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Solo and Small Firm

The Practitioner Winter 2019, Volume 25, Issue 1

Can California Lawyers Ethically Light Up?*

By Wendy L. Patrick

Wendy Patrick is a San Diego lawyer, past chair and advisor of the California State Bar Ethics Committee (Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct), and past chair of the San Diego County Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee. Any opinions expressed in this article are her own, and do not reflect that of her employer or of The Practitioner or the Solo and Small Firm Section. This article does not constitute legal advice.

Election Day 2016 added yet another tourist attraction to the already overpopulated Golden State: marijuana. Despite strong voices in opposition, California voters rolled back the prohibitions to rolling a joint. Yet for California lawyers, who have a duty to "support the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state" pursuant to California Business and Professions Code section 6068(a) and related provisions, there is more to the story. Although the solution to how to solve the state-federal law discrepancy with respect to marijuana use remains hazy, there are ethical opinions we can review for guidance to clear the air regarding the legal and ethical provisions at issue. California Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1-100 states that, although not binding, lawyers should look at California ethics opinions, as well as ethics opinions, rules, and standards from other jurisdictions and bar associations for guidance on professional conduct. Let us review a few opinions that address two questions: Can lawyers represent clients in the marijuana business? And can they personally indulge?

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