As marijuana gains acceptance, law firms cultivate new pot-specific practices


Monica Gutierrez wants to be an intellectual property lawyer. But here she is, sitting in a law class on marijuana.

The gray area between state and federal law intrigues Gutierrez — she needs to learn how to help cannabis businesses get their names federally registered, she said — and she’s not alone.

Law firms throughout Chicago, from national firms to solo operations, are carving out cannabis practices. Full of lawyers with expertise in real estate, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, and other specialties, firms are increasingly offering to help companies navigate the highly regulated world of medical marijuana, in Illinois and elsewhere.

But that world remains limited, compared with other industries, and plagued by uncertainty. Plus, the stigma surrounding the federally illegal drug still remains, barring some firms from advertising their cannabis practices.

And when it comes to dealing with a substance the federal government puts in the same class as heroin and LSD, there are plenty of issues on which to counsel.

“Every area of law you can think of, when it intersects with cannabis, it gets complicated,” said Dina Rollman, who teaches the cannabis law class at Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law with her business partner, Bryna Dahlin.

The two women formed their firm Rollman & Dahlin in January 2016 to focus on the cannabis industry, and they have seen their workload consistently expand over the first year, Rollman said. The firm counsels companies that grow and sell marijuana as well as businesses that intersect with the industry, from advertising agencies to vaporizer manufacturers.