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Hawaii Supreme Court seeks public input on pot dispensaries

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This May 28

The Hawaii Supreme Court took swift action to change the rules barring lawyers from helping to establish medical marijuana dispensaries.

A formal opinion issued last month by the Disciplinary Board of the Hawaii Supreme Court concludes that Hawaii lawyers may not “provide legal services to facilitate the establishment and operation of a medical marijuana business,” because selling pot is still considered a federal crime.

The court is seeking public comment to amend the rules following outcry from about two dozen local attorneys, including former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle and former state Attorney General David Louie, who are representing those vying for one of eight licenses to open marijuana dispensaries.

The Legislature passed a bill this year that allows for 16 dispensaries to open in Hawaii on July 15. The law allows for each licensee to operate two dispensaries and two grow centers: six on Oahu, four on Maui, four on Hawaii island and two on Kauai.

There are roughly 13,000 Hawaii residents registered to use medical marijuana, but under current state law they have to grow their own pot or buy it illegally.

The amendment says lawyers "may counsel or assist a client regarding conduct expressly permitted by Hawaii law, provided that the lawyer counsels the client about the legal consequences, under other applicable law, of the client’s proposed course of conduct."

Public comment may be submitted by Oct. 16 in writing to the Judiciary at 417 South King Street, fax 539-4801, or email at pao@courts.hawaii.gov. 

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