Desmond Chan, Randy Simmen Want To Make Timeless Dispensaries

Randy Simmen is the head designer and Desmond Chan is the creative director for SevenPoint. Right now, they’re bringing their creative eyes back to Illinois, where they brought to life 50 Sunnyside storefronts along with Cresco Labs. Together, Chan and Simmen find creative solutions within any county’s different, sometimes ridiculous rules and regulations about what dispensaries can and can’t do.

Recently, the duo told us how they work with companies to not let restrictions hamstring creativity, as well as their incredible work on the Grateful Dead-themed Scarlet Fire Cannabis Co. 

High Times: How did everything with SevenPoint Interiors begin?

Randy: To take a step back, our parent company is called Visual Elements. The primary focus there is high-end retail manufacturing. So we build stores for clients like Nordstrom, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Hermes, right? My dad actually started the business, and he’s been doing it for 30-plus years. And we started Visual Elements, I think, in 2010. I guess over the years I’ve been working for my dad since I was a teenager. Des and I have been friends for a really long time and we have this amazing manufacturing facility, so we thought, how do we utilize it to do something a little bit more creative and a little bit more direct-to-consumer facing? So that’s when we started the COFO brand, which was targeted to highlight emerging designers locally in Toronto.

With the cannabis side, SevenPoint Interiors started in 2017. With the legalization federally in Canada, it became legal all at once and we wanted to be able to offer our design and manufacturing services to that industry. But understanding that the customers are not our typical… They don’t have retail experience. They don’t necessarily know what it is to operate a retail store, but they won the lottery and they want to open a dispensary as fast as possible, right? So we kind of grabbed that opportunity by the horns and started SevenPoint Interiors, so that we were super focused on cannabis and there was no question about what we did.

Desmond: It was an odd rush because it was a lottery system here in Canada where X amount of licenses were handed out by month. Everyone was just like, when can we open as soon as possible? That led to a modular system that we’ve created to help with quick turnarounds. So, it’s a pre-engineered store fixture system that’s modular, it can expand, it can contract and accommodate retail spaces of many different sizes. All while, really we have a lens on creating a fixture that was specific to the cannabis industry. So everything that came from, what’s your experience when you’re looking at flower? We created our flower global system. We have our capsule, which again, it’s magnifying.

Randy: Yeah, when we realized how quick these turnarounds were, we were like, “You know what? We need a fixture system to support all of these projects.” Because we can’t design brand new fixtures for every client who comes to the door, who needs to open in 12 weeks or whatever it is, right? So that fixture system has been great. It’s budget-friendly. Because we’re vertically integrated, not only are we providing the interior design piece of things, but we’re also managing the budget. I think that’s where we actually have a leg up because we’re vertical. We manufacture for other design firms too, but sometimes a design firm doesn’t necessarily know what it costs to build the thing that they designed.

So a lot of times by the time the design is done and it comes time to price the store, that’s when the client realizes, “Oh shit, I actually can’t afford this. What can we do to value-engineer it?” And so, that’s sort of something we do too, right? Offer other options that try to bring the same aesthetic and design language but in a more cost-effective way.

Desmond: Our leg up is pretty much, we design towards a budget. So if you came to us and said you had a hundred thousand dollars to spend on store fixtures, we can work towards that budget because we build it in-house. We have a team of engineers. The whole production team is here, estimating and everything. We all share our thoughts and build and get a budget that works.

HT: Is that a draw for companies, that it’s more in-house? There’s more quality control?

Randy: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And it’s a bit of a smoother process between the design and to manufacturing because we’re handing it off internally from our design team to our estimating team, to our engineers, to our production staff.

Desmond: We’re all under one roof, which makes things easier.

HT: Now having that experience of knowing how to go fast without sacrificing quality, when it comes to working on stores for Chicago, what are some lessons learned you want to bring to that city? For example, how to handle regulations?

Randy: Oh, a hundred percent. Even just living and working through the last five years of legalization in Canada, when it first started. A lot of the rules and regulations that you’re seeing roll out in the States that have now almost come and gone in a way, when dispensaries started opening in Toronto, it was like, okay, we need a barrier to entry. So, you can’t see anything from the street. We don’t want to see any product or any transactions. Every store either frosted their windows or put some sort of divider wall at the entrance and a check-in desk that’s dedicated for a security person to stand there and check IDs all day. 

Reality is, now most of the check-in desks are empty because they don’t want to pay for an employee to sit there all day to just check IDs. Now, there’s a sign that says if you’re under 21 you must show your ID. And then it’s up to the budtenders inside to make that judgment call of whether they’re going to check you or not.

But it started as a very hard and strict rule that everyone was being very careful to follow. And now, you can see it’s relaxed a little bit. As it should. I think some of the regulations were a little over the top. But now, for example, we’re working on some projects in Ohio and they want man-traps for entrances and exits that are—

Desmond: Yeah. From the waiting room to even the sales floor. And then we’ve seen all this happen, all these regulations that are just over the top. I mean with Canada being federal, it is a lot easier because everyone has mostly the same regulations, but state-by-state is different.

Randy: County-by-county is different.

Desmond: County-by-county is different now in the U.S. So yeah, we’re just learning all this on the medical side. We have one client in Ohio. Anyone that receives their license, they have to be open before, I think … February 23rd. And so, everyone’s rushing to get the design in the works, but then a lot of times it’s just educating our clients to say, “Hey, you know what? Design takes time and isn’t a push of a button.” And then production time is this, build the work back, we got to set weekly meetings. We need to hit certain milestones, we need to have certain decisions made, otherwise everything gets delayed.

HT: Do you guys ever find some of those regulations or restrictions creatively limiting, or do you think of them as chances to get more creative and find solutions to them?

Randy: I think a little bit of both. Working inside a box is always, I don’t know, it comes with its pros and cons. One example we can give you, I don’t know if you saw the Project Scarlet Fire—

HT: For the Grateful Dead theme store. Great work.

Randy: You probably saw the photos of that tunnel, that series of walls. So that store, we didn’t frost the windows. We did create some dividing walls, but through that tunnel from the outside of the store, you can see all the way to the back of the store. You can see people move between the panels but you don’t see the product and you don’t see any transactions. It was a way for us to create some visual interest from the exterior but also working within that box of hiding the sight lines.

Desmond: And when you’re in front of the store, you have to see it in person because it automatically wants to attract you and it looks like an optical illusion of some sort. Or people that are like, “Is that a mirror or something happening?” It makes you just draw clients in to experience the space.

HT: How did that design for that store come about?

Desmond: Every client is different, but Dave in particular, being the deadhead that he is, he is a passionate Grateful Dead lover. He goes and travels far distances to go to the shows and he wanted to have fun with it. We sort of agree, you’re selling weed, why not take the opportunity to up that retail experience because you can?

HT: What would you say are some usual essentials for a retail experience? 

Desmond: Well, lockable fixtures. You definitely need to have lockable fixtures. If you’re showcasing any cannabis products on the floor, they can’t be open shelves so that people can take them or anything like that. Efficiency at point of sale. So at the cash desk, something that we have established as how we plan the space is so that usually the vault is right behind the POS … And we’ve created this pass-through system where you can drop, from the vault, your product in, close the drawer and then from the sales floor side, open up the drawer, grab the product, turn around, give it to your client. It’s just quick during rush hour and things like that. But lockable cases are one key thing. A lot of people want to see the experience. Some people want to see the actual flower. Depending on the client, a few like the whole deli-style kind of look where you can open up your mason jar and let your client select the nugget they want.

Randy: And that’s state-by-state too. Not all states allow that. In Canada, there’s no open-sell in Canada. Everything’s packaged and it’s got a government seal on it, right?

HT: What are some common aesthetic choices you or your clients respond to?

Randy: Our first step when we approach a new client is we send out a questionnaire. It’s a detailed questionnaire. It forces the customer to think about some questions that they probably hadn’t thought … about before reading the questionnaire. But the first thing we hit on is your brand. What’s your brand about? What’s your brand story? What’s your identity? Because the aesthetics are all driven by that. Who you are and who your target audience is and what’s your aesthetic as a brand.

Where are they at right now, if they’re an existing brand? And where would they like to go or where would they like to be? We really want to convey that message, what their strengths are as a brand. Definitely carry through their brand story and color story. So that really dictates it. For example, we have one client that’s called Lake Effect. They’re out in Michigan. Their store is currently blue. So blue is definitely a heavy color within the space that we redesigned for them. 

Desmond: They also wanted 1500 SKUs or something like that.

Randy: So based on the way those questions are answered, we know we’re going to need a lot of shelving. We know from a brand standpoint it’s going to be a lot of blue and then Des pulls together a mood board of different materials that complement each other. It all depends on the brand. I don’t know that there’s an aesthetic that we necessarily lean toward. 

Desmond: We’re definitely kept in-the-know with a lot of forecast resources that we look into. So we know what’s, for example, we know what colors are trending 2023, ’24, ’25. Really, it’s just paying attention to what’s happening, I guess, globally and following market research. Resources to think, okay, you know what? To build a store that’s kind of future-proof, right? That’s an important factor for us. Timeless. Something that’s trending right now, but it’s going to be timeless for the next couple of years. 

HT: Creatively, how does cannabis help the both of you in creating?

Randy: Obviously during working hours, if we’re at the office, we stay away from it. But we definitely, both Des and I like to smoke some weed, put our heads down, get creative, and just problem-solve. It’ll help me zone in on one thing. 

Desmond: [The] ideation phase, I think for both of us, is smoking weed. We start thinking about ideas. Then when we sober back down, it’s, “Let’s get her done.” We tally up what we’ve explored and then put it to work. But for me, it’s been my lifetime with smoking. It’s always been part of my creative process, and I think for Randy as well.

HT: Before we wrap up, any subjects you want to stress the importance of for the both of you, the company, and your general field?

Randy: We covered the module system, which we continue to expand on. The importance of branding, we can’t talk about that enough. There are so many clients that come to the table. Not that it should, but obviously if someone comes to the table who’s got their branding figured out, it just makes, we know the process is going to be smoother.

Desmond: And not only that, but in Canada here, the cannabis stores are extremely oversaturated. Our government just kind of gave free reign. Whoever wants to open up a cannabis store can go ahead. And we’re seeing many close now.

Desmond: That didn’t pull up their socks to do their work on how to operate a cannabis store, we’re seeing it, right? But that also shined a light on how important brand placement is in the cannabis industry. Education is key.

Randy: Yeah, customer service.

Desmond: Customer service and education. You want to walk into a store and you want to talk to somebody that not just knows what they like to smoke, but what’s good for you, for whatever effect you need, be it for health reasons or for recreation. That’s such a key, important factor, we’ve noticed, with the oversaturation of all these different stores here. The ones that are succeeding are… It’s either a price war, if not that, then it’s education, customer service. It’s like once you find your hairstylist, you kind of stick with it, right?

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Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Acquires Assets To Launch Largest Black-Owned Cannabis Company

Entertainment mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs announced on Friday that he is launching what is billed as the world’s largest Black-owned cannabis brand with the $185 million purchase of existing licensed marijuana operations in three states. Combs is purchasing the business operations from Cresco Labs and Columbia Care, two multistate cannabis operators that are required to divest the assets to complete a previously announced merger of the two companies.

