The Disciplinary Board of the Hawai‘i Supreme Court recently released an opinion that will significantly limit dispensary applicant’s access to the legal services needed to develop the organizations and structures of a viable dispensary license application. In Formal Opinion No. 49, the Disciplinary Board answered two questions:
- whether a lawyer may provide legal advice about Act 241; and
- whether a lawyer may provide legal services to facilitate the establishment and operation of a medical marijuana
The Board found that a lawyer may “advise a client with regard to legality under state and federal law on the subject of marijuana production and distribution and may advocate for changes in court rules or state or federal laws on the subject, but a lawyer may not ‘provide legal services to facilitate the establishment and operation of a medical marijuana business’…”.
Like any developing industry, timely and accurate legal advice is essential to the smooth inception and operation of the businesses involved. Especially in an industry endeavoring to ensure the health of its patients in compliance with substantial state and federal regulatory requirements. This ruling makes clear that under the current legal scheme, Hawai‘i lawyers likely cannot advise clients on their license applications or on any of the myriad legal relationships underlying a successful bid. This means many license applicants may look to out-of-state lawyers, with no local experience or connection, to provide legal guidance on Hawai‘i’s new law.
Now, the Supreme Court of Hawai‘i can amend its Rules of Professional Conduct (Rule 1.2d) or add an appropriate comment to those rules creating an exception that would allow Hawai‘i’s lawyers to provide dispensary advocates with vital legal services. This is an issue which we hope the industry decides to bring to the Court’s attention over the next few months.
It is the Alliance’s mission to provide up-to-date and relevant industry information to the patients, dispensary applicants, and related businesses of Hawai‘i’s growing medicinal cannabis industry. Whereas this information is normally contained in our monthly industry newsletter, along with useful commentary from industry experts, we felt that this particular issue needed as much exposure as possible as quickly as possible. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to learn more about this issue or if you would like to Join the Alliance and receive our monthly industry publication. We look forward to hearing from you!