David S. Ruskin Partner
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  • F 312.267.2194
David S. Ruskin

David leads HMB’s Cannabis practice and counsels entrepreneurs, investors and business owners to help achieve their goals in the industry. He is a partner in the firm’s Litigation group, representing companies facing business and tax litigation and providing outside general counsel services for both privately-held and public companies.

Having worked with cannabis companies for nearly a decade, David’s cannabis practice touches every part of the industry. He represents national and expanding brands, licensed retailers, cultivators and processors and delivery services. He also advises non-plant touching and start-up companies as they look to grow in the evolving industry, and he helps both investors and companies seeking capital create the appropriate agreement to accomplish their goals.

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David helps clients navigate unsettled and differing statutes, regulations and industry-specific legal developments. He enjoys guiding clients through the state licensing process and counseling on issues that arise from early-stage application steps through the company’s lifespan. He has assisted license holders from over 15 legalized states in expanding their operations into new jurisdictions, empowering them to enter new markets with compliance and confidence.

With extensive litigation experience, David represents clients in an array of issues litigated in the cannabis industry and beyond. He often represents clients in partnership, ownership and contract disputes and defends clients involved in whistleblower (qui tam), False Claims Act claims and multistate tax issues. He represents clients before state courts, administrative tax tribunals, appellate and federal courts.

Comprehensive Cannabis Counsel, Nationwide Connections

Clients value David as a leading practitioner and advocate in the cannabis industry. He is an active participant in the cannabis space, speaking frequently, and serving on the Board of Directors for the International Cannabis Bar Association. With years of hands-on experience, he offers a unique perspective and a broad network that connects clients nationwide with key players in the cannabis community.


Cannabis Law

  • Counsel for the Illinois Craft Cannabis Association in lawsuit against the State of Illinois, Governor Pritzker and Illinois Department of Agriculture for a writ of mandamus compelling the scoring and issuance of craft grower and infuser licenses that were indefinitely suspended by the Governor’s emergency proclamations due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Counsel for an Illinois licensed medical cannabis dispensary, for its sale/transfer of its business and related Illinois dispensary licenses, 2 medical and 1 adult-use, to a multi-state operator
  • Counsel for numerous applicants for Illinois cannabis licenses, including dispensing organizations, craft growers, infusers and transporters
  • General counsel for a specialty chocolate maker that produces cannabis infused chocolate edibles. Provided licensing agreements in Washington and California to produce and sell branded products in conjunction with licensed partners in other jurisdictions

State & Local Tax

  • Represented group of retailers challenging the Cook County Sweetened Beverage Tax. Successful in securing Temporary Restraining Order from Circuit Court enjoining Cook County from implementing the tax, leading to ultimate repeal of the tax by Cook County
  • Lead counsel for wealthy couple facing residency challenge from the Illinois Department of Revenue after deciding to become permanent Florida residents. After extensive written discovery and depositions, the Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of clients and confirmed their Florida residency while reversing the multi-year income tax assessments as Illinois residents
  • Successful resolution in favor of client, an international steel manufacturer, seeking manufacturing tax credits denied by the Illinois Department of Revenue. Following written discovery and expert depositions, the Department of Revenue conceded and agreed to allow the credits in full
  • Lead counsel for Fortune 100 telecommunications company in series of trials across multiple states, supporting company’s income tax filing positions on cost of performance methodology. Multiple successes through both settlements and following full bench trials

Whistleblower (Qui Tam)

  • Lead counsel in defending national retail chain against whistleblower claim seeking in excess of $9 million, based on unpaid sales tax. Following extensive discovery and mediation attempt, the whistleblower voluntarily dismissed his claims
  • Defended large wine retailer and trader against whistleblower claim seeking damages for unpaid Illinois sales tax. Case dismissed by the Circuit Court granting our motion, which was subsequently upheld by the Illinois Appellate Court
  • Lead counsel in defending international toy manufacturer against whistleblower claim seeking damages for unpaid sales tax on website purchases. Case dismissed by the Circuit Court granting our motion to dismiss
  • Lead counsel in defending large family owned tool manufacturer against whistleblower claim seeking damages for unpaid Illinois sales tax on website purchases. Following discovery and a fully briefed and argued motion to dismiss, the whistleblower voluntarily dismissed his claims, with prejudice

Business Litigation

  • Obtained successful verdict following Federal Court bench trial in Philadelphia in favor of traders and joint venture funding partner and against worldwide trading organization. Plaintiff was seeking millions of dollars in damages for alleged trade secret and non-compete violations. Verdict upheld after subsequent argument before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Successful dismissal of wrongful death claim against client, condominium developer, following written discovery and a deposition and the Circuit Court’s grant of our motion to dismiss, based on the determination that the deceased was an employee and thus limited to workers compensation benefits
  • Successful verdict after lengthy bench trial on behalf of client, investment banker, seeking accounting and money damages in excess of $2 million from ex-partners and corporate entities. Trial court granted clients claims for tortious interference and pierced the corporate veil of various entities in granting money damages
  • Obtained Temporary Restraining Order from Circuit Court for client who was frozen out of his partnership after being locked out of the business premises and computer access. Circuit Court order ultimately resulted in arbitration and resolution of the disputed issues


