Good news, attorneys, it would seem that you can smoke marijuana in King County, Washington, without violating the lawyers’ ethical rules.
The King County Bar Association has determined that lawyers can smoke marijuana so long as doing so does not interfere with their ability to represent their clients. The Bar Association states that: “an attorney who personally uses marijuana as permitted under state law would not be subject to discipline only for that reason.” Just like alcohol, attorneys cannot ingest cannabis to where it interferes with their legal representation, but they are now certainly free to light up in their spare time without fear of losing their license to practice law — at least according to the KCBA.
The KCBA has also proposed that Washington State’s Supreme Court adopt new Professional Rule of Conduct 8.6 which states the following:
Notwithstanding any other provision of these rules, a lawyer shall not be in violation of these rules or subject to discipline for engaging in conduct, or for counseling or assisting a client to engage in conduct, that by virtue of a specific provision of Washington State law and implementing regulations is either (a) permitted, or (b) within an affirmative defense to prosecution under state criminal law, solely because that same conduct, standing alone, may violate federal law.
According to legal blogger, Jonathon Turley, the KCBA’s recommendation on Rule 8.6 should please those who still support Federalism principles (i.e., states’ rights). In our opinion, the KCBA was right to recommend that Washington’s Supreme Court not punish attorneys who practice in the area of State-sanctioned cannabis laws despite the apparent Federal conflict (and it looks like the Washington State Bar Association is game to join in that recommendation). The people of Washington and of the other marijuana states are entitled to legal help with interpreting complicated State cannabis laws.
Kudos to the KCBA for recommending new Rule 8.6.