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Ethical & Tax Considerations for Professionals Advising Marijuana Businesses

A professional may advise and assist a client regarding compliance with California’s marijuana laws.  This may include advice with respect to forming a medical marijuana dispensary and related matters permitted by California law.  However, the professional must explain that federal law prohibits trafficking in marijuana or marijuana products and explain the potential penalties that may be imposed on the client for violation of the federal law.  The professional should make it clear that he or she is not advising the client to violate federal law.  See L.A. County Bar Ass’n Ethics Op. 527 (2015); San Francisco Bar Ass’n Ethics Op. 2015-1.  The latter opinion includes a summary of ethics opinions from other states and related materials.  Some of the opinions from the Model Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys states do not agree that a professional may advise the client as stated above.

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