Colorado high court allows attorneys to advise marijuana businesses

[JURIST] The Colorado Supreme Court [official website] on Monday ruled that lawyers can advise [Reuters report] marijuana businesses in the state without fear of violating state attorney ethics laws. Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana through a voter initiative in 2012, many attorneys have reportedly expressed concern over involving themselves in the trade for fear of violating the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct (CRPC) [text], which prohibits attorneys from assisting clients in illegal activity. Growing and selling marijuana is still illegal on the federal level. The Colorado Bar Association Ethics Committee [official website] adopted a formal opinion [tex] in October expressing concern that the state has placed its marijuana decriminalization "experiment" at risk "by putting its lawyers in jeopardy of violating its rules of professional conduct." The Colorado Supreme Court's Standing Committee on the CRPC made a recommendation that the state's high court amend the CRPC to protect lawyers from being disciplined for providing "legal services and advice on marijuana-related conduct."

The Colorado Supreme Court decision continues the state's attempts to regulate the drug since the state's 2012 voter initiative, which amended [JURIST report] the state constitution to allow adults over 21 to possess an ounce or less of marijuana and to privately grow up to six marijuana plants. The following May, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed [JURIST report] several new laws regulating the use and sale of recreational marijuana. Last summer, a federal judge struck down [JURIST report] a Colorado law requiring that marijuana-related magazines, like pornographic magazines, be kept behind the counters of the businesses that sold them. In November, Colorado voters approved [JURIST report] Proposition AA, [text, pdf] which levied taxes on all sales of recreational marijuana in the state to help fund public school construction and state sales tax reserves.

 

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