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Michael S. Chernis - Santa Monica, CA

401 Wilshire Blvd12th Floor Santa Monica, CA 90401

Super Lawyers®


Updated: 08/15/2022

Santa Monica Cannabis Law Lawyer


Mr. Chernis received his juris doctorate from Fordham University School of Law in 1994, where he was a member of the Fordham Law Review. He graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. in Political Science in 1989...

Mr. Chernis received his juris doctorate from Fordham University School of Law in 1994, where he was a member of the Fordham Law Review. He graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. in Political Science in 1989. Mr. Chernis has been a criminal defense attorney and commercial litigator for over 25 years and is licensed to practice law in both California and New York, as well as a number of federal courts in those jurisdictions, including the United States Courts of Appeals for the Ninth and Second Circuits.

Cannabis, CBD and Industrial Hemp Law Expertise

In 2008, Mr. Chernis relocated from New York City to Venice Beach, California where he became an avid surfer. At that time, California was at the forefront of the medical marijuana movement that would lead more than forty states to adopt some form of medical marijuana or adult use cannabis laws and create a multi-billion dollar industry. Seeing the expanding industry in California and the need for lawyers with his training and passion, Mr. Chernis in 2009 made the California cannabis and industrial hemp laws and the federal laws and enforcement policies concerning cannabis and industrial hemp a key area of focus. Thus, Mr. Chernis is one of the longest practicing cannabis-focused lawyers in California and recognized nationally for his expertise in the area.

In the pre-legalization days, he represented "collectives", storefront and mobile dispensaries; cultivators; MMJ patients and doctors seeking protection under the Compassionate Use Act and the Medical Marijuana Program Act. He has defended marijuana cultivators, "collectives" and distributors in federal criminal cases, and represented landlords charged with criminal activity due to their leasing property to cannabis operators. Mr. Chernis has also represented clients in litigation against the federal government arising from seizure of cash or industrial hemp products, and in civil litigation with municipalities arising from cannabis activities. Mr. Chernis still defends clients in State court charged will illegal cannabis activity and licensed cannabis businesses that are charged with violating State regulations. Mr. Chernis continues to advise clients manufacturing industrial hemp and derivative products and is a recognized authority on federal law enforcement policy as it pertains to cannabis.

He writes and lectures frequently on the subject of cannabis regulation. And in November 2018 he was recognized by MG Magazine as one of the 30 Powerful Cannabis Attorneys You Should Know.

Federal and State Criminal Defense & Trial Experience

Mr. Chernis has represented numerous individuals in both state and federal court charged with a wide range of criminal conduct, at all stages of such proceedings, including trial and appeal. Although the California cannabis laws are not applicable in Federal court, Mr. Chernis has in a number of instances successfully used a client's compliance with those laws to persuade federal prosecutors not to file criminal charges, or to return cash seized from licensed cannabis businesses.

Mr. Chernis is also a member of a select panel of defense attorneys that the Los Angeles federal courts and judges ask to represent defendants in federal criminal cases. He has substantial experience in federal criminal defense and is an expert on the United States Sentencing Guidelines and federal sentencing generally.

White-Collar And Commercial Litigation Experience

From 1994 to 2000, Mr. Chernis was a litigation associate with the Jones Day law firm in New York, where he focused on white-collar criminal defense and complex commercial litigation. He then worked for another six years as a litigation associate with Schulte Roth & Zabel in New York, focusing on the same areas.

While at Schulte Roth & Zabel, Mr. Chernis also coordinated a team of lawyers in successful litigation against the Department of Homeland Security relating to its failure to provide adequate relief and federal benefits to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

From 2006 through 2008, Mr. Chernis worked for Hafetz & Necheles, a premier white-collar criminal defense boutique in New York City.

In 2008, Mr. Chernis relocated to California and opened the Los Angeles office of Silverman Sclar Shin & Byrne, where he met Anthony Abner. In November 2011, Mr. Chernis and Mr. Abner left the Silverman firm to form Abner Chernis, LLP.

About Michael S. Chernis

Practice Areas

  • Cannabis Law


Bar Admissions

  • New York, 1995
  • California, 2008
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, 1995
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court Northern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court Central District of California
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit

Other Affiliations

  • California State Bar Association, Litigation and Criminal Defense Sections (Member)
  • Los Angeles County Bar Association, Cannabis Sub Committee Policy (Member)
  • Santa Monica Bar Association (Member)
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys
  • Lawyers Committee for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
  • International Cannabis Bar Association

Classes and Seminars

  • Lectured at quaterly seminars primarily in Los Angeles on State, Local and Federal law governing cannabis use and business models, criminal prosecutors, collectives, and State MMPA compliance issues., Cannabis Career Institute -2009-2016
  • Taxes and the Treatment of Cannabis Income, Medical & Recreational Marijuana in California -10/03/14
  • Federal and Civil Aspects of MCRSA and AUMA, CaNormal -02/18/17
  • Federal Legality and Enforecement Issues Re: Cannabis, Hemp and CBD; the McIntosh Case; and Bills introduced in 2017, NBI Recreational Marijuana Business Law in Calfornia -07/20/17
  • The Future of Cannabis Medicine — An Unfolding Political and Scientific Landscape, CBI Cannabis Based Science -12/01/17
  • Legal Practices for Marijuana Product Packaging and Testing, NBI Marijuana Business Law in California -01/24/18
  • California Marijuana Taxation: The Laterst Rules, Ethics, NBI Recreational Marijuana Business Law in Ca -06/19/18
  • 10 Things to Consider in Finding Real Estate for your Cannabis Business in Los Angeles as a Potential Social Equity Application, LA Technical College - Cannabis Social Equity -07/19/18
  • Securing State Licenses and Local Permits, NCIA 5th Annual Cannabis Business Summit Expo 2018 -07/25/18
  • Federal Legality of Hemp and CBD, CBD Expo West -09/21/18
  • How not to get Burned by the Regulators, Pincus Recreational and Medical Marijuana Law and Business in California -11/01/18
  • Insurance and Risk Mitigation for CBD Spa Services and Products, American Spa CBD Summit 2019 Denver -08/05/19
  • Status of Hemp CBD under CA Laws and Regs, Cannabis Business LAW CWCB Expo LA -09/25/19
  • Compliance Update and Issues, Pincus Cannabis and Hemp Law Business in California -06/04/20
  • BCC Compliance and Enforcement, CalNORML -06/01/21

Past Positions

  • Jones Day, Associate, 1994 - 2000
  • Schulte Roth & Zabel, Associate, 2000 - 2006
  • Hafetz & Necheles, 2006 - 2008


  • Fordham University School of Law, New York, New York, 1994
    Law Review: Fordham Law Review, Member
  • Brandeis University, 1989
    Major: Political Science


Accepts Credit Cards

Office Information


401 Wilshire Blvd12th Floor Santa Monica, CA 90401


  • (310) 382-2541

Office Hours

M-F: 9:30am - 6:00pm


Other Sources of Feedback About Michael S. Chernis

Included on the 2024 Southern California list

View the profile for Michael S. Chernis on Super Lawyers

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