The transaction, if approved by state and federal regulators, would add to Combs’ portfolio of enterprises, which includes ventures in entertainment, media, fashion, and alcohol. Combs, the chairman and CEO of Combs Enterprises, said that he is purchasing the assets to address the inequities of the cannabis industry, where 81% of businesses are white-owned, according to a legislative report released in Maryland this week. 

Many Black entrepreneurs have said that difficulties with financing make it difficult for all but deep-pocketed business owners to succeed in the cannabis industry. The barriers to entering the legal market follow decades of marijuana prohibition that saw Black and Brown people disproportionately arrested and jailed for cannabis-related offenses.

“It’s diabolical,” Combs told the Wall Street Journal. “How do you lock up communities of people, break down their family structure, their futures, and then legalize it and make sure that those same people don’t get a chance to benefit or resurrect their lives from it?”

“My mission has always been to create opportunities for Black entrepreneurs in industries where we’ve traditionally been denied access, and this acquisition provides the immediate scale and impact needed to create a more equitable future in cannabis,” Combs said in a statement. “Owning the entire process — from growing and manufacturing to marketing, retail, and wholesale distribution — is a historic win for the culture that will allow us to empower diverse leaders throughout the ecosystem and be bold advocates for inclusion.”

$185 Million Deal

Under the deal, a new firm controlled by Combs will acquire nine cannabis retail stores and three production facilities in New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts. In return, Combs will pay $110 million in cash and another $45 million in debt financing, plus future payments based on growth benchmarks for a total amount of up to $185 million. Combs said he will leverage the new enterprise to help increase Black participation in the cannabis industry, a goal supported by Cresco CEO Charlie Bachtell.

“For an industry in need of greater diversity of leadership and perspective, the substantial presence of a minority-owned operator in some of the most influential markets in the country being led by one of the most prolific and impactful entrepreneurs of our time is momentous…and incredibly exciting,” Bachtell said in a statement on Friday. “We’re thrilled to welcome Sean and his team to the industry.”

In March, Cresco Labs announced that it would acquire Columbia Care in a $2 billion stock transaction. The merger of the two enterprises forms one of the largest cannabis companies in the United States, with operations in 18 states with legal cannabis including early adopters Colorado and California. But regulations governing the cannabis industry and business licenses require the companies to divest some assets in states where their operations overlap, such as Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio.

Bachtell said that the deal with Combs is bigger than the transaction itself, “and it couldn’t come at a time of greater significance and momentum.”

“We’ve seen executive power exercised to address matters of cannabis injustice, we’re seeing bi-partisan support for elements of federal reform, and we’re seeing some of the largest and most influential states in the country launch cannabis programs prioritizing social responsibility– this announcement adds to that momentum,” Bachtell said. “For Cresco, the transaction is a major step towards closing the Columbia Care acquisition and our leadership position in one of the largest consumer products categories of the future.” 

Largest Black-Owned Cannabis Company

The transaction is Combs’ first venture into the cannabis industry and will create the United States’ first minority-owned and operated, vertically integrated multistate cannabis operator in a sector projected to grow to $72 billion by 2030. The vertically integrated operations in New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts will provide Combs’ new company the ability to grow and manufacture cannabis products, while wholesale and distribution assets will market those branded products to licensed dispensaries in major metropolitan areas including New York City, Boston, and Chicago. The deal also includes retail stores in all three states. 

“These assets offer the Combs’ team significant market presence, enabling them to make the most impact on the industry as a whole,” said Columbia Care CEO and Co-founder, Nicholas Vita. “It’s been clear to us that Sean has the right team to carry on the strong legacy of these Columbia Care and Cresco Labs facilities, and we can’t wait to see how he helps shape the cannabis industry going forward through his entrepreneurial leadership and innovation.”

The deal is subject to several conditions, including regulatory approval, clearance under antitrust rules and the closing of Cresco Labs’ acquisition of Columbia Care. The companies are also in the process of divesting other assets to meet regulatory requirements ahead of the closing of the deal.

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Mission of Justice: The Weldon Project and Mission Green

The legalization of cannabis, while not perfect, has largely been beneficial to the varied community of people who enjoy the herb. New business and employment opportunities have opened up, the variety of products has increased, and millions of people in legal jurisdictions have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you won’t be locked up for holding a little bit of weed.

But our justice system has failed to keep pace with the realities of legalization. Although some states have been proactive about releasing or resentencing pot prisoners and clearing their records, others have made attaining relief from a criminal record a chore. And the federal government has largely ignored the legalization movement and continues to imprison people, often for decades, for marijuana-related offenses. But the arrests and convictions aren’t just crime statistics. They also represent real women and men—people like Weldon Angelos, who was an up-and-coming music producer who had worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur when his life was upended by the War on Drugs nearly 20 years ago.

In 2003, Angelos was a 24-year-old father of two when he was sent to prison for 55 years for selling less than $1,000 worth of marijuana to an informant. Alarmed at the sentence the nation’s drug laws forced him to impose on the young, nonviolent offender, Paul Cassell, the federal judge in his case, eventually left the bench over the injustice. Despite his tough-on-crime reputation, he also made public pleas for Angelos’ release. The case became a symbol for the excesses of the American criminal justice system, gaining the attention of a bipartisan group of lawmakers and celebrities including Snoop and Alicia Keys, who all joined in a chorus of dissent. The calls for clemency were eventually heard, and Angelos was released from prison in 2016 after spending 13 years behind bars. In December 2020, then-President Donald Trump issued Angelos a full pardon.

Planting the Seeds for Mission Green

After his release from prison, Angelos became a vocal advocate for those still behind bars due to the excesses of the federal justice system, including mandatory minimum sentences and Section 924(c), the federal law that resulted in his 55-year sentence. The sentence was imposed because a police informant testified Angelos had a firearm strapped to his ankle when the marijuana transactions occurred, although there was no evidence that he had ever used or brandished the gun.

In 2018, the efforts of reform advocates including Angelos resulted in the passage of the First Step Act, which provides a path to early release for deserving federal prisoners. More than 3,000 inmates qualified for early release the year after the bill was passed, a number that grew to more than 7,500 by July 2022, according to the Justice Department.

In a virtual interview, Angelos characterizes the First Step Act as “probably the most comprehensive reform since 1970.” With passage of the bill secured, Angelos decided to turn his attention to those who, like him, were imprisoned over weed. He formed The Weldon Project, an organization funding social change and financial aid for those who are behind bars for cannabis-related offenses. Marshaling the assistance of a broad coalition of lawmakers, entertainers, and thought leaders, The Weldon Project launched Mission Green, the group’s first initiative to address the harms of cannabis prohibition.

“We decided to form the Weldon Project and our first initiative was project Mission Green that would work with the White House on cannabis clemency issues. We wanted to make sure that this group of offenders wasn’t passed over again,” Angelos remembers. “And so we worked with the last few years of the Trump administration to get a number of individuals who were serving life in prison for cannabis clemency, as well as other people that were serving lengthy sentences.”

In the waning hours of his presidency, Trump pardoned 74 people and commuted the sentences of another 70, including many who had been convicted of cannabis offenses. The Weldon Project continued its work into the next administration, calling on President Joseph Biden to honor his campaign commitment to end incarceration for marijuana crimes. Last year, The Weldon Project sent a letter signed by more than 150 artists, athletes, lawmakers, reform advocates, and policy experts, as well as leaders in business, law enforcement, and academia, calling for clemency for cannabis prisoners. The letter urges the president to use his authority “to grant a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to all persons subject to federal criminal or civil enforcement on the basis of non-violent marijuana offenses.”

“The Mission Green Initiative is really focused on freeing people who are stuck in the federal prison system for cannabis offenses through presidential clemency as well as compassionate release,” Angelos explains.

The group also has programs to help cannabis prisoners while they are still behind bars and initiatives to help the families waiting for them to return home.

“We started working on a commissary program that helps support individuals who are serving lengthy sentences for cannabis so they can have the basic essentials that the prison doesn’t provide, like hygiene products, communication with your family and food and whatnot,” says Angelos. “And so that was really the inspiration behind Mission Green, which we started in 2018.”

“We’re also looking to start supporting the families of people that are incarcerated because when the bread-winner goes to jail, the kids suffer,” he adds. “So we want to start supporting them.”

Much of the outcry over the plight of cannabis prisoners centers on the dichotomy of the American legal system’s approach to weed. Many people see the dual reality of men and women sitting in prison for selling herb while others, including multinational corporations, move billions of dollars worth of weed every year as a stark injustice. Angelos agrees, adding that companies and individuals who are making money in the regulated cannabis market have a responsibility to help those imprisoned for marijuana-related offenses.

“Anybody that’s profiting from cannabis has a duty to step up and do something about the people that paved the way for legalization,” he says emphatically. “A lot of these stories, I call them horror stories, helped push the needle in favor of reform.”

Kyle Kazan and Weldon Angelos / Courtesy of Mission Green

Many cannabis industry business owners and executives have accepted that responsibility. Some of the industry’s most recognizable brands, including Cookies, Cresco Labs, and Flower One have signed on as sponsors. Support from Glass House came in the form of a $25,000 donation and service on the organization’s board of directors by Kyle Kazan, the CEO of the California company. Graham Farrar, Glass House president, also believes the regulated industry has a duty to help.

“I think as an industry, as a company, we have an obligation to connect the flywheel of our success to stop the wrongs of the drug war and try and repair some of the wrongs of the past,” he tells me.

Farrar adds that the drug war not only failed to accomplish its goals, it destroyed or disrupted an untold number of lives.

“The War on Drugs is bullshit,” he says bitterly. “More and more people recognize that every day. We realize it was never a War on Drugs. It was a war on people.”

Wilfred Maina, account coordinator at NisonCo, a cannabis-centric public relations firm, believes that all companies working in the regulated cannabis industry, not just the ones actually selling weed, have a responsibility to help those who have been sent to prison for marijuana offenses.

“It is simply unjust to financially benefit from an industry that still puts people in jail in some cases or places, not others. Until cannabis has become federally regulated and everyone incarcerated for a nonviolent cannabis crime is exonerated, the private and nonprofit sectors must work together to right this wrong,” Maina wrote in an email to High Times. “Ancillary cannabis companies, just like plant-touching ones, directly benefit from legacy knowledge and hard-fought advocacy efforts. Without the illicit market, there would be no legitimate market.”

The Weldon Project and Mission Green have succeeded in assembling a broad coalition of lawmakers, entertainers, athletes, reform advocates, and business leaders to address the injustice of harsh prison sentences for marijuana crimes. But reaching the ultimate goal of freeing those men and women also requires the support of everyday people, especially those in the cannabis community who enjoy the fruits of their labors and sacrifice. Donations to the Weldon Project are always welcome, but people also have the power to act.

“They can speak out against it,” Angelos says, encouraging all to get involved. “They can share stories of people who are incarcerated and success stories of people who get out and actually do good. Or they can reach out to their members of Congress and demand change, reach out to the president and demand intervention for these people who are still sitting in prison to this day.”

