Nevada justices issue warning to marijuana lawyers

CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court adopted a professional conduct rule Friday, advising attorneys to tread carefully when it comes to marijuana.

The comment included in the rule says, “Because use, possession, and distribution of marijuana in any form still violates federal law, attorneys are advised that engaging in such conduct may result in federal prosecution and trigger discipline proceedings” under Supreme Court rules.

The language was sought by the State Bar of Nevada to offer guidance to lawyers and professional activities related to the medical marijuana industry. Several Nevada attorneys have ownership interests in medical marijuana dispensaries.

The order, effective immediately, was signed by Chief Justice Michael Cherry and Justices Michael Douglas, James Hardesty, Kristina Pickering and Lidia Stiglich.

Justices Mark Gibbons and Ron Parraguirre, while agreeing that the addition to the professional conduct rule is appropriate, said they would have adopted alternative language that takes into account the voter initiative passed in November legalizing recreational marijuana for adults and offering the same cautionary guidance.

The new rule is a follow-up to changes adopted by the Nevada Supreme Court in 2014 as a result of the 2013 legislation authorizing the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries.

That comment said a lawyer “may assist a client in conduct the lawyer reasonably believes is permitted by these constitutional provisions and statutes, including regulations, orders, and other state or local provision implementing them. In these circumstances, the lawyer shall also advise the client regarding related federal law and policy.”

Contact Sandra Chereb at Follow @SandraCherebon Twitter.