Marijuana is very much in the news these days. Washington and Oregon both have begun move toward legitimizing marijuana dispensaries under state law. While we embrace this progress as it will help thousands of suffering people get treatment they cannot get elsewhere, we cannot help you set up a marijuana dispensary.
No matter what happens at the state level, marijuana – as of now – remains a federally banned Class A controlled substance. Every square inch of Oregon and Washington is also subject to the jurisdiction of the United States Federal Government, and all of its laws. Federal law doesn’t cease to apply just because the states want to change things. That means that no matter what Oregon and Washington may do, distributing marijuana is still illegal under Federal law.
There’s more. Even though the Obama Administration’s justice department (Eric Holder, Attorney General) have announced that they will not challenge the new marijuana laws of Washington and Colorado, that doesn’t mean it’s OK for an attorney to help you set up a marijuana dispensation shop. That’s because it is misconduct for an attorney to counsel a client to break the law or to materially assist one in doing so, irrespective of the enforcement status of that law. For the time being, if an attorney were to do so, he could be subject to discipline at the hands of the Oregon or Washington bar. Notwithstanding the statements of some officials of the bar that they don’t intend to prosecute attorneys who may do so, it’s still against the rules, and until it’s not, we’re not willing risk our clients’ access to justice by dancing with the devil on a foggy line.
The bottom line is that, for the time being, we cannot help any actual potential client set up a marijuana dispensary or deal with marijuana in any way. The bar associations of Oregon and/or Washington may ultimately change their positions. However, given the social and legal movements toward legalization of marijuana. When that happens, we will be happy and ready to assist, but not until then.