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Benzinga Cannabis Conference Kicks Off in Chicago Next Week

Thousands of cannabis entrepreneurs and activists are expected to descend upon Chicago next week for the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference.

The two-day event kicks off on September 13 at the Palmer House Hilton, where attendees will be given an opportunity to broaden their network and listen to a who’s-who of keynote speakers.

It is the 15th edition of the cannabis conference, which Benzinga, a financial media outlet, bills as the top cannabis conference in the world, and a summit where “where stars are made and real deals happen.”

The outlet says that a recent cannabis conference “was the very site where Trulieve Cannabis team met Harvest Health & Recreation, which ultimately led to a $2.1-billion acquisition.”

“At this modern day gathering, you’ll have the opportunity to meet some of the most important cannabis stars at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference where you’ll rub shoulders with executives of top-performing companies, glean priceless insights from the world’s leading cannabis investors, entrepreneurs, social equity leaders, women who have taken the industry by storm and so many more,” the outlet said in an announcement earlier this summer.

“Now in its 15th edition, the CCC is where countless companies, from large to small to startups, have met investors who supported them with tens of millions. Sit in on the numerous presentations, fireside chats and exclusive interviews. Enjoy friendly access to companies representing more than 90% of the cannabis industry’s market capitalization in one place.”

Courtesy of Benzinga

Benzinga is offering three different ticket packages for the conference. For $797.00, attendees can receive a general admission ticket, which will get them two-day admission to conference content tracks, two-day admission to the exhibit hall, as well as access to cocktail receptions.

A VIP Pass will cost you just under $1,300, but it will get you the following: “Access to Conference VIP Lounge; Access to VIP area at the Afterparty; Special Invites to Dinners & Parties; Express Check-In; VIP name badge; Reserved Seating; 2 Day Admission to conference content tracks; 2 Day Admission to the Exhibit Hall; Access to Cocktail Receptions both days; Access to Conference Networking App.”

A third option, the Investor Pass, is “for institutional and accredited investors,” and costs just under $300.

Those in attendance will have the chance to listen to several luminaries from the cannabis industry: Charlie Bachtell, CEO Cresco Labs, LLC; Kim Rivers, CEO Trulieve Cannabis Corp.; Chris Beals, CEO WeedMaps; Wendy Berger, Board Member Green Thumb Industries; Boris Jordan, Executive Chairman of the Board Curaleaf; and Michael DeGiglio, CEO Village Farms.

In addition, the conference will be highlighted by dozens of other notable speakers, such as Vic Mensa, who recently launched Chicago’s first Black-owned cannabis brand 93 Boyz; NFL Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, the founder of Michigan-based cannabis company Primitiv; boxing legend Mike Tyson, the co-founder of the cannabis company Tyson 2.0; and former professional wrestler Ric Flair, who is involved in Tyson 2.0.

Three members of the U.S. House will also speak at the conference: Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL); Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA); and Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH).

The conference will also have a special emphasis on social equity.

“Through our Cannabis Capital Conference series, we strive to put a spotlight on the conversation surrounding social equity via panel discussions with organizations who are combating inequality in the cannabis industry, individuals who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs, and policymakers who are leading the charge on writing legislation to undo the impacts of prohibition,” Benzinga says. “Additionally, Benzinga has committed to donating a percentage of all event ticket sales to Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to cannabis criminal justice reform. We are also proud to offer discounted conference tickets to owners of marijuana businesses who have received state certification for their social equity initiatives.”

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Legalization vs. The Constitution: Why Most States’ Cannabis Laws Are at Risk

Americans confused and frustrated by the conflicting and contradictory mishmsash of state and federal cannabis law can take solace: US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas doesn’t like it either. But for argumentative types and fans of litigation, good news is here. Thanks to a recent federal court decision, anyone dissatisfied with the status quo in certain states’ cannabis regulatory schemes has more cause to sue and overturn those laws. The era of the cannabis lawsuit has arrived.

The Aug. 17 First Circuit Court of Appeals decision that invalidated a residency requirement in Maine’s medical-marijuana law won’t allow for cross-border shipments of cannabis in between states anytime soon, despite some misleading (or confused) analyses. What it does do, legal experts and federal lobbyists told Cannabis Now, is make it easier for Big Weed to take over otherwise protected state markets—while also, in a twist, putting their current business models at risk.

The decision also set state and local regulators scrambling for their lawyers to see where they’re most exposed. Unfortunately for the social justice minded, well intentioned efforts to ensure minority participation in the cannabis industry’s so-called “equity” programs may be most at risk.

Interstate Commerce vs. Shipping Weed

First, the court case. Like several other states, Maine—which legalized adult-use cannabis in 2016—had on its books residency requirements for anyone seeking a cannabis permit. That’s problematic, as any law that favors locals over out-of-staters violates what’s called the “Dormant” Commerce Clause regulating “interstate commerce.” 

As Scott Bloomberg, an associate professor of law at the University of Maine wrote, “Our nation’s current system of regulating marijuana would ordinarily be unconstitutional.”

Recognizing this flaw—one that legal experts have identified as vulnerable for years—an out-of-state Delaware company called High Street Capital that wished to buy out Northeast Patients Group, owner three of Maine’s seven medical dispensaries, sued the state to overturn the residency requirement. 

Maine regulators dropped the residency requirement for recreational cannabis but tried to defend the residency requirement for medical cannabis—and lost, twice, first in federal district court and then again Aug. 17 on appeal.

The state could try to appeal to the Supreme Court; it’s unclear if they will. A spokesman for Maine’s Office of Cannabis Policy referred Cannabis Now to the state Attorney General’s Office. A spokesperson for the Attorney General declined to comment. 

But in the short term, states with restrictions on “interstate commerce” can expect lawsuits to overturn those restrictions. “I worry,” Bloomberg tweeted, “that [the court] just opened the door to interstate trade via judicial decree.”

Other observers were more circumspect. They pointed out that the decision alone doesn’t mean that multi-state operators can start shipping bud across state lines, as the federal Controlled Substances Act is very much in play. 

This may sound like mental gymnastics, but bear with us as we walk through the kind of situation that drives Clarence Thomas up a wall: Though cannabis is illegal, Congress has also tacitly acknowledged an interstate market in marijuana. 

“They aren’t saying it’s legal,” said Shane Pennington, a New York-based attorney at Vicente Sederberg LLP, one of the nation’s foremost cannabis-focused law firms. “They’re just saying it exists.”

Congress still classifies cannabis as illegal, and anyone trafficking in an illegal substance across state lines still commits a federal crime. 

Several states, including Oregon in 2019 and California this year, have passed laws in anticipation of federal legalization that would allow permit holders to ship cannabis across state lines, provided they hold permits in both states and federal law changes. But those provisions also require major, as-yet unseen changes in federal policy to take effect. 

Some legal experts did suggest that someone could try to send a few packs across state lines and then use the First Circuit decision in a defense; other experts said that anyone trying this particular gambit ought to have a very good defense team ready.

What this means is that restrictions that favor in-state residents over out-of-staters are vulnerable to lawsuits—because “interstate commerce” means companies based in other states doing business in other states. 

No More Locals Only (Or Locals First)

In this meaning, Facebook conducts interstate commerce. So do Cresco Labs, Trulieve and other cannabis companies with business in multiple states—like, as soon as their sale is approved, High Street Capital.

“What this case says, consistent with case law in alcohol… is that residency requirements passed for state protectionism aren’t allowed under the Commerce Clause,” said Randal Meyer, the executive director of the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group. 

As Meyer and legal observers have said, Maine did not even attempt to find a defense for its residency requirement other than state protectionism, which the Dormant Commerce Clause specifically forbids. 

“The 50 states are a free-trade union,” Meyer added. “States simply aren’t allowed to discriminate against other states.” 

There are various ways around this prohibition in the form of tax breaks and other favors a state can dole out to companies within its borders. Still, any major cannabis company with intrastate businesses in multiple states—which may want to preserve that status quo as a way of protecting its investments; there’s not much utility in having five massive weed grows in five states unless federal law means you have to—should be prepared for their current business model to be disrupted.

However, other laws, like state and local equity laws that use zip codes of residency or other techniques to reserve equity licenses for drug-war victims who may not be out-of-state residents, are absolutely in jeopardy as a result of this ruling, experts said.

Equity at Risk

There are yet other ways that licensing may be used (or abused) in ways that give preference to local residents. These include “scoring” systems that ultimately favor locals as well as the “arbitrary” choices that local planning, zoning, or even cannabis regulatory boards or commissions may make. 

(Oh, the local good old boy who bankrolled the Chamber of Commerce’s pancake breakfast got his permit when the out-of-staters didn’t? It just came down to the merits.) 

That’s a stickier situation than a state marijuana law with an explicit residency requirement or other form of protectionism—such as some equity laws. Social equity laws are intended to fulfill marijuana legalization’s unfulfilled promise of ensuring minority participation in the industry. Many of them use residency or an upbringing in local zip codes deemed to be hit hardest by the war on drugs. 

“This isn’t necessarily because they’re trying to discriminate against out of state,” Pennington said. “They might be arguing they’re trying to help communities hurt by the War on Drugs… but a court might just say, you can’t do that anymore.”

All of these could remain if, while legalizing marijuana federally, Congress chose to suspend the dormant commerce clause, as Bloomberg wrote in a recent article, even for a short period of time while states experimented with the concept of a national weed market. Some states could opt out, others could opt in. But they can’t now under current federal law—and this spells turbulence ahead, for Big Weed as well as equity licensees.

It sure looks like cannabis lawsuits are in the industry’s immediate future.

The post Legalization vs. The Constitution: Why Most States’ Cannabis Laws Are at Risk appeared first on Cannabis Now.

The High Times 100 of 2021

Welcoming back the High Times 100—our celebration of the top market movers and culture creators in the cannabis space. Although we took a brief hiatus while the world shut down amid COVID-19, we’re back this year with a vastly different landscape. Enter 2022, and there are more public companies than ever. It was difficult to narrow the list down to just 100 entries, as there are many more fighters who are not included. Browse through the list of honorees that were selected this year.

Courtesy of 4Front Ventures Corp.

Leo Gontmakher
CEO, 4Front Ventures
Leo Gontmakher is CEO of 4Front Ventures—a vertically integrated multi-state cannabis operator that manages over 25 different cannabis brands and strives for high quality as well as efficiency. His leadership has kept 4Front Ventures on the path to success—so much that the company was recognized as one of Inc.’s “Best-Led Companies of 2021” at the end of last year. Gontmakher co-founded Northwest Cannabis Solutions, and he previously served as the COO at Cannex until it merged with 4Front Ventures in 2019.

Courtesy of 710 Labs

Brad Melshenker
Co-CEO, 710 Labs
Brad Melshenker is a successful entrepreneur, having founded The Greenest Green in 2009 and 710 Labs in 2012, as well as creating ancillary businesses The Faulty Pelican and Green Life Consulting. Aside from these efforts, he also put his best foot forward to help the Colorado Department of Revenue create draft rules for extract regulations. Melshenker embraces a great commitment for his companies to produce excellent product that he himself would buy, and is devoted to embracing social equity involvement and other community services whenever possible.

