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Nevada considers new rules for marijuana lawyers

Updated Tuesday, May 6, 2014 | 2:09 p.m.

CARSON CITY — A rule change allowing Nevada lawyers to advise clients about medical marijuana issues without running afoul of professional conduct standards was up for consideration Tuesday by the Nevada Supreme Court.

Medical marijuana is legal in Nevada and the process is underway to license dispensaries, cultivation operations and kitchens to make edible pot products. But marijuana is still illegal under federal law, which causes a dilemma for attorneys.

A Nevada State Bar Association rule forbids lawyers from advising a client to break the law. Both private and public agency lawyers asked a state bar panel for guidance on whether they could face disciplinary action for representing medical marijuana clients.

Nevada justices, who serve as the final authority on lawyer conduct, must approve any rule changes.

Proposed language states that a lawyer won't be in violation of professional conduct rules subject to discipline for engaging in conduct or advising a client on activities specifically permitted under state law "solely because that same conduct, standing alone, may violate federal law."

Nevada voters approved medical marijuana in 2000, but patients had no way to legally obtain it besides growing it. A law passed by the 2013 Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval changed that, setting up a taxing and regulatory structure for cultivation, processing and distribution of medicinal pot.

It has also spurred a rush for limited numbers of licenses and a demand for new legal services.

Clark County, Nevada's largest, received more than 200 permit applications for medicinal marijuana establishments. Other local government jurisdictions in Nevada are still reviewing or conducting their own licensing processes.

Across the country, 21 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, while two states — Colorado and Washington — have legalized recreational use of pot.

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