US (FL): Lawyer to pay $370,000 for telling clients they can grow cannabis

The state of Florida legalized medical cannabis for serious conditions in 2016. But in 2015, Florida lawyer Ian Christensen was already telling clients that cannabis was legal. Christensen advised clients that it was okay to grow their own cannabis, so long as it was for a medical reason. And he even opposed the then-ongoing effort to legalize medical cannabis because, in his view, it was already legal.

But earlier this month, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Christensen caused serious harm to his clients on account of his erroneous legal advice. As a result, a federal judge ordered the former Florida lawyer to pay two of his clients $370,000 in damages after they were convicted for illegally cultivating and possessing cannabis. In court, Christensen didn’t even bother defending himself.

In March 2015, Florida police raided the home of Scott and Marsha Yandell, seizing nearly 50 cannabis plants the couple had been cultivating. The Yandells, both 45 at the time, faced multiple felony drug charges. But in court, the Yandells and their attorney Ian Christensen claimed that the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office had violated their rights. The Yandells said they were running a “testing facility” to grow medical cannabis for patients. And they and Christensen argued that they had the right to grow cannabis under both state and federal law.


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