New York Cannabis: Lawyers Can Consume, Advise Businesses and Own Them (if They Dare)

In the continuing trend of normalizing the cannabis industry for practical reasons, the New York State Bar Association’s (NYSBA) Committee on Professional Ethics issued Opinion 1225 (the Opinion). In short, the NYSBA now expressly permits lawyers to represent clients in New York’s recreational cannabis industry.

The NYSBA actually issued 3 separate determinations, each of which is incorporated into the New York Rules of Professional Rules of Conduct for attorneys:

First, attorneys may now ethically provide legal services to assist clients in compliance with New York’s recreational marijuana law (the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act). The NYSBA, in the context of Rule 1.2(d) which prohibits assisting clients to violate the law, adopted its prior opinion with respect to New York medical cannabis legislation to the recreational cannabis industry.

The NYSBA provided four reasons for its opinion:

In light of the federal government’s continued decision not to prosecute state-legalized medical cannabis, attorneys are provided “cover” to practice cannabis law: “Inasmuch as 17 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Guam, have now legalized recreational use of marijuana in some form . . . it seems fair to say that for nearly a decade of federal forbearance in the enforcement of federal narcotics laws

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