Legal Ethics

Can lawyers ethically smoke pot in states where it is legal? One bar group seeks 'yes' answer

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Would-be pot-smoking lawyers in Washington state are facing an ethical dilemma: State law will allow them to use the weed for recreational use, but federal law deems it a crime.

Now the King County Bar Association hopes to clear up the confusion, the Stranger reports. The Seattle-area bar group has asked the Washington State Supreme Court to clarify that lawyers aren’t violating the ethics rules simply by smoking pot or counseling clients about the Washington marijuana law passed by voters in November 2012. The bar’s proposed changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct are here (PDF).

The bar notes that the implementation date for pot legalization in Washington is Dec. 1.

The bar proposes a new ethics rule stating that lawyers don’t violate the rules solely because they engage in conduct, or assist clients in engaging in conduct, that is allowed under Washington law but barred under federal law.

A proposed comment to the rules would recognize that a lawyer’s marijuana use, while not an ethics violation in itself, could violate other state laws, such as the ban on driving while impaired, and other ethics rules, such as the requirement for competence and diligence.

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