Courtesy of Advanced Nutrients

BigMike Straumietis
CEO, Advanced Nutrients LTD.
A grower since 1983, BigMike is founder and CEO of Advanced Nutrients, creator of the ONLY complete cannabis growing system that Hits the Shift and optimizes all phases of the vegetative and bloom cycles to bring the plant to its true genetic potential. BigMike has dedicated his life to decoding the cannabis genome and making cannabis an acceptable and everyday part of healing humanity. For his work he’s been featured on HBO, Showtime, Yahoo Finance, Cheddar’s, CannaBiz, Kennedy on Fox; and in High Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Rolling Stone, and Playboy.

Courtesy of Ted Lidie, Facebook

Ted Lidie
Founder and CEO, Alien Labs
One of the world’s most recognized cannabis brands, Alien Labs has become a huge success since its inception in 2014, thanks to founder and CEO Ted Lidie. His vision and relentless passion for cultivating cannabis led him to create a premium-flower empire—strains like Melonade and Kryptonic might ring a bell as some of the winners at the High Times Cannabis Cup Arizona: People’s Choice Edition 2021 (not to mention many more products like pre-rolls and edibles, too).

Courtesy of Ardent Cannabis

Shanel Lindsay
CEO, Ardent Life, Inc.
The Boston-based biotechnology company known as Ardent Life, Inc. was founded by CEO Shanel Lindsay to bring about real change for medical cannabis patients. Lindsay spent over 15 years using cannabis to treat pain from ovarian cysts, and after witnessing the inconsistencies of decarboxylation methods, Lindsay invented the Nova Precision Decarboxylator. She’s also retained a strong presence in the cannabis community, having served two terms on the Massachusetts Cannabis Advisory Board and is the cofounder of the nonprofit Equal Opportunities Now and the Northeast Cannabis Coalition.

Courtesy of Abner Kurtin, Instagram

Abner Kurtin
Founder and CEO, Ascend Wellness Holdings
Abner Kurtin, Founder and CEO of Ascend Wellness Holdings, has been managing capital for two decades. The Harvard Business School graduate initially began his career at The Baupost Group, was a member of the Presidents Council of Massachusetts General Hospital and Chairman of the Hill House. He is also the founder of the K Capital Partners (a multibillion dollar hedge fund) and Ca2 Group (a Massachusetts-based real estate firm), before he founded Ascend Wellness Holdings in 2018.

Courtesy of Aurora Cannabis

Miguel Martin
CEO, Aurora Cannabis Inc.
Miguel Martin has been an integral part of Aurora Cannabis Inc. since September 2020 when he was appointed the role of CEO. With over 25 years of background in consumer-packaged goods paired with firsthand cannabis industry expertise, Martin is leading Aurora to succeed in the Canadian and European cannabis industries. His former roles include President and CEO of Reliva, CBD Wellness, and President of Logic Technology Development Inc, one of the largest e-cigarette manufacturers in the US.

Courtesy of Auxly Cannabis Group

Hugo Alves
Co-founder and CEO, Auxly Cannabis Group Inc.
Tasked with directing Auxly Cannabis Group Inc.’s strategic vision, co-founder and CEO Hugo Alves is a longtime cannabis industry pioneer who has had many interactions with various Canada-based companies, brands, patient access groups, and events and played an important part in Canada’s recreational cannabis industry. Alves also co-founded Hope for Health, a registered medical cannabis charity, which focuses on medical cannabis access and education, and is an adjunct professor who teaches Marijuana Law and Practice at the University of Western Ontario Law School—the first ever course of its kind offered at Canadian law schools.

Courtesy of Jonathan Sandelman, Twitter

Jonathan Sandelman
Chairman and CEO, Ayr Wellness
Jonathan Sandelman is a 30-year veteran of Wall Street and former President of Bank of America Securities, but his experience in the cannabis industry launched when he founded Ayr Wellness—a vertically integrated cannabis company operating in multiple states—with brands such as Kynd, Origyn, Stix Preroll Co. and Levia. Sandelman shares on his LinkedIn profile that he personally values investing in his “employees, customers and communities,” and strongly supports the company’s approach to capital and expansion.

Courtesy of Curaleaf

Bernard Noble
Co-founder, B Noble
Bernard Noble was sentenced to 13 years hard labor in 2010 for being in possession of two joints. After having served seven years of that sentence, he was released in 2018, and the experience inspired him to create his for-profit cannabis brand, B Noble, with Fab 5 Freddy. B Noble has become an important representative and advocate in ending the War on Drugs after personally being convicted for small amounts of cannabis. Most recently, the B Noble brand partnered with Curaleaf, where 10 percent of the proceeds from every two-joint pack go toward helping those who have suffered as a result of the War on Drugs.

Courtesy of CAN-DO Foundation website

Amy Ralston Povah
Founder, CAN-DO Foundation
Clemency advocate Amy Ralston Povah was imprisoned for nine years, out of a total of 24-year sentence, for “conspiracy” in a trafficking case related to MDMA. After being commuted by former President Bill Clinton in July 2000 (and a full pardon later by former President Donald Trump in January 2021), Povah founded the CAN-DO Foundation, which strives for clemency for anyone who is convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. A majority of her life has been dedicated to fighting for criminal justice reform and against the War on Drugs.

Courtesy of Canaccord Genuity Group Inc.

Dan Daviau
Dan Daviau is President and CEO. Canaccord Genuity Group Inc. Mr. Daviau served as President of Canaccord Genuity’s North American Capital Markets business from February 2015. From 2012 to 2015, he was President of the firm’s US Capital Markets business, where he helped to structure the firm’s investment banking, research, sales and trading operations in the region and improve cross-border capabilities. From 2010 to 2012, Mr. Daviau was Head of Investment Banking for Canaccord Genuity.

Courtesy of Cannabiotix

Neema Samari
Owner and Co-founder, Cannabiotix
Born and raised in Santa Monica, Neema Samari first got into the cannabis industry as a youngster over 22 years ago.  Samari co-founded Cannabiotix back in 2014, and quickly garnered the brand national attention as one of the elite connoisseur cannabis brands in the space, after building and running the brand’s first legal, vertically integrated facility in Las Vegas.  After Samari and his team grew CBX into the #1 brand in NV, he returned to CA to blueprint and build the company’s second vertically integrated headquarters.  Since re-launching into the CA market in 2020, Samari and his team have quickly grown Cannabiotix into the #1 selling premium flower brand in the state.  This year Samari decided to try his hand in a different sector of the space as he recently launched his new brand Highatus, an edibles company that produces some of the best tasting infused sour gummies on the planet.

Courtesy of CSE

Barrington Miller
Director, Canadian Securities Exchange
Director of Listed Company Services at the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) Barrington Miller works to help retain listed companies who work with the CSE through promotion and marketing. He also helps the company with business development, education and outreach regarding the programs. Before joining the CSE, he worked as a professional trader through Dundee Securities and Raymond James, as well as trade work with Weyerhauser and ED&F Man. He is a leader when it comes to cannabis trading and someone with a unique understanding of the industry.

Courtesy of Jon Lohne

Dennis Hunter
Co-founder, CannaCraft
CannaCraft Co-founder Dennis Hunter grew up in Mendocino County, California, and tuaght himself to cultivate cannabis from an early age. With his roots and experience stretched deep in the famed Emerald Triangle, he was destined for it to become a lifelong career. Early on he developed large-scale grow operations in California, which were raided in 1998 and forced Hunter to spend six-and-a-half years in prison. However, this event only fueled his passion for the industry, as he proceeded to found Left Coast Garden Wholesale, a company that specializes in cannabis-related equipment. This led Hunter to meet Ned Fussell, a one of Left Coast Garden Wholesale’s biggest customers, with whom he partnered with to found CannaCraft.

Courtesy of Canopy Growth

David Klein
CEO, Canopy Growth Corporation
As CEO of one of the world’s biggest cannabis companies, David Klein is one of the people behind Canopy Growth Corporation’s ongoing success as a leader in the cannabis industry. Klein formerly worked for Constellation Brands (known for managing a wide variety of beer, wine and spirits) for over 15 years where he held numerous roles, such as Executive Vice President and CFO. With his resume of experience, he transitioned to the cannabis industry as a member of the Board of Directors in 2018, followed by his current role as CEO in 2020.

Courtesy of Cansortium website

Robert Beasley
CEO, Cansortium
With over 10 years of experience in many facets of the cannabis industry, Robert Beasley is a dedicated leader who has been instrumental to the success of Cansortium. In the past, he co-founded a law firm, Litvak Beasley Wilson & Ball LLP, in 2001, which assisted cannabis businesses in obtaining licenses in California, Florida, Oregon and Washington D.C., followed by taking part in crafting the Florida Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act and Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Now he is not only CEO of Cansortium, as of 2020, but in early 2021 he was also appointed to the Board of Directors.

Courtesy of St. Thomas Aquinas College Press Release

Jacques Tortoroli
CEO, Charlotte’s Web Holdings, Inc.
Jacques Tortoroli assumed the role as CEO of Charlotte’s Web Holdings Inc. in December 2021. His 40-year career includes launching ecommerce platforms, global finance, mergers and acquisitions, and strategic partnerships through various senior executive roles at Bacardi, Viacom Inc. Young & Rubicam Inc., PepsiCo Inc., and KPMG. Charlotte’s Web of course was named after Charlotte Figi, a child with epilepsy who went on to inspire a CBD movement before passing away at age 13.

Courtesy of Columbia Care

Nicholas Vita
CEO, Columbia Care LLC
One of the highest honors from the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp is the “Captain of Industry”—and Nicholas Vita received this award at the 2021 Marijuana Business Conference & Expo. Vita is CEO of Columbia Care LLC, one of the largest multi-state operators focused on medical cannabis in 18 jurisdictions, and his leadership has led Columbia to great heights in the industry, including leading corporate strategy and expansion into new markets among many other responsibilities.

Courtesy of Rachel Wolfson, Instagram

Rachel Wolfson
Rachel Wolfson, native of Las Vegas, Nevada, is a stand-up comedienne known for her intimate hyperfocus on cannabis, which typically is part of her highly-esteemed stand-up material.  Wolfson is the latest major cast member to be included in the fourth installment of the infamous Jackass franchise—Jackass Forever—which debuted in theaters in February 2022 and pushed her further into the public eye. She was the first Jewish person to score significant airtime on the show.  Wolfson resorted to weed for relief, which she says works wonders for ADHD. Wolfson has appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Dish Nation and Entertainment Tonight.

Courtesy of Felipe Recalde, LinkedIn
Courtesy of Christopher Lynch, LinkedIn

Felipe Recalde (CEO) and Christopher Lynch (Chief Executive Wizard)
Compound Genetics
Felipe Recalde is CEO of Compound Genetics, while Christopher Lynch serves as Chief Executive Wizard and Founder. Compound Genetics is a seed breeder. Through rigorous phenohunting, collecting and collaboration—Compound Genetics combines rare and sought-after flavors to create the best cannabis on the market.