  • Loyola University, J.D.
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, B.A. in Political Science


  • Illinois


  • Illinois
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit

Professional Memberships

  • American Bar Association
  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Illinois State Bar Association
  • International Cannabis Bar Association, Board of Directors
  • Illinois Cannabis Bar Association
  • Cannabis Law Digest, Contributing Editor
  • Anti-Defamation League, Board Member
  • Illinois Women in Cannabis Mentor Program, Mentor


  • David Ruskin’s “Counseling a Cannabis-Related Business” Published in Practical Law JournalJuly 27, 2023

    David Ruskin’s article “Counseling a Cannabis-Related Business” was featured as the cover story in Practical Law The Journal. This recently updated article is a must-read for anyone from entrepreneurs to veterans in the cannabis industry.

  • David S. Ruskin Published in Practical Law - “Counseling a Cannabis-Related Business: Overview”June 8, 2022

    With more states and countries legalizing cannabis in varying forms, the industry is likely to continue to expand. However, cannabis remains an illegal drug at the federal level, presenting numerous challenges for cannabis-related companies and their counsel. In his article for Practical Law, David S. Ruskin examines the top legal issues that practitioners must consider when counseling either a plant-touching cannabis company or a more indirect cannabis-related business.

  • Updates on Illinois Craft Cannabis Association v. State of IllinoisApril 28, 2021

    Illinois Craft Cannabis Association (“ICCA”) v. The State of Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker, the Illinois Department of Agriculture and its director, Jerry Costello II, Case No. 2020 CH 06247 Since our last update on the ICCA’s lawsuit against the State of Illinois, much has happened, but unfortunately nothing has changed. The delays continue for the hundreds of Craft Grower, Infuser…

  • David S. Ruskin Provides Overview of Illinois Cannabis Regulation for Practical LawNovember 9, 2020

    In less than a decade, Illinois went from treating cannabis as a criminal issue to developing a heavily-regulated legal medical and adult use cannabis industry. Illinois law uses cannabis as a blanket term covering regulated products, including cannabis-infused products, such as edibles. Medical cannabis is a term that covers the same types of product as cannabis, but refers to products…

  • Didn’t Get an Illinois Adult-Use Cannabis Dispensary License…Can You Challenge?April 29, 2020

    While the Illinois dispensing organization conditional licenses have not been awarded yet, we are hopeful they are coming soon. That being said, here are the two questions I get asked most about the current Illinois dispensing license applications: Will COVID-19 cause the IDFPR to delay granting licenses on the scheduled date of May 1, 2020; and If I do not…




  • The New Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act and a Preview of Upcoming LitigationFebruary 26, 2020

    As you undoubtedly know by now, on January 1, 2020, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize the possession and use of adult-use cannabis. The new law, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, 410 ILCS 705, et seq., (the “CRTA”) – all 610 pages of it – establishes the framework of one of the most regulated industries today. More than just laws about personal possession and use, the CRTA includes numerous provisions regarding the new business opportunities in Illinois, including retail operations (dispensaries), cultivation/processing facilities, infusing “kitchens,” and product transportation...

  • Employers Beware: The Cannabis Laws, They Are A-Changin'February 26, 2019

    Of course, laws are changing all the time. But with medical marijuana laws being enacted in states around the country at a quick pace, the list of shifting rights and obligations related to the workplace is growing like a weed. Two recent cases highlight wins for Employees and Employers.

  • Scary Stuff: Illinois Sales Tax Whistleblower Update - First E-tailers and now Custom TailorsOctober 31, 2017

    You may have already seen the Bloomberg article issued on June 1, 2017 which outlines what many of us have sadly come to know as the ?Diamond? qui tam claims: the ongoing exploitation of the Illinois False Claims Act and abuse of the state and local tax regime by an aggressive lawyer turned whistleblower.

  • Lessons Learned from New York's Largest Ever False Claims Act Tax SettlementMay 3, 2017

    A little good faith can go a long way. Insight can be hard to gain from publicly announced settlements, mostly because litigation is typically settled due to the cost of defense and overall frustration with litigating. But the recently announced settlement of a False Claims Act case in New York, based on state income tax, is an exception.

  • No Ostrich Here: Qui Tam Victory for Taxpayer from the Illinois Appellate CourtOctober 19, 2016

    The Illinois Appellate Court has, once again, determined that there was no "reckless disregard," by a taxpayer under the Illinois False Claims Act ("IFCA"), by failing to pay Illinois use tax on internet and catalog sales made into Illinois. The decision issued by the appellate court on October 17, 2016 in State of Illinois, ex rel, Beeler, Schad and Diamond,…

  • Loyola University, J.D.
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, B.A. in Political Science
  • Illinois
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
  • Illinois
500 West Madison Suite 3700
Chicago IL 60661

Phone: 312-606-3200 Fax: 312-606-3232
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