Medical marijuana is steadily gaining more public and legislative support as new evidence of its benefits continues to come to light. Just last week I told you about the Illinois judge who demanded PTSD be recognized by the state as a condition treatable by medical marijuana- the first new qualifying disorder to be added since medical marijuana was legalized last year.
Now it’s Ohio that’s back in the news regarding their stance on medical marijuana.
With the recent introduction of a bill that “prohibits employers from disciplining professionals from working with marijuana businesses,” lawyers in the state are questioning if that ruling extends to them. Two requests for formal opinions from the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct, these law professionals are asking if they are permitted to use medical marijuana, own and operate dispensaries, or represent businesses in the marijuana industry.
As of this moment, the new law states that professional license holders cannot be disciplined for the sole reason of “engaging in professional or occupational activities related to medical marijuana.” This does not protect normal employees of drug-free businesses from being terminated for use of medical marijuana- another question of ethics that has been questionable in other states.
By Ohio law, attorneys cannot assist a client in breaking the law or commit an illegal act that would bring the lawyer’s trustworthiness and honesty into question; because medical marijuana is not yet legal on a federal level, doing business within the medical marijuana industry is an ethical gray area for law professionals.
Of the 24 states that have legalized marijuana of some degree, most ruled in favor of allowing lawyers to be involved in the industry. The exception is Hawaii, who said lawyers could give legal advice, but could not help establish marijuana-related businesses, less they be charged with assisting a federal crime.
As for Ohio, a ruling is expected in August, with the Ohio Supreme Court extending an invitation for all related grievances from attorneys by July 11th.