Courtesy of Caleb Counts, LinkedIn

Caleb Counts
Founder, Connected Cannabis Co.
Caleb Counts, founder of Connected Cannabis Co., has spent over 10 years building the brand with his passion and dedication to creating the highest quality strains imaginable. The journey began in 2009 when the first Connected Cannabis Co. medical dispensary opened in Sacramento. Since then, the brand has been phenohunting and cultivating numerous highly sought after strains, which are available in many dispensaries across the country. Under Counts’ leadership, the brand has grown exponentially in Arizona and is continuing to build in California.

Courtesy of Farid, Cookies

Gilbert Milam Jr., aka Berner
CEO and Co-founder, Cookies
The word “cookies” is no longer just associated with a baked good, but represents the massively popular Cookies cannabis brand, founded and led by CEO and Co-founder Berner. With amazing positivity as he endures chemotherapy as a result of a recent cancer diagnosis, Berner’s Cookies empire continues to thrive and expand under his leadership, which now offers a wide variety of brands, products, unique strains, clothing and more. The Cookies brand is also well-known for its collaboration efforts, such as Cookies x Snoop Dogg, and its dedication to its Social Impact Program.

Courtesy of Cresco Labs website

Charles Bachtell
Founder and CEO, Cresco Labs
Founder and CEO of Cresco Labs Charles Bachtell has a myriad of unique corporate and legal compliance experience that has led to the company’s ongoing success, including eight years working at the nation’s seventh largest mortgage bank prior to his involvement in the cannabis industry. Aside from his role at Cresco Labs, Bachtell is also one of the founding members of the Illinois Cannabis Bar Association, as well as various cannabis-related trade associations in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and is an adjunct professor for the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law.

Courtesy of Cronos Group

Kurt Schmidt
CEO, Cronos Group
Kurt Schmidt entered the cannabis industry as President and CEO of Cronos Group in 2020 and was chosen to usher in the “next phase of growth” for the company. Schmidt’s resume showcases an extensive background with consumer products, with leadership roles both in the US and internationally, including the Campbell Soup Company, The Blue Buffalo Company, Nestle and other roles in the food and beverage industry.

Courtesy of Joe Bayern, Twitter

Joe Bayern
CEO, Curaleaf Holdings
With over 20 years of experience in consumer goods, Joe Bayern has a successful track record of business transformation. He was appointed as Curaleaf Holdings’ CEO in November 2020, following previous roles as President of INDUS, a vertically integrated cannabis company, as well as CEO and COO of VOSS of Norway. Among his many accomplishments, he lists his role in the creation of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and the evolution of Cadbury as a leader in the confection industry.

Courtesy of The Cure Company

Patrick Stad
CEO, The Cure Company, The Originals, Jungle Boys
CEO Patrick Stad is behind some of the most legendary cannabis companies in Southern California, dating back to The Cure Company’s Proposition 215-era founding in 2006. Today The Cure Company is behind some of the most beloved strains in the region. Instead of wasting time on sleek packaging and branding alone, The Cure Company is instead focused on great top quality flower. The Originals family-run grow operation and Jungle Boys award-winning phenos are highly respected within the growing community and the cannabis sphere.

Courtesy of Decriminalize Nature

Julie Barron
Decriminalize Nature
As a psychedelic/cannabis therapist, Julie also now works outside of the therapy office to promote healing on a larger scale, healing in community and healing through our own personal relationship with nature. Barron is an activist and pioneer of the Michigan psychedelic community. Barron led Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor’s win to successfully decriminalize entheogenic plants and fungi in September 2020. Barron then helped to create Decriminalize Nature Michigan who is currently collecting signatures for a November 2022 statewide vote to decriminalize plants/fungi and reduce penalties for all drugs. She also sits on the national board of Decriminalize Nature.

Courtesy of Delic Corp

Matt Stang
Co-founder and CEO, Delic Corp
Matt Stang is Co-founder and CEO of Delic, which he founded with his wife, Jackee. Delic is a leader in new medicines and treatments for a modern world, improving access to health benefits across the country, and reframing the conversation on psychedelics. Stang arrives in his latest role after 17 years serving in the cannabis media industry before shifting gears, moving into private equity funds.

Courtesy of Morning Coffee Photography

Scheril Murray Powell
Attorney / Doumar, Allsworth, Laystrom, Voigt, Adair and Dishowitz LLP
Scheril Murray Powell, Esq. dedicates this award to the “BRAVE ONES”…The ones who risked it all to use cannabis because they did not like how narcotics made them feel…the ones who contributed to biodiversity by transporting genetics around the world…the ones who baked herb brownies for HIV/AIDS/Cancer patients…the ones who risked incarceration and personal freedoms to develop a market, law enforcement who turned a blind eye because they know what addiction really looks like, and the physicians that were the first to recommend cannabis for their patients. She is a Cannabis, Agricultural, Dietary Supplement and Trade Attorney and the Cannabis, Food/Beverage/Entertainment, Transportation and Healthcare Business Development Manager at Creative Services, Inc.

Courtesy of Hilary Swift NYT

Kassandra Frederique
Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance Kassandra Frederique is always busy. Drug Policy Alliance is a national nonprofit that works to end the War on Drugs, which has disproportionately harmed Black, Latinx, Indigenous, immigrant and LGBTQ communities, and build alternative solutions instead grounded in science, compassion, health, and human rights. Frederique was the architect of the campaign that cut the number of New York City cannabis arrests by more than 99% since 2010—an astounding feat for the largest city in the US.

Courtesy of Dutchie

Ross Lipson
Co-Founder / CEO, Dutchie
With the help of the remote needs of the pandemic, the U.S. cannabis boom and need for accessible cannabis services, Ross Lipson, co-founder and CEO of Bend, Oregon cannabis delivery service Dutchie, is helping to usher in a new era for our favorite plant. He’s versed in the delivery biz, with 15 years of experience working within food ordering systems, eventually taking that expertise and applying it to the cannabis space. The Dutchie platform works with dispensaries to manage their ordering systems and will soon celebrate its fifth birthday.

Courtesy of Javier Hasse

Javier Hasse
Founder, El Planteo
We have to give a shout to our fellow cannabis journalists, especially one with a portfolio so massive. Along with his best-selling book, Start Your Own Cannabis Business, his managing director role at Benzinga Cannabis and more than 4,900 articles published on outlets including Forbes, CNN, CNBC, Entrepreneur Magazine, Leafly, Yahoo! News, Nasdaq and many more, this media hound founded El Planteo in 2020, a Spanish-language outlet focused on cannabis, hemp, psychedelics and other topics scarcely covered by local media.

Courtesy of John Fetterman Campaign

John Fetterman
Current Lt. Gov. Pennsylvania
Acting as Mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania between 2005-2019, and sworn in as Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania in January 2019, 2022 is going to be John Fetterman’s last year in office—but it’s certainly not the end of his extensive career. Fetterman shared in November 2021 that in his role as a chair of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, he wants to see as many people pardoned for cannabis convictions in 2022 before his run ends. Fetterman also announced his run for Senator of Pennsylvania, the primary of which is approaching on May 17, 2022.

Courtesy of Fire & Flower

Trevor Fencott
CEO, Fire & Flower
Trevor Fencott is President/CEO at Fire & Flower Holdings Corp. Mr. Fencott has been an executive in the cannabis industry since 2013 as a co-founder of Mettrum Health Corp. where he also served as its chief legal officer, corporate secretary and director through its go public transaction in September 2014 and its subsequent acquisition by Canopy Growth Corporation in January 2017. Additionally, he is a director of Push Capital Limited, an early-stage venture capital company focusing on the high-growth cannabis and digital technology industries.

Courtesy of Fyllo

Chad Bronstein
Founder and CEO, Fyllo
Founder and CEO of Fyllo, Chad Bronstein is passionate about leading by example in the world of business and focusing on the technological aspects behind cannabis. Fyllo is a technology company that deals with data, media and regulatory solutions for the cannabis industry. Bronstein has helped lead Fyllo to become an innovator and major player when it comes to compliance and regulation in the legal cannabis industry. He’s also considered a go-to source of social commentary on regulations in the industry.

Courtesy of Fabian Monaco, Twitter

Fabian Monaco
CEO, Gage Growth
While Fabian Monaco has a vast investment banking and legal background, he’s found his home in the cannabis space as CEO of Gage Growth, centering the mission of providing premium cannabis to market, positively shaping cannabis culture and nurturing the community. Currently, Gage is working to build itself as the most dominant brand in Michigan, though the goal is eventually to expand into other states. Along with prioritizing top-shelf retail and premium cannabis products, Gage also looks to give back through volunteer engagements and their social equity program.

Courtesy of Glass House Brands

Graham Farrar
CEO, Glass House Brands Inc.
Graham Farrar owns and operates Glass House Farms, located in the Santa Barbara County coastal city of Carpinteria, which comprises two greenhouse operation sites totaling 10 acres of cannabis. Farrar launched Glass House Farms in 2015 when Proposition 215 was still in effect. Farrar grew up in Santa Barbara County and studied molecular biology and biochemistry in college. After college, he got into the tech side of cannabis cultivation through marketing and selling a variety of products to support the industry, including fertilizers and growing systems.

Courtesy of Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson
Founder, Global Cannabinoid Research Center
As a multiple cancer survivor who has used cannabis oils and CBD extensively for those and other symptoms, Mike Robinson knows firsthand the healing benefits of cannabinoids. As the founder of the Global Cannabinoid Research Center in Santa Barbara, California, he’s shared his journey and analytics on cannabis medicine research globally, helping to assist patients and teach clinicians globally. Additionally, he’s founded multiple nonprofits for children with disabilities and boasts an extensive history of leading programs to provide disadvantaged cannabis patients with medicinal alternatives.

Adam Schoenfeld, Courtesy of
Nick Kovacevich, Courtesy of

Adam Schoenfeld and Nick Kovacevich
Co-Founders, Greenlane Holdings
Greenlane is a leading global platform for the development and distribution of premium cannabis accessories and lifestyle products, serving global markets and more than 11,000 retail locations—including dispensaries, smoke shops and specialty retailers. It’s led by Co-Founders Adam Schoenfeld and Nick Kovacevich. As CEO, Kovacevich ensures the company executes its mission and is integral to the company’s most crucial decision making. Chief Strategy Officer Schoenfeld was an early adopter and pioneer of vaporization, playing an integral role in the adoption and success of numerous successful brands in the vape space.

Courtesy of Green Thumb Industries

Ben Kovler
Founder, Green Thumb Industries
With extensive experience managing complex-operating companies and his deep commitment to philanthropy, Ben Kovler moved forward in 2014 as the founder, CEO and chairman of Green Thumb Industries, a national cannabis consumer packaged goods company and retailer manufacturing and distributing a wide portfolio of branded cannabis products. Kovler is also the co-found of Invest For Kids, an annual forum meant to share investment ideas to benefit children in Illinois.

