NV lawyers look to Supreme Court for guidance on medical marijuana
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On Friday, Nevada's department of public health approved regulations for medical marijuana. But the path toward implementing the law on a local level is still not entirely clear. Lawyers in the state are asking the Nevada Supreme Court to allow them to give legal counsel on medical marijuana. This is especially a concern for public lawyers.
Right now, if a lawyer in Nevada gives direction on medical marijuana, that person could very well lose their law license. The state bar does not allow a lawyer to aid a client in criminal conduct, and medical marijuana falls into that category under federal law.
Alan Lefebvre, who's president of the Nevada State Bar, says their petition to the high court makes an exception to that.
"By adding the caveat that a lawyer would not be subject to discipline for assisting a client to engage in conduct that by virtue of a provision of Nevada law is permitted."
Lefebvre says he’s hopeful the court will see the rational, after all the many lawyers in the legislature and the Governor, a former federal judge, signed off on the law.
The dilemma facing public lawyers prompted the petition. Many are being asked to help their local governments set up regulations for dispensaries, although, ultimately, the change would probably apply to private lawyers, as well.
Reno City Attorney John Kadlic says he’s on board to direct the City, assuming the high court does change the rules.
"I, as a matter of fact, will do it personally. I'm developing, I wouldn't call myself a super expert in medical marijuana, but I'm developing an expertise, and I would handle it personally as far as on behalf of the city in providing legal advice."
The same does not go for Washoe County. Assistant District Attorney Paul Lipparelli says he’d still be cautious about giving advice.
"Until the federal law can be clarified, we are going to remain concerned that being involved with the licensing of marijuana use is at odds with our duties as a law enforcement agency."
The County is currently trying to develop its own rules, but that effort has stalled in some areas without legal guidance. Lipparelli says his office would not stop Washoe from seeking outside counsel, if necessary.
The Supreme Court will consider the rule change at the beginning of May.