Missouri attorneys aren’t saying what they think of their state Supreme Court’s guidance on advising clients on cannabis issues. But Missouri cannabis businesses are forging on.
“It’s a nothing burger,” said BeLeaf CEO Mitch Meyers.
First reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week, the Missouri State Supreme Court issued a guidance to attorneys on June 30, 2020 that, “In counseling or assisting a client, if state law conflicts with federal law, the lawyer should advise the client of that fact but cannot undertake conduct that would violate federal law or counsel or assist the client as to how to perform an act that would violate federal law even if that conduct would be lawful under state statutory or constitutional law.”
“There are more than a few attorneys in the cannabis space in Missouri that are shaking their head,” said Eric McSwain, chair of the Missouri Cannabis Industry Association, who is not an attorney. “This wouldn’t even hold up should it be challenged. There are a number [of attorneys] willing to take that risk and continue to work with their clients.”
Missouri’s cannabis market has been slow to launch.
Despite more than 102,000 registered cannabis patients just four months after Missouri’s first medical marijuana sales, the market has been slow to grow. One year after licenses were awarded, only 15 of 60 licensed cultivators are operating. Further dispensaries had just $4.5 million of retail sales in January 2021.
Asked if the ruling would interrupt government operations, Department of Health and Senior Services spokesperson Lisa Cox was uncategorical.
“The Missouri Constitution requires the department to regulate the medical marijuana industry, and the Missouri Supreme Court’s guidance regarding attorney representation does not apply to that obligation. The relationship between a business and its attorney is not within the department’s authority,” said Cox.
But still, attorneys seem to have gone to ground on this issue. A half dozen cannabis lawyers contacted by Grown In did not return calls, and Missouri Lawyers Media reported last week that their attempts to reach 15 leading Missouri cannabis firms resulted in no calls back.
“I was very worried because we utilize Armstrong Teasdale and they are the most conservative, skittish lawyers, in Missouri at least. But my guys tell me, move on, nothing to see here,” said Meyers. “But we have a [state] constitutional amendment that protects us in Missouri.”