Colorado lawyers get the green light on pot business clients

Lawyers in Colorado can rest easier today, as can pot peddlers who need their services.

Once caught in legal limbo, the lawyers got permission Monday to advise marijuana businesses without fear of running afoul of the state’s ethics rules.

Although recreational weed has been legal in the state since January, sellers are still technically violating federal law, which has created complications.

But the new rule, issued by the Colorado Supreme Court on Monday, gives lawyers assurance that they won’t be penalized for giving legal advice to cannabis clients.

A lawyer “may assist a client in conduct that the lawyer reasonably believes is permitted by these constitutional provisions and the statutes, regulations, orders, and other state and local provisions implementing them,” the new rule states, according to The Denver Post.

Lawyers in Colorado “may counsel clients regarding the validity, scope and meaning” of the state’s marijuana laws and their implementation, according to the rule change signed by Chief Justice Nancy Rice of the Colorado Supreme Court.

“This gives attorneys unambiguous direction on what they can and cannot do,” James Coyle, head of the state’s Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel, told Reuters.

Colorado is the first state to give attorneys guidance on marijuana-related law, Reuters reported. Connecticut, Nevada, Rhode Island and Washington state have similar regulation changes that could be adopted in those states, he added.

The Colorado Bar Association also asked the state’s high court to rule on the question of whether an attorney could face professional sanctions if they personally use marijuana, but the justices declined to address that issue, Coyle said.

Colorado attorneys, however, are still required to advise their clients about federal marijuana laws and policies.

Banks are still not dealing with the marijuana trade in Colorado, however, which as a result remains cash-only.

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to allow banks to do business with pot retailers is going nowhere, reports the Post.

The measure was introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., and Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash.

“The almost universal response is the rolling of one’s eyes,” Heck said of his attempts to discuss the bill.

Lindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever
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