In 2012, Washington State voters approved Initiative 502, legalizing some marijuana possession and use in Washington State, and creating a regulated market for marijuana distribution. As a result, many Washington lawyers have wondered whether and to what extent under RPC 1.2(d) they ethically may counsel and assist clients on personal and business matters involving marijuana that are lawful under state law, but that would remain criminal under federal laws still applicable in Washington State. A few lawyers perhaps may have wondered even whether the ongoing federal prohibition would make their own personal possession and use unethical under RPC 8.4 even if the possession and use is lawful under state law. The subject invited a lively discussion, for instance, at a recent WSBA ethics CLE here in Washington on which I served as a panelist.
In response to this uncertainty, the King County Bar Association in Washington State has asked the Washington Supreme Court to add new comments and a new rule to the Washington RPC to make clear that lawyers do not violate the RPC by conduct that is lawful under state law but that "standing alone" may violate federal law. The proposed comments interestingly provide expressly that these new provisions "specifically address Washington State Initiative No. 502." The proposed comments and new RPC 8.6 are available here. An ABA Journal story on the topic is here.