‘We work with young people around the state, and they were all saying that pot is prevalent’ – filmmaker Chris Schueler
N.M. Bar Association Issues Warning to Lawyers on Representing Medical Cannabis Businesses
BY PETER ST. CYR
Albuquerque documentary filmmaker Chris Schueler spent the past year asking questions about how cannabis affects adolescents’ developing brains.
In his latest project, “New Marijuana,” premiering at a free showing at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at the KiMo Theatre Downtown, Schueler reports cannabis may be gaining social acceptance, but teen smokers increase their chance for developing irreversible mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, and for getting into trouble driving intoxicated.
While cannabis use among youth has dropped 23 percent in New Mexico since 2003, a little more than 50 percent of current Bernalillo County area high school students admit they’ve tried the drug at least once, and 20 percent of them claimed they’ve smoke the drug before the age of 13. Some told Schueler it opened the door to experimenting with alcohol and other more dangerous drugs, including opiates.
“With all the changes that we’ve seen in the past few years regarding legality, it seemed really important to take a look at cannabis and its various uses,” Schueler said. “We work with young people around the state, and they were all saying that pot is prevalent, extremely easy to obtain, and they wanted to know the truth about the drug – good and bad.”
The film will air on local television stations later this month and in September.
Local lawyers may want to think twice before providing legal advice to New Mexico’s 35 medical cannabis operators.
In the Aug. 10 issue of the Bar Bulletin, the State Bar of New Mexico’s Ethics Advisory Committee published an advisory opinion warning attorneys that legal consultations with dispensary owners could violate their Professional Code of Conduct.
“Negotiating contracts for the purchase of cannabis would be directly assisting the client to engage in a criminal activity” since federal law still considers the drug to be a controlled substance without any medical benefit,” the committee concluded after reviewing an unnamed attorney’s inquiry.
Attorney Jason Marks, who represents the Cannabis Producers of New Mexico, says the advisory opinion, which is not binding and hasn’t been tested in a disciplinary hearing, essentially deprives the medical cannabis business owners the right to legal consultation.
While attorneys can still file legal complaints on their behalf or represent them in civil suit, Marks argues the committee’s guidance essentially prohibits attorneys from writing business contracts, memos of understanding, and other legal documents.
In 2010, certified public accountants were warned by the New Mexico Accountancy Board not to perform state health department-mandated audits for dispensaries until after the conflict between federal and state laws is resolved.
Peter St. Cyr has covered medical cannabis in New Mexico since the state legalized it in 2007. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.