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An attorney in Connecticut has been cited for possession and fined $150 after he dropped a small bag of marijuana on courtroom floor. Attorney Vincent Fazzone was busy representing a client in New London Superior Court, when the bag of pot fell from his back pocket, in full view of the court marshal.
After Fazzone was finished with the judge, the marshal approached and cited him for possession of an illegal substance. The bag contained approximately two ounces of dank weed.
Just Holding it for a Friend
Fazzone declined to speak with press, but according to his paralegal, the attorney does not smoke marijuana. He doesn't even bake with it. Rather, he was simply holding on to it for a client.
An unnamed client had given Fazzone the bag of weed after taking it from her child, the story goes. Fazzone was planning on disposing of the drug and speaking to the child about just saying no, but instead forgot about the drugs in his pocket until they were on the courtroom floor.
Weed Poses Ethics Concerns
Generally speaking, it's a bad idea for lawyers to get caught with illegal drugs, especially in a courthouse. Whether getting caught with pot results in disciplinary measures depends largely on the related charges and a lawyer's state bar procedures. The Model Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit crimes which reflect adversely on the lawyer's fitness -- whether holding small amounts of weed meets that criterion is debatable. While most state bar crime-related discipline actions stem from felonies, even misdemeanors can garner sanctions.
With several states moving towards allowing medical marijuana, decriminalizing possession and allowing recreation sale and use -- 23 states allow for medical marijuana, recreational use has been allowed in Washington, Colorado and Oregon -- lawyers are faced with additional ethical issues.
Marijuana is still very much criminalized by federal law. Since lawyers are prohibited from counseling clients to engage in criminal acts, lawyers who have clients involved in medical or recreational marijuana businesses could violate ethics rules when advising their clients. This was the opinion of the Colorado Bar Association's ethics committee, which determined that anything beyond basic advice to marijuana businesses was a violation of the bar's ethics rules.
As for Fazzone, no disciplinary actions have begun, though his paralegal reports he is "angered and embarrassed" by the incident.