may use cannabis and operate/invest in cannabis businesses. The Committee noted that this conduct “remains technically illegal under federal law,” but does not, “as a general matter,” violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Committee analyzed the issue under RPC 8.4(b), which prohibits an attorney from committing a “[1] criminal act that [2] reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.” The Committee briefly recounted the history of cannabis regulation, both in New Jersey and on the federal level. It observed that, while legal under New Jersey law, the production, sale, and use of cannabis is still a “criminal act” under federal law. So the question before the Committee was whether this criminal act “reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.”

The Committee held that it does not. This did not appear be a terribly difficult decision for the Committee. Instead, it succinctly concluded that “conduct that fully complies with State law” does not reflect adversely on the lawyer’s character. Moreover, although “technically illegal” under federal law, the Justice Department has “publicly taken the position that it will not enforce the federal law [criminalizing cannabis] in certain situations.” Therefore, the Committee held that “lawyers, like other New Jersey residents, may engage in this conduct.”

But the Committee cautioned that cannabis, “like alcohol, prescription medications, and certain over-the-counter drugs, can affect a lawyer’s ability to provide competent representation of clients.” So a lawyer must be careful “not to use cannabis in a manner that would impair the lawyer in the provision of legal services.”

And, as it relates to owning or investing in cannabis businesses. the Committee reminded attorneys that they must (a) “strictly comply with Rule of Professional Conduct 1.8(a),” which prohibits a lawyer from entering “into a business transaction with a client or knowingly acquir[ing] an ownership, possessory, security or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client unless” certain conditions are met, and (b) be aware of potential conflicts of interest under RPC 1.7(a)(2) if they invest in a client’s business.

Federal Reserve Approves Colorado Credit Union To Serve Cannabis Industy (But There’s A Catch)

by: Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher) (LinkedIn)

image from 3.bp.blogspot.comThe Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Federal Reserve conditionally approved a Colorado credit union, Fourth Corner Credit Union, to serve cannabis-linked businesses. To obtain this approval, however, the credit union had to “step back from its original plan to serve state-licensed dispensaries.” Instead, it will focus on “individuals and companies that support legalized marijuana, including those who partner with vendors, such as accountants and landlords.” In other words, the credit union can service individuals and entities involved in the cannabis industry, but not those who “touch the plant.”

 Read the full article here.

Virginia Approves Expanded Use Of Cannabis Extracts For Medicinal Purposes

 by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher) (LinkedIn)

Virginia (pd)Both houses of Virginia’s legislature have unanimously approved bills that will expand the ability of Virginia doctors to recommend marijuana or cannabis extracts to their patients. The bills are not identical, but once the relatively minor differences between them are reconciled, a consolidated bill will be sent to Governor Terry McAuliffe for his signature.

Click here to read more.