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Hawaii Lawyers Forbidden From Assisting Medical Marijuana Licensee Hopefuls

According to a new formal opinion released by the Disciplinary Board of the Hawaii Supreme Court, Hawaii lawyers are not allowed to provide legal services to clients applying for a medical marijuana license.

Pacific Business News reports that lawyers are still allowed to provide legal advice about Act 241—the law that established Hawaii’s first statewide medical marijuana retail dispensary system—but they may not aid in the creation of such businesses due to pot’s illegal status under federal law.

“A lawyer may not ‘provide legal services to facilitate the establishment and operation of a medical marijuana business’ in accordance with Act 241 or otherwise,” the opinion states.

However, Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii Executive Director Carl Bergquist told Pacific Business News that he was optimist the Supreme Court would resolve this issue and that similar dilemmas have already arisen in other states.

“My understanding of the opinion is they had no choice to write it as they did, because currently the rules of the Supreme Court don’t have the types of exceptions you see in other states,” Bergquist said. “[The opinion’s] footnote 1 mentions how states have tackled the same exact dilemma —one way is by statute, but an easier way is to have the court itself change its rules, or add a comment to the rule. What the other states have done mostly, it seems, is say you can provide legal services under this state law which is valid, but you must also advise clients about federal law which criminalizes marijuana.”

Hawaii legalized the use of medicinal marijuana back in 2000 but has not opened any dispensaries for patients, who have had to grow their own pot or rely on the black market. Legislation was passed this year which created a framework for Hawaii’s first 16 dispensaries to open in July 2016.

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