Lawyers Can Help Marijuana Businesses Without State Bar Penalty -- for Now

For the next few months, Arizona lawyers can assist the needs of marijuana businesses without any repercussions from the State Bar.

In a recent news release, the Bar noted that it hasn't taken any official stance on legal work related to Proposition 203, despite public comments by its ethics attorney about potential pitfalls for lawyers.

Ethics specialist Patricia Sallen told the news media last month that ethics guidelines should prevent attorneys from using their services to help people break the law. And she pointed out that, despite Prop 203, possessing or selling marijuana still violates federal law.

We questioned Sallen's advice on this matter the first time we heard it. The fact is, selling bongs is also against federal law, but we're pretty sure most of the Valley's smoke shops can find legal advice when they need it.

Still, the State Bar intends to come up with guidelines for lawyers concerning Prop 203-related businesses. Apparently, the Bar's decision might include anything from a proclamation that the Arizona lawyers can provide legal advice to the businesses to an official prohibition against such work.

According to the news release:

The State Bar of Arizona will review the new law and provide guidance in advance of the law's implementation, currently scheduled for late March 2011.

In the interim, the State Bar will not take regulatory action against attorneys for counseling or assisting clients in the implementation of the medical marijuana law during this period.

Honestly, it seems plain silly that voters could pass a law which allows a new industry to crop up, only to have the State Bar tell lawyers they can't give advice to that industry.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.