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Supreme Court seeks public opinion on lawyers and pot dispensaries

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    In this Nov. 7

KAILUA-KONA >> The Hawaii Supreme Court is seeking public input on whether lawyers should be allowed to represent medical marijuana dispensaries that are legal under state law but not federal statutes.

A proposed change to the court’s rules of professional conduct would allow attorneys to counsel clients on actions “expressly permitted” by Hawaii law, but that they must also warn their clients about legal consequences under other applicable laws, West Hawaii Today reported.

“It’s about time. Especially since they’re supposed to start accepting applications in January,” Rep. Joy San Buenaventura said Monday.

The Puna Democrat was on the House-Senate conference committee that finalized the dispensary bill.

“Everybody needs time to get their ducks in a row,” she said.

Two high-profile attorneys recently complained that the court’s Disciplinary Board interprets the law in a way that makes lawyers working for would-be dispensaries complicit in breaking federal law.

They said the current rules are unfair to businesses looking to compete for the eight available dispensary licenses in the state.

“It is not surprising that many interested parties have consulted with lawyers for advice and assistance,” said former state Attorney General David Louie in a Sept. 21 letter to the Supreme Court. “The involvement of lawyers in a high-profile, heavily regulated area of first impression is both necessary and desirable. It is clearly in the public interest that prospective licensees comply with all the laws.”

Comments will be accepted until Oct. 16 at the Judiciary Communications and Community Relations Office.

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