Courtesy of

Darren Lampert
CEO and Co-Founder, GrowGeneration
Darren Lampert has been CEO of GrowGeneration since 2014. Lampert began his career in 1986 as a founding member of Lampert and Lampert, where he concentrated on securities litigation, NASD (now FINRA) compliance and arbitration and corporate finance matters. GrowGeneration Corp., through its subsidiaries, owns and operates retail hydroponic and organic gardening stores. It engages in the marketing and distribution of horticultural, organics, and lighting and hydroponics products, including lighting fixtures, nutrients, seeds and growing media.

Courtesy of Hall of Flowers

Dani Diamond
Founder, Hall of Flowers
Dani Diamond is founder of Hall of Flowers—an industry-only, highly curated, B2B tradeshow, specifically inspired and designed to facilitate the trade of premium cannabis products. With over 30+ years experience producing the most influential fashion & music tradeshows, the founder of Hall of Flowers understand the importance of providing a professional platform for buyers & sellers to conduct business.

Courtesy of Headset

Cy Scott
CEO/Co-Founder, Headset
Cy Scott, a self-described “entrepreneur at heart,” traversed his career working in startups and large organizations, though he’s no stranger to the cannabis space. Prior to Headset, he helped accelerate the adoption of legal cannabis as the co-founder of Leafly, now serving six million monthly visits. His current venture, Headset, is an analytics company for the cannabis industry, made to help operators make informed business decisions based on data, helping their customers to navigate the rapidly changing and emerging industry.

Courtesy of Leo Bridgewater

Leo Bridgewater
National Director, Heart Community Capital/Minorities for Medical Marijuana
After enlisting in the United States Army following the events of September 11, 2001, Leo Bridgewater has been a longstanding cannabis advocate in his home state of New Jersey for many years. He was a co-founder of the NJ Cannabis Commission between 2016-2018, and proceeds to act as the National Director of Veterans Outreach for Minorities for Medical Marijuana and most recently became a partner at Heart Community Capital in March 2021 to collaborate with numerous “pro athletes, creatives and activists, and cannabis industry experts” and invest in minority owned-cannabis businesses.

Courtesy of HERBL

Michael Beaudry
Vice President of Business Development, HERBL Solutions
Michael “Mikey” Beaudry is the Vice President of Business Development at HERBL Solutions, California’s largest cannabis supply chain company. An integral part of the leadership and strategic team since the company got its start in 2018, he has had a key role in developing over 30 partnerships with many of the top brands across the California landscape. With both the assortment and infrastructure Beaudry has helped to build, HERBL has sold over a half-billion dollars of cannabis products in California, becoming one of the most robust and scaled distribution supply chains in the country. Passionate about building relationships and successfully helping businesses grow, Beaudry’s continued focus is to build on ensuring cost-effectiveness to meet beneficial long and short-term goals for both brands and HERBL. His extensive knowledge of the industry, the strategic partnerships he has built, and his ability to understand and adapt to the evolving landscape make Beaudry the strong leader he is in the industry.

Courtesy of HEXO press release

Adam Arviv
Investor, HEXO Corp
Adam Arviv invested in HEXO, through his fund KAOS Capital Ltd.. Adam Arviv is currently the Chief Executive Officer of KAOS Capital Ltd. and a Strategic Advisor for ORYX Gaming. Previously, Mr. Arviv served as the Founder, Chief Executive Officer and a director of Bragg Gaming Group Inc., a publicly-traded company on the TSX, and President of Will-Power Management Inc. He was also the co-founder of Gaming Nation Inc., Green Growth Brands and the BRN Group. Mr. Arviv also serves as a Chairman on a number of boards, including, GhostRetail, the BRN Group, and Legacy Eight Gaming.

Courtesy of High Tide

Raj Grover
CEO, High Tide Inc.
Establishing himself early in his career as one of Canada’s most prominent business strategists and deal makers, Raj Grover moved forward in 2009 to found High Tide, which has grown from a small shop of two employees into one of Canada’s largest cannabis retailers. He’s also founded High Tide’s subsidiary companies, Valiant Distribution and Canna Cabana, and co-founder of subsidiary Famous Brandz. Though he’s committed to his business, Grover believes that those who enjoy success should give back, spearheading High Tide’s support of World Vision, which sponsors children in under-developed countries.

Courtesy of Highsman

Ricky Williams
Founder, Highsman
Best known as a professional football player and running back for a number of teams, featured on the New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, Toronto Argonauts and Baltimore Ravens, former player Ricky Williams has since shifted his focus to the cannabis space with the Highsman brand, which he defines as an “appreciate for greatness.”. He cites the scrutiny for using cannabis to “take care of his body,” hand-picking his favorite strains and breaking barriers in streetwear, sports and cannabis to further destigmatize cannabis in the sports space.

Courtesy of Hiller, PC

Jessica F. Gonzalez
Attorney, Hiller, PC
Jessica Gonzalez currently serves as a Cannabis attorney at Hiller, PC, as well as outside General Counsel for Minorities for Medical Marijuana, Inc. Gonzalez led the social impact committee for NJ CAN 2020, the coalition that ran one of the most successful cannabis legalization campaigns in the country and helped shape cannabis policy on the statutory, regulatory, and municipal levels in New Jersey. Gonzalez assists clients in navigating the legal cannabis industry in the areas of IP and state licensing applications. She has been designated as a Cannabis Law Trailblazer by the National Law Journal, named on NJBIZ’s 2021 Next Generation of Leaders list and recognized as one of the top 20 cannabis influencers in New Jersey three years in a row.

Courtesy of Shutterstock

Seth Rogen
Founder, Houseplant
It’s no secret to most that funny guy and comedian Seth Rogen is a fan of weed, but the Pineapple Express star has since moved forward to embrace the plant in a larger capacity, co-founding cannabis brand Houseplant. The cannabis at Houseplant represents the strains that Seth and Co-Founder Evan Goldberg love, along with the “finest product that growers across the state of California have to offer.” The brand embraces THC-rich cannabis, prioritizing the top colas of the plant where the biggest buds are found, hand-picking, -trimming and -packaging each Houseplant offering.

Courtesy of Innovative Industrial Properties

Alan D. Gold
Executive Chairman, Innovative Industrial Properties
Since the formation of Innovative Industrial Properties, Alan D. Gold has served as a co-founder and as executive chairman of the company board, also serving as executive chairman of IQHQ Inc., a privately-held life science real estate company, with an impressive resume of leadership positions in the life science industry and beyond. Innovative Industrial is the pioneering real estate investment trust for the regulated cannabis industry, founded in December 2016 as the first publicly-traded company on the New York Stock Exchange to provide real estate capital to the regulated cannabis industry.

Courtesy of Raquel Peyraube

Raquel Peyraube
Doctor, International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines
Specializing in the problematic use of drugs, with abundant training in psychiatry, toxicology and psychoanalytic psychotherapy, Raquel Peyraube has 28 years of experience in the field. Over the decades, Peyraube has made contributions in training, prevention, treatment and damage reduction, including innovation of theoretical and methodological developments with a focus on ethical issues. She’s currently working on the development of clinical trials, medical education of medicinal cannabis and dissemination of information and advice for reform of drugs policies in a number of countries.

Courtesy of Jazz Pharmaceuticals website

Bruce C. Cozadd
Chairman, CEO, Jazz Pharma
Helping to innovate and transform the lives of patients as the CEO and chairman of Jazz Pharmaceuticals, a global biopharmaceutical company, Bruce C. Cozadd is pushing the company forward to set a new standard of care to those living with complex conditions who deserve new and improved therapeutic opportunities.. He’s been with the company since 2003, moving into his current position back in 2009, which is developing a cannabinoid platform to help further navigate the healthcare space. Outside of Jazz Pharma, Cozadd is passionate about education and the arts, especially music.

Courtesy of Jushi Holdings

Jim Cacioppo
CEO/Chairman/Founder, Jushi Holdings
With a resume spanning more than two decades, managing the business and allocating capital in senior management positions at several large hedge funds, Jim Cacioppo brings his start-up, operating, financial and investment know-how to his role as the CEO, chairman and founder of Jushi Holdings. Jushi is a national, multi-state cannabis company focused on developing and operating high-end retail locations, premium brands and state-of-the-art cultivation, processing and manufacturing facilities. Under Cacioppo’s leadership, Jushi looks to set a new standard for a sophisticated and modern cannabis experience.

Michael King, Courtesy of Kings Garden
Charlie Kieley, Courtesy of Kings Garden

Michael King and Charlie Kieley
Co-Founders, Kings Garden Inc.
Kings Garden started in 2015 in the Coachella Valley region of California, since growing into a profitable cultivation company birthed through funding from friends and family. With Michael King’s financial savvy and background on Wall Street, along with Charlie Kieley’s experience working directly in the cannabis industry, opening and operating our retail and retail cultivation facilities, the two joined forces. Kings Garden is continuously building and prioritizing the production of high-quality, indoor flower; giving back to local communities and prioritizing the advancement of the cannabis space as a whole. Kings Garden is currently operating 3,400 indoor lights via 250,000 square feet and is in the process of building out an additional 8,500 lights via 415,000 square feet, thus bringing the total operational footprint to 12,000 lights via 665,000 square feet by 2024.

Courtesy of Last Prisoner Project

Mary Bailey
Managing Director, Last Prisoner Project
The Last Prisoner Project was founded in 2019, centering the belief that no one should remain incarcerated for cannabis offenses. Managing Director Mary Bailey similarly believes that everybody fortunate enough to benefit from cannabis legalization should feel a moral obligation to assist those still suffering due to prohibition, dedicated to helping right the wrongs of cannabis criminalization. Prior to launching Last Prisoner Project, she was the CEO and founder of a Maui, Hawaii-based production company that specialized in events that inspire positive social change.

Courtesy of LoadedCo. website

Daniel Chu
CEO, LoadedCo.
Founded in 2017, with quality craftsmanship in mind, LoadedCo. Takes pride in its reputation for collaborating with some of the best brands in the industry, and for creating unique high-end products. LoadedCo. Are the makers of handcrafted pre-rolls and a variety of collaborations frequently involving infused flower and other ingredients.

Courtesy of MAPS

Rick Doblin
Founder, MAPS
Richard Elliot Doblin is an American drug activist and executive who is the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which he launched in 1986. MAPS is on the forefront of psychedelic research and development. Since 1986, MAPS has distributed over $20 million to fund psychedelics and medical cannabis research and education. Doblin received his masters and PhD in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. His 2019 TED Talk explored the vast potential of psychedelic-assisted therapy.

Courtesy of JW Headshots

Rosie Mattio
Founder, Mattio Communications
Rosie Mattio is CEO and Founder of Mattio Communications, which was ranked as the number one cannabis PR firm by Green Market Report. The company can be found practically everywhere in the cannabis space. Mattio was able to land the first-ever cannabis article in Oprah magazine. Based in New York, Mattio Communications represents 50 marquee cannabis clients, including Headset, Green Thumb Industries, Papa & Barkley, LeafLink, Greenlane and Curaleaf. Long ago, Mattio learned to hustle, growing up in the Bronx, and it’s certainly evident in her firm’s success.

