While some lawyers recognise that the bartering system can be an acceptable way to offer their legal services, just how many would accept payments of marijuana?
This happened with an attorney in Louisiana, James Mecca, in 2013. After allegedly accepting the drug as payment for his legal services previously, a second client tried the same approach by offering up a “backpack full of marijuana”.
Mecca accepted again, only this time the client was a confidential informant who notified the local police. Mecca was then arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
While representing himself in court, Mecca admitted to receiving the drug in exchange for his legal services. However, he said he had no intent to distribute the drug and planned to use it all himself.
He testified he had been using the drug as a coping mechanism for the death of his father two years earlier. After reducing the charges to a possession misdemeanour, the judge sentenced Mecca to six months in jail and a year of probation.
The jail sentence was later suspended although Mecca still had to save his legal licence. Immediately after the arrest, he sought drug and alcohol treatment – a factor which meant the ethics panel sympathised with his cause. After witnessing Meccas’ remorse and the progress of his treatment, the Louisiana Disciplinary Board recommended the Supreme Court simply impose a one-year deferred suspension instead of banning Mecca outright.