Dan Clearfield discusses ‘alternative universe’ of cannabis law (Central Penn Business Journal)

August 24, 2016

clearfield_d_smDan Clearfield, a member of the firm’s regulated substances practice group, was quoted in the August 19 Central Penn Business Journal article “It’s complicated: Five areas of law in flux for Pennsylvania business owners.” In the section titled “The ‘alternative universe’ of cannabis law,” Clearfield discusses his role as an attorney practicing in the emerging legal field of cannabis in Pennsylvania since state lawmakers legalized the use of medical marijuana and the cultivation of hemp. See below for an excerpt.

Since cannabis-related activities remain illegal under federal law, everything is backward, according to Dan Clearfield, an attorney in the Harrisburg office of Philadelphia-based law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC and a member of the firm’s regulated substance practice group.

“It’s like doing legal analysis in an alternative universe,” Clearfield said. “Where lawyers typically look to federal legal rights and protections first, and then look to state law, the federal legal protections don’t exist and every legal issue has a sort of reverse course.”

Lawyers have to be careful in counseling their clients about medical marijuana or hemp. According to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, lawyers are “arguably prohibited” from doing so, as they are barred from assisting clients in criminal conduct.

However, the disciplinary board is contemplating a rule change that would make an exception to allow lawyers to counsel clients on any conduct that is “permitted by the law of the state where it takes place.”

Aside from walking a legal tightrope, cannabis lawyers face getting up to speed on a new market, potentially being stigmatized for their involvement in the cannabis industry and keeping up with demand for their services.

“Because many of us believe that medical marijuana truly provides benefits to patients in real need, it’s worth the effort, at least in my view,” Clearfield said. “But it’s not for lawyers who are uncomfortable balancing and explaining risks.”

The full article is available on the Central Penn Business Journal website. (Access to content on third-party websites may require subscription.)


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