Courtesy of Metrc website

Lewis Koski
COO, Metrc
Lewis Koski is the Chief Operating Officer for Metrc. Before joining METRC in 2019, Lewis ran his own consulting firm, helping agencies develop smart cannabis regulatory policies. Prior to that, he served as the Deputy Senior Director of the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Enforcement Business Group, directing state policy surrounding regulated markets and its enforcement. Lewis also served as the Director of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED). At MED, he helped build the first state agency in the US to develop and implement medical and adult-use cannabis policy.

Courtesy of

Christopher Alexander
Executive Director, New York Department of Cannabis Management
Christopher Alexander works with the New York Department of Cannabis Management to help move policy forward. A New York resident from birth, his passion is for policy and politics, as well as enacting change through the democratic process. He formerly served as a legislative aide, advocate and attorney, and was appointed by Governor Kathy Hochul to lead New York’s Office of Cannabis Management. The agency oversees all things policy for the newly budding New York cannabis industry, as well as all procedural aspects of legal marijuana.

Courtesy of Old Pal

Rusty Wilenkin
CEO and Co-Founder, Old Pal
Can flower be both affordable and beautifully crafted? For Old Pal’s Co-Founder and CEO Rusty Wilenkin the answer was a resounding “yes.” After spending 4+ years in the cannabis space, Rusty started Old Pal in 2018, creating one of the industry’s most recognizable brands— and also one of the most successful. Currently a top California brand, Old Pal has expanded into seven additional states, and in 2021 they were the #3 brand based on units sold in their five active states (according to BDSA).

Courtesy of Pacific Stone

Skip Motsenbocker
CEO, Pacific Stone
As CEO of Pacific Stone, a state-licensed California-based cannabis brand, Skip Motsenbocker has more than 25 years of professional experience in asset management, private equity and corporate finance and management. Pacific Stone provides both large scale greenhouse cultivation facilities and over one million square feet of flower. Pacific Stone Brand is offered in over 600 stores and includes packaged flower, pre-rolls and cartridges. Motsenbocker oversees the brand’s product launches and expansion, among other strategic initiatives.

Courtesy of Troy Datcher, Facebook

Troy Datcher
CEO, The Parent Company
With a background in the consumer goods market and experience with consumer products, sales negotiation, strategic planning, and trade marketing, Troy Datcher brings myriad business skills to his role as CEO of The Parent Company. He has a background in Political Science thanks to a Bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College, and Datcher actually worked with Clorox Co. before he joined forces with The Parent Company. Today, he is responsible for their worldwide success and leadership in the cannabis market. He is also the first Black CEO of a major, publicly traded marijuana company.

Courtesy of PRmediaNow

Robert Groesbeck
Co-CEO, Planet 13 Holdings
As Co-CEO of Planet 13 Holdings, Robert Groesbeck is a long-time entrepreneur, starting and assisting in the creation of a number of businesses, including work in the cannabis industry. Mr. Groesbeck was designated as one of the top 40 Southern Nevada Business Executives under the age of 40, on the basis of his professional achievement and community service by the Las Vegas Business Press. Planet 13 has opened some of the largest dispensaries in the world, with impressive locations in Las Vegas and in Orange County, California.

Courtesy of Puffco

Roger Volodarsky
CEO, Puffco
Roger Volodarsky is founder and CEO of Puffco, and has been working to perfect the company’s handheld vaporizer device over the course of the last decade. Volodarsky is described as a serial entrepreneur, a tech fan and cannabis connoisseur, who is highly successful at a relatively young age. Volodarsky helped introduce the Puffco Peak Pro—now a standard in vaping technology. Developing vaporizers for cannabis concentrates and “turning consumers into connoisseurs” is one of his long-term dreams. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and New Jersey.

Courtesy of High Times

Josh Kesselman
Founder, RAW Papers
He’s quite the personality, which is great for marketing and branding in the world of cannabis-adjacent industries. RAW papers are a go-to standard for rolling paper needs, and they’ve been around forever. RAW Founder Josh Kesselman is on a mission, “Uplifting the world one beautiful natural sheet at a time.” Kesselman launched RAW clear back in 1995, and the company’s success has been linked to his continued presence in the public. Kesselman was arrested for selling a bong to a federal informant, and continues to fight for the right to sell cannabis accessories.

Courtesy of Realm of Caring

Heather Jackson
Co-founder, Realm of Caring
As co-founder of the Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Realm of Caring (RoC), Heather Jackson is also president of the board. RoC is an independent 501c3 non-profit organization who serves anyone in need of more information about cannabinoid therapies. Through revolutionary research, innovative education, and life-changing grants, RoC seeks to facilitate and encourage the mainstream acceptance of transformative, plant powered therapies to benefit individuals and families and serve healthcare providers as well as the hemp and cannabis industries.

Courtesy of RAMP website

Ann Lee
Co-founder, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition
Ann Lee and her husband Bob founded Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) based on the belief that the prohibition of marijuana is “diametrically opposed to the Republican principles of limited government,” and personal freedom. Lee has been a leader and activist in the Republican Party since 1970. That year, she became precinct chair in the Harris County Republican Party serving from 1970 to 1992. Her first campaign activity came in 1964 in support of Barry Goldwater. In 1983, Lee co-founded the group Women for Reagan.

Courtesy of Red White & Bloom

Brad Rogers
CEO, Red White & Bloom
Brad Rogers is CEO and Executive Chair of Red White & Bloom. He has an extensive track record of building tremendously successful and profitable businesses in the cannabis sector and beyond. He also grew two of Canada’s largest licensed cannabis producers to a combined market cap of $2 billion. Red White & Bloom’s growing portfolio boasts strong brands and proprietary product development capabilities—focusing on a “house of brands” strategy in both cannabis and hemp-derived product lines.

Courtesy of Ridgeline Farms

Jason Gellman
Owner, Ridgeline Farms
Growers up north all know the trusted name of Ridgeline Farms. Ridgeline Farms owner Jason Gellman was honored for the 2018 Business of The Year Award at the Southern Humboldt Chamber of Commerce—the first time for the Southern Humboldt Chamber of Commerce, and for Jason Gellman, to have the award go to a local craft cannabis farmer. Humboldt County-based Ridgeline Farms focuses on quality over quantity, family values and environmental stewardship in the company’s owner-operated cannabis farm. Gellman and Ridgeline Farms have won multiple awards including Emerald Cup wins.

Courtesy of Matthew Zingler, LinkedIn

Matt Zingler
Co-founder and Co-CEO, Rolling Loud
Some careers are more exciting and rewarding than others. Co-founder and Co-CEO of the Rolling Loud Festival Matt Zingler works with his business partner Tariq Cherif. The two of them also founded Dope Entertainment, Florida’s premier Hip-Hop touring company. The Miami-based festival Rolling Loud has turned into one the hottest lifestyle events. In past years, the company’s massive lineup has featured superstars such as Travis Scott, Post Malone and A$AP Rocky. Part of his resume includes adapting to the massive setbacks from COVID.

Courtesy of Sapphire Risk website

Tony Gallo
Managing Partner, Sapphire Risk Advisory Group
Considered in the industry as the “O.G. of Cannabis Security,” Gallo is the Managing Partner at Sapphire Risk Advisory Group, voted one of the Top Cannabis Ancillary Firms. Since 2013, Sapphire Risk has been focused on developing cannabis security strategies for businesses and has worked with over 500 clients in 35 States. Tony has spoken at over 100 conferences nationwide on cannabis security from application to operation. Tony received his degree in Criminal Justice from New Jersey City University in Jersey City, New Jersey, and is a published author.

Courtesy of

Andy DeFrancesco
SOL Global
Andy DeFrancesco is well-known for being a dealmaker on wall street and in cannabis, not only as a co-founder of Aphria but through his investment company SOL Global Investments. DeFrancesco pulled off some of the biggest success stories in the cannabis industry. Deals include Liberty Health Sciences, which was sold to AYR for $290 million, and another Florida-based operator Bluma Wellness which was acquired by Cresco Labs for $230 million. He co-founded both of those companies. DeFrancesco plays a major role in Simply Better Brands, which owns PureKana.

Courtesy of Scotts Miracle-Gro

Jim Hagedorn
CEO, Scotts Miracle-Gro
Jim Hagedorn is Chairman/CEO at Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., a household name in nutrients. Hagedorn’s father Horace launched the original Miracle-Gro in 1951, and later, he grew up watching the Miracle-Gro brand earn the trust of gardeners all across America, and he’s committed to maintaining that legacy with gardeners today. A former fighter pilot known for “boldness and ingenuity,” Hagedorn helped orchestrate Miracle-Gro’s merger with Scotts in 1995, creating the leading consumer lawn and garden business in the world. He became CEO of the combined company in 2001.

Courtesy of Dr. Sue Sisley

Dr. Sue Sisley
Scottsdale Research Institute
Dr. Sue Sisley’s unparalleled research into medical cannabis broke through boundaries. As President of Scottsdale Research Institute and best known serving as Principal Investigator for the only FDA-approved randomized controlled trial in the world examining safety/efficacy of smoked marijuana flower in combat veterans with severe post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD. Her studies were approved by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and she runs a thriving private practice in Phoenix as well. Sisley’s research has been supported by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a California-based nonprofit psychedelic organization.

Courtesy of

Michael Serruya
Serruya Brands
Michael Serruya began his fruitful career at age 20 as one of the co-founders of Yogen Früz®. Michael was also the CEO of Coolbrands®—then home to CPG brands including Weight Watchers®, Eskimo Pie®, Tropicana® and Godiva® Ice Cream. Serruya joined MedMen’s board in August 2021 as part of a $100 million investment in the Company by Serruya Private Equity to expand its operations in key markets and identify and accelerate further growth opportunities across the United States. Michael has also participated on the Boards of Directors of a number of both publicly and privately traded companies.

Courtesy of Sundial

Zachary George
CEO, Sundial
Zachary George is CEO at Sundial Growers Inc. He is an entrepreneurial and seasoned executive with over 20 years of experience in alternative investments and evaluating opportunities across the capital structure of North American companies with a focus on real assets. George previously worked in senior management and board capacities focused on large-scale restructurings and operational turnarounds, influencing corporate action and governance policies in order to maximize shareholder value. He also founded FrontFour Capital Group LLC and he has been the head of five different companies.

Courtesy of Jason Wild, Twitter

Jason Wild
Chairman, TerrAscend
Jason Wild is the President and Chief Investment Officer of JW Asset Management, LLC, and the advisor for five investment partnerships with over $2 billion in assets under management. Mr. Wild received his license as a pharmacist in 1997, and subsequently founded JW Asset Management, LLC in 1998. The firm has a strong history of finding opportunities within the healthcare sector. He is a graduate of the Arnold and Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy. Mr. Wild is the Chairman of the Board of TerrAscend Corp. and Arbor Pharmaceuticals. He is a board member of Vensun Pharmaceuticals and Vitruvias Therapeutics.

Courtesy of Tilray Brands

Irwin Simon
CEO, Tilray Brands
With more than 30 years of experience building industry-leading, consumer-packaged goods companies—ranging from foods, dietary supplements, personal care and cannabis—Irwin Simon now leads Tilray Brands, a global leader in cannabis research, cultivation, processing and distribution, as CEO. Tilray is the first GMP-certified medical cannabis producer to supply cannabis flower and extract products to patients, physicians, pharmacies, hospitals, governments and researchers on five continents. Irwin is also the executive chairman of Whole Earth Brands, Inc., a leading platform in packaged goods and ingredients, and lead director at Stagwell Inc., a digital-first global marketing network.

