Chernis Law Group



The California medical marijuana ("MMJ") laws provide a defense to criminal prosecution for certain personal and collective (group) marijuana-related conduct. The two MMJ laws are the Compassionate Use Act (1996), commonly referred to as Prop. 215, and the Medical Marijuana Program Act (2003), commonly referred to as SB 420. These laws effectively legalize, under State law, certain cultivation, transport and distribution activities where prescribed steps are followed. The difficulty is that there remains some ambiguity, disagreement and misinformation about the scope of the MMJ laws and the activity that is legal under those laws.

Chernis Law Group makes it our business to keep abreast of changes in the MMJ laws and arm our clients with that knowledge. It is our prime directive to keep our client out of harm’s way, and we believe an educated and informed client is critical to the equation.

Regardless of whether you are an individual who simply wants to use medical marijuana personally and understand how many plants you can cultivate legally, or you are seeking to cultivate MMJ for a collective or operate a dispensary, and earn money in the process, Chernis Law Group can counsel you about your rights and how your desired activity can be done legally under the California MMJ laws. Chernis Law Group are sophisticated thinkers and creative strategists adept at solving complex problems, and bring that training and sophistication to MMJ as it continues to evolve and raise new and cutting-edge challenges and opportunities.

Our clients include storefront dispensaries, mobile collectives, landlords, edible manufacturers, cultivators, trade groups and primary caregivers. We have even drafted model ordinances for cities regulating cultivations and dispensaries.

Collective/Non Profit Formation

Marijuana GrowerIf you are considering collective cultivation activity, either with a large group of people, or where money will be exchanged, it is recommended to form a legal entity for the collective and register it with the California Secretary of State.

Chernis Law Group has developed an expertise in assisting clients in the formation of MMJ collectives, and addressing all of the challenges that arise between the formation and operational stages. Our approach is not cookie-cutter or one-size-fits all; at Chernis Law Group we consider each client as having unique concerns and needs and once we understand those issues we craft a solution to meet the client’s goals.

Formation is much more than filing a registration or incorporation document with the State. There are several different types of legal entities, including several different forms of non-profits, that may be utilized for MMJ business activities, depending on the client’s unique goals and desired activities. The entities have differences from one another which may be important to you.

Chernis Law Group can remove the uncertainty in the law, answer your questions, and allow you to move forward with confidence. While we do offer packages to clients to meet their budgets, we can also perform specific tasks as needed and in an efficient way.

Best Practices/Compliance/Operational Documents

In the process of forming a new collective, or assisting an existing collective in becoming more compliant, Chernis Law Group spends a great deal of time reviewing with the client best practices to be followed in operating a collective to maximize legal compliance and protection.

Marijuana GrowerChernis Law Group also provides the client with operational agreements that create and document legal and economic relationships with collective members and third-parties performing critical services to the collective, such as cultivating and transporting MMJ. Aside from being integral to operating the business, these agreements and documents are infused with the best practices and help demonstrate the collective’s legitimacy and lawfulness.

With the benefit of our compliance services and documentation, Chernis Law Group has helped clients intercepted by federal and state agents with many hundreds of plants avoid criminal prosecution. Abner Chernis has had clients caught by local law enforcement transporting marijuana who upon showing documentation we prepared avoided prosecution and had their medicine returned. The documents we provide are constantly being updated to reflect recent changes in the law.

Chernis Law Group can assist clients with ongoing corporate maintenance issues necessary to maintaining legal protection, and can explain how to operate the non-profit with a view towards minimizing tax liabilities.


Unfortunately, until marijuana is both fully legalized in California, and re-scheduled by the federal government, there remains a threat of criminal prosecution for persons engaged in MMJ. This is particularly so for large-scale cultivators, transporters and dispensaries. While the case law interpreting California’s MMJ laws has developed favorably in certain key areas, there remain some ambiguities and areas of disagreement, and many in law enforcement who are not familiar with the changing laws. As a result, even the most well-intentioned and law-abiding MMJ patient or collective employee faces some risk for conduct that is defensible under California MMJ laws.

Chernis Law Group fights hard in defending clients in MMJ cases. These cases are unlike most others because there often is a legitimate defense, and Chernis Law Group can use that defense in court and in some instances even before charges are filed.

Chernis Law Group has had a great deal of success representing patients, mobile and storefront dispensary operators, transporters, and cultivators, and even doctors, who are accused of wrongdoing. These successes include persuading prosecutors not to file or to dismiss charges brought against our clients, successfully using the MMJ laws in court to defend clients charged with illegal possession, cultivation, sale, and transport of medical marijuana. We have also had success in persuading federal prosecutors to not charge clients who are caught engaging in MMJ activity.

Michael Chernis handles each of these cases personally. The fees will depend on the strategy we employ and the time it takes to achieve that result. Chernis Law Group does not charge for an initial consultation in criminal cases.


Marijuana DoctorMMJ collectives are not immune from the types of business disputes, and even lawsuits, that confront other industries. Most often, these disputes are with cities seeking to stop the collective from operating, or with landlords seeking to evict the tenant. There are also situations where collectives have disputes amongst partners, or with their own members and service providers.

Chernis Law Group has the unique background and experience to represent individuals and collectives in all forms of litigation related to medical marijuana. For example, Chernis Law Group has represented dispensaries and landlords in lawsuits against cities seeking to enforce dispensary bans, and has defended collectives in unlawful detainer and nuisance cases, as well as in contract disputes and forfeiture proceedings. Chernis Law Group has also represented doctors and clinics that provide recommendations to qualified MMJ patients in litigation and in in Medical Board proceedings.


We have often been asked to assist either the landlord or the tenant (whether it be a collective, cultivator, MMJ doctor, or other form of MMJ-related business) in drafting a lease to address the unique usage and maximize legal protections for our client. Landlords often consult with us to evaluate the cost and benefits associated with leasing to an MMJ tenant, or even permitting a residential tenant to have a personal grow. We have also prosecuted and defendant unlawful-detainer actions relating to MMJ usages, and represented landlords of collectives in federal proceedings.


We assist clients in establishing and protecting their brands and intellectual property associated with medical marijuana businesses, and work with other leading attorneys in the area to develop cutting edge trademarking strategies and navigate the USPTO’s policies with respect to the trademarking of marijuana businesses.