Attorney, Chernis Law Group
Michael Chernis is hailed as one of California’s foremost experts in both federal and California laws relating to cannabis and the growing legal cannabis industry.
He works efficiently and intelligently to deliver the best possible solutions for clients struggling to understand and navigate a very nascent industry that’s subject to sometimes confusing — and conflicting — laws and regulations.
Michael’s insightful writing and sharp presentations come from his work ethic, rigorous attention to detail, and the unique complexities of each situation. The result? Excellent outcomes for his clients.
"I am very hard on myself in terms of preparing and knowing my case and its facts," Michael says. “I also care very deeply about my clients and getting them the best result possible. With that, and because I know the case law in this area, I believe I have all the tools necessary to produce for my clients."
Michael represents medical marijuana clients seeking to form collectives; existing stores and mobile dispensaries; patients and doctors; manufacturers and cultivators, landlords and others seeking to do business with such collectives. His clients range from established brands to start-ups.
He also represents individuals and businesses in civil litigation with municipalities arising from such activities, and in criminal matters when charged with violating federal or state MMJ laws.
Fifteen years of litigating white collar crime and civil cases with big New York law firms sharpened his skills, including frequent forays against the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other prosecuting agencies.
"It’s necessary to rip apart every case and look at it on its own set of facts, look at the client as an individual and try to figure out what you have to work with.” Michael says. "Only then can you begin to craft a pathway, which must remain somewhat flexible depending on how things evolve, including facts."
Experience in both criminal and civil defense is vital when going against a system where a civil violation can suddenly become criminal — perhaps even a federal case.
"I bridge two worlds, the criminal, and the civil world," Michael says. "I know how to work with prosecutors and I think that’s another perspective that’s invaluable. Other lawyers tend to give business advice in a vacuum, not understanding the criminal consequences."
This translates into powerful strategies for MMJ business clients. Because he has defended such issues in court at the highest level, Michael can identify soft issues in setting up contracts, working through the maze of municipal requirements and the best ways to start a legal cannabis business from ground zero.
The industry’s increased profitability brings with it a much greater potential to run afoul of the law or slip out of compliance in a way that a potential client might never imagine. For instance, although California MMJ laws are not applicable in federal court, Michael has successfully used a client’s compliance with those laws to persuade federal prosecutors not to file criminal charges.
"There are always gray areas where businesses are operating without knowing where the lines are drawn. Most business areas have matured so that 90 percent of the questions have been resolved,” Michael says. “But in this immature industry, there are many uncertainties to be navigated, which are both challenging and interesting."