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Matt Kumin

Matthew Kumin - Attorney at Law - February 28, 2013

Matthew Kumin began his activist career in 1975 when he worked with a group of former inmates in Massachusetts fighting prison practices and the death penalty.  He attended Brown University from 1976-1980 then went to work in Mississippi, Tennessee and the Carolina’s, organizing communities and workplaces around health care issues and working conditions.  In 1983, he returned to graduate school, attending Northeastern University School of law from 1983-1986.  Over the next 9 years, he taught law, worked as a college administrator, consulted with worker-owned businesses and the government of Kazakhstan and worked part time at a law firm.  This work, including setting up cooperatives, became critical to his later success advising California collectives and cooperatives that cultivated and distributed medical cannabis. 

In 1995 Matt opened up his own practice of law, focusing on federal and state civil rights litigation and representing community-based businesses.

In 1996, after the passage of the Compassionate Use Act, Matt began to work with the committed medical cannabis activists in San Francisco, helping guide them through a legal landscape that was virtually uncharted.   One particular issue he identified in the late 1990’s was the land mine of IRC Code section 280E, which prohibits “drug traffickers” from deducting operating expenses for their drug trafficking businesses.  He anticipated that the IRS would apply that section to the emerging medical cannabis industry and so, sought out a test case to challenge that provision.  That test case was CHAMP, a client of Matt’s, which shuttered its doors in 2002 but which also filed a tax return.  When the IRS took the bait and began an audit of CHAMP, probably the best-run facility in the country at the time, Kumin knew he had a chance to change the law.  He assembled a legal team to take on the case and by 2007, when Judge Laro of the United States Tax Court ruled on the case, CHAMP’s tax bill went from $425,000 to $4,905. 

Matt, as an experienced civil rights lawyer, also sued governmental entities that used subterfuge and slanted regulations to discriminate against medical cannabis patients.  One suit against Sonoma County successfully resulted in throwing out that  County’s medical cannabis statute on equal protection grounds.  Though the case was later reversed on other procedural grounds, its impact was felt around the state.   When a group of attorneys in Los Angeles asked Matt to sue the City of LA on similar theories, he agreed.  His team raised tens of thousands of dollars and successfully argued before LA Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr that LA’s ordinance violated various California constitutional rights.  While that case too was successfully appealed, it is also up on a higher appeal before the California Supreme Court.

Throughout the years since 1996, Matt has counseled thousands of patients, caregivers and cooperatives and has set up hundreds of collectives and cooperatives.  He has counseled doctors, regulatory agencies, municipalities and has litigated and counseled clients on numerous matters covering a wide range of legal issues, all of which touch upon medical cannabis, e.g., landlord-tenant, trademark, contracts, taxes etc.

Matt’s most significant case right now stems from the federal government’s push to shut down hundreds of medical cannabis operations in California.  In the Fall of 2011, in the face of that action, Matt assembled a national panel of attorneys to challenge the federal government.  That case is now on appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Oral arguments will take place later in 2013.   All the attorneys on the case believe that their fundamental rights argument will hold traction with the court in light of the recent election results.

After a 4 year stint as a senior partner in a national law firm, during which time he established his cannabis practice as Medical Cannabis Counsel (and opened offices in LA and Denver), he moved back into his solo practice in 2012.  He continues to practice law full time, while lobbying and organizing, and working on drug policy and criminal justice matters.  Matt lives in San Francisco with his wife of 19 years, Valeria, and his two daughters, Sophia and Maya (plus their two cats, Sima and Mancha.)