I live in California and I have seen ads for "cannabis attorneys" who specialise in helping the "legal" (under state law) cannabis industry/business (they often have names and logos which emphasise this). This raises a question: how is it ethically possible?

I am not an attorney, but my understanding is that as part of an attorney's ethical obligations, they have to follow the law, and cannot aid their clients in committing crimes. I know of, for example (from movies anyway...) the idea of a 'mafia lawyer', but that is usually for criminal defence—the mafia attorney doesn't help draft contracts for illegal activities like hits (which presumably don't use written contracts anyway). The "cannabis attorney", on the other hand is presumably helping negotiate contracts for the sale, production, and distribution of a drug which is illegal under federal US law. How can an attorney operate as part of a federally "illegal" industry and uphold the canons of legal ethics? (I am not really familiar with these but I have to assume, or at least hope, that following the law is either rule No. 1 or quite high up the list)

Given that, for example, the banking industry refuses to be involved with cannabis in any form because of its federal illegality, why does the legal industry (which I hope is at least as concerned about law following as the banking industry) allow itself to be involved?

Note: I am aware that the federal government and Congress have made clear that there won't be prosecutions for "legal" cannabis industries under state supervision, and that the technical illegality of cannabis under federal law is probably just a technicality which is unlikely to lead to legal consequences, but my question presumes that lawyers, of all people, surely care about legal technicalities and obeying the letter of the law—perhaps I'm wrong

  • If I dealt with cannabis, I would want a lawyer with relevant experience to tell me what I can do legally, and what I can't do legally, and then I wouldn't do the things that I'm told are not legal. I can't see anything ethically wrong with a lawyer giving me advice so I don't break the law. – gnasher729 Apr 29 at 9:31
  • But what part of the industry is legal under federal law? – DJohnM Apr 30 at 4:35

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