Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A handful of law firms are now offering legal counsel to Medical Cannabis entrepreneurs. This follows a highly anticipated move to legalize medical cannabis in Pennsylvania. Four law firms; Fox Rothschild, Pepper Hamilton, Cozen O’Connor, and Duane Morris have unveiled plans to tap into the new market- a bullish move that is not without the potential for trouble. Federal law classifies marijuana as still being illegal and the consequences of which could mean arrest, disbarment, and imprisonment.
Legal aid to medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, despite the severity of the consequences, has seemingly remained undeterred. The four top law firms have since set up cannabis divisions. According to Joshua Horn, Fox Rothschild’s co-chair in charge of marijuana practice, the Federal Government is unlikely to instigate any legal action against any of the law firms. He argued that a shortage of workforce and funding, as well as popular will against such action, would likely keep the Federal Government at bay.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Disciplinary Board allowed attorneys in the state to offer legal counsel to clients only under the dispensation that, they must be informed that they are in violation of federal law. The current disconnect between federal and state laws has created, “a big ball of uncertainty,” according to Joseph C. Bedwick, a partner at Cozen O’Connor. President Trump administration’s antipathy toward marijuana and marijuana use certainly isn’t helping the current state of affairs.
The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment forbids the justice department from prosecuting medical Marijuana patients and state-compliant cannabis programs. It offers a reprieve, however temporary as the bill’s immunity is revokable. The enthusiasm to join the marijuana industry has not dampened despite the apparent legal implications for practicing attorneys. It’s a high-risk, high-reward kind of scenario. The most famous case of legal action against a lawyer up to date is one involving Jessica McElfresh, a cannabis attorney based in San Diego, California. She was taken into custody at gunpoint in May and slapped with several felony charges.
Marijuana is legal in some form or manner in 26 American states. Pennsylvania is among the most recent states to legalize cannabis alongside Delaware, New Jersey and the District of Columbia. Under the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution, federal law takes precedence over all state laws. The willingness to take risks can only translate to the immense opportunities partnering with the marijuana industry brings.As the cannabis industry expands, legal issues crop up now and then meaning the law firms will be in it for the long run.