Courtesy of

Chrystal Ortiz
Advocate, True Humboldt
Sharing the core community values surrounding sustainability, community service and mindful cultivation that her “Back to Lander” parents held close in the Emerald Triangle region, Chrystal Ortiz since returned to the hills of Humboldt County in the late ’90s, raised their two children off the grid and embraced her current role at True Humboldt. The group is composed of Humboldt cannabis farmers who have joined together to support one another through the ever-changing-and-evolving cannabis industry, with the aim of preserving the unique heritage of the area.

Courtesy of Trulieve website

Kim Rivers
CEO, Trulieve
Kim Rivers joined Trulieve, an industry-leading, vertically-integrated cannabis company and multistate operator in 11 states, at its inception and has been a key player in the company’s customer-centric vision, growth and expansion. Rivers oversees every part of the cannabis process, from the seed-to-sale. She previously worked in a private practice as a lawyer, specializing in mergers, acquisitions and securities for multi-million-dollar companies. When she’s not busy at Trulieve, Rivers also plays an active role in her community and serves on numerous charitable boards.

Courtesy of Delane Rouse/DC Corporate Headshots.

Brittani Cushman
Senior VP and General Counsel, Turning Point Brands
Brittani Cushman is Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary at Turning Point Brands, Inc. As a female leader in the industry, Cushman works on public policy, legal and governmental affairs in the heavily regulated tobacco products industry. She specializes in tackling complex policy matters and legislation in the areas of federal and state regulation, marketing and taxation. She also helps to execute strategies as part of the senior executive management team.

Courtesy of Valens

Tyler Robson
CEO and Chair of the Board, The Valens Company
With over a decade of experience in cannabis science, research, and development, especially focusing on propriety extraction processing and medical application, Tyler Robinson came to his role as chief executive officer and chair of the board with The Valens Company with plenty of established science experience. He graduated from University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Arts & Sciences and a biology focus. He has been with The Valens Company since 2012, moving from COO to CEO and growing alongside the company.

Courtesy of Vangst

Karson Humiston
Founder and CEO, Vangst
Karson Humiston is the Founder & CEO of Vangst, the cannabis industry’s recruiting platform. Since launching in 2016, Vangst has connected thousands of people with jobs at leading cannabis businesses around the world. Karson was featured on the 2018 Forbes 30 under 30 list and Vangst was featured in Entrepreneur’s 100 Brilliant Companies of 2018. Prior to founding Vangst, Karson founded On Track Adventures, a student travel organization based out of St. Lawrence University.

Courtesy of Shutterstock

Gary Vaynerchuk
CEO, VaynerMedia and Co-owner of Green Street
Gary Vaynerchuk, aka “Gary Vee” is the chairman of VaynerX, a modern-day media and communications holding company, and the active CEO of VaynerMedia. The Belarusian-American is a renowned entrepreneur, author and personality. He’s also the co-owner of Green Street, a full service creative agency that built a seven-story cannabis incubator in the heart of Los Angeles. Most people are drawn to Gary Vee’s no-nonsense attitude, as he effortlessly motivates his audiences.

George Archos, Courtesy of Verano
Sammy Dorf, Courtesy of Verano

George Archos (CEO) and Sam Dorf (Chief Growth Officer)
Verano Holdings
George Archos is CEO and founder of Verano Holdings. He has experience coordinating complex freight delivery and operating successful restaurants. He first joined the cannabis industry in 2014, and since then has risen in the ranks at various companies to take on a leadership role in this one. Sam Dorf, chief growth officer of Verano Holdings, has a background as a criminal defense attorney, and became a cannabis entrepreneur in 2013. He is known as a revered merit-based cannabis license application strategist and is responsible for supporting the growth of the team.

Courtesy of Anthony Camera Photography

Brian Vicente
Lawyer, Vicente Sederberg LLP, Lawyer
A passionate supporter of cannabis reform, Brian Vicente, lawyer, founding partner, and one of the major players behind Vicente Sederberg LLP, has over a decade of experience helping to shape cannabis law, the area he specializes in. One of his major claims to fame was helping to draft Colorado’s historic Amendment 64 and co-directing the campaign in support of it. Vicente has worked with cannabis entrepreneurs, investors and businesses all across the US. His focus is on helping folks start and grow compliant and profitable businesses in the cannabis sector.

Courtesy of Viola

Al Harrington
Founder, Viola
Most well-known for his storied career in basketball, Al Harrington was pro for 16 seasons, but that’s not where his legacy ends. He is also a major player in the world of cannabis now. He founded Viola Brands in 2011, a cannabis company that now spans multiple states, including California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Michigan, as well as a recent expansion to Oklahoma to work with their medical market. With the success of Viola, Harrington has shown that celebrity partnerships can be a lot more than lending a name and clout to a company.

Courtesy of Brian Malin

Brian Malin
Co-Founder, Vital Grown
Founder and CEO of Vital Garden Supply and co-founder of Vital Grown, Brian Malin strives to show the world the importance of organically grown cannabis for both growers and consumers. He has been learning about organic farming and soil biology for over 25 years, and his mission is to use his natural gardening experience to help cannabis teams grow, both literally and figuratively. Malin is well-known from appearances on the Hash Church podcast, judging cannabis competitions like the Emerald Cup and Ego Clash, and spreading the gospel of organic pot.

Courtesy of Wana Brands

Nancy Whiteman
Co-Founder and CEO, Wana Brands
Nancy Whiteman is co-founder and CEO of Wana Brands, an edibles company based in Colorado. One of the leading edibles brands in the mile high state, Wana Brands has grown-from a start-up to a successfully bought-out company, as Canadian-based cannabis giants Canopy Growth bought the business for $297.5 upfront. Whiteman is a legal in the pioneering industry of legal edibles, and her name is known throughout the industry. She’s known as both “the queen of legal weed” and “the Martha Stuart of edibles.”

Courtesy of Lauren Hurt

Mike Glazer
Comedian, Weed + Grub
Weed + Grub is exactly what it sounds like—a comedy routine about cooking culture, comedy and cannabis. According to Emmy-nominated comedian Mike Glazer and cannabis culture writer Mary Jane Gibson, it’s also about “calling shit out” as the two smoke, snack and interview celebs. Glazer is known for his work on Night of Too Many Stars, Worst Cooks in America and other media featuring comedy, food and cannabis. He has cooked with Gordon Ramsay and was named as a 40 Under 40 Rising Cannabis Star.

Courtesy of Weed for Warriors Project

Sean Kiernan
President, Weed for Warriors Project
Sean Kiernan is president of the Weed for Warriors Project, a well-respected veteran advocacy group that speaks out about the need for veteran cannabis access. He also served in the Army airborne infantry/pathfinder until receiving an honorable discharge and attended UC Berkeley. His background after college was in finance, working for companies like JP Morgan and Caxton Associates. He has contributed to MAPS research on cannabis and PTSD, and his goal in life is to help veterans access the medicine they need.

Courtesy of B. Fraser Photography

Dasheeda Dawson
Founder, The WeedHead™ & Company
Dasheeda Dawson is founder of The WeedHead™ & Company and author of the bestselling workbook, How to Succeed in the Cannabis Industry—now in its 3rd Edition. Dasheeda is a corporate-to-cannabis crossover pioneer and business strategist with experience as senior executive leader and strategy. More recently, she was selected as the Cannabis Program Supervisor, to oversee all regulatory, licensing, compliance and equity initiatives for the city of Portland, Oregon’s cannabis industry. She is a co-host on She Blaze, an award-winning weekly cannabis news and culture podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and iHeartRadio.

Courtesy of Weedmaps

Chris Beals
CEO, Weedmaps
Chris Beals is Chief Executive Officer at Weedmaps LLC. Weedmaps is a tech company serving the cannabis industry, founded in 2008. In March 2019, Beals was named CEO of Weedmaps. A few months later, in August 2019, Weedmaps launched a 30,000 square-foot Museum of Weed in West Hollywood, California. Weedmaps not only connects people to cannabis retailers, but the company recently explored a social media platform alternative to Instagram with Berner.

Courtesy of Weldon Angelos

Weldon Angelos
Founder, The Weldon Project
In 2003, a low-level cannabis case put a halt to Weldon Angelos’ budding career in the music industry, though it also helped to birth a national movement aimed to reform the U.S. criminal justice system. He became a bipartisan symbol for justice reform, and in 2016, he was finally released from prison after serving 13 years for a first-time, cannabis-related offense. Angelos moved forward to help others with similar experiences and founded the Weldon Project, dedicated to funding social change and financial aid to those serving prison time for cannabis-related offenses.

Courtesy of WeSana

Daniel Carcillo
Founder and CEO, WeSana
Prominent athlete-turned-cannabis-entrepreneur Daniel Carcillo is founder and CEO of WeSana, a Chicago-based ketamine clinic. During his hockey career, he won two Stanley Cup Championships. Because of what he noticed first-hand while playing hockey, he became an advocate for mental health, concussions and traumatic brain injuries. His interest in how those things can be treated with plant and psychedelic medicine triggered the opening of WeSana. The Chicago-based business is currently making a splash in the world of ketamine medicine.

Courtesy of Kevin Jodrey, LinkedIn

Kevin Jodrey
Owner, Wonderland Nursery
Kevin Jodrey is one of the most well-known growers in Humboldt County and is an internationally respected cannabis expert. As a world-renowned hunter of ganja genetics, Jodrey is fascinated by the search for rare, desirable, and marketable traits. Jodrey is the creator of Port Royal, owner of Wonderland Nursery, and co-founder of The Ganjier. He’s been cultivating for decades, running his own operations and offering consulting services. He’s spoken at universities, judged at the Emerald Cup, and consulted on cannabis related educational shows for National Geographic and A&E.

Courtesy of Zuber Law website

Tom Zuber
Managing Partner and Founder, Zuber Law
Tom Zuber is managing partner and founder of Zuber Law. Zuber is a litigator who specializes in intellectual property disputes and global intellectual property council for the cannabis industry on a worldwide scale. He manages Fortune-level clients through the firm and celebrates and advocates for his cannabis clients. He founded Zuber & Zuber, now known as Zuber Law, in 2003. When he started out, he had no clients and was a third-year associate. Now, Zuber Law is a world-known cannabis firm.

The post The High Times 100 of 2021 appeared first on High Times.

Cresco Labs Acquires Columbia Care in Bid To Become ‘The Leader in Cannabis’

Cresco Labs, one of the largest cannabis operators in the United States, announced Wednesday that it had reached an agreement to acquire Columbia Care for roughly $2 billion in a deal that will make it the country’s largest multi-state cannabis operator.

Charles Bachtell, CEO of Cresco Labs, said in a statement that the “combination of Cresco Labs and Columbia Care accelerates our journey to become the leader in cannabis in a way no other potential transaction could.”

“We are incredibly excited to announce this transformative transaction today at a very important time in the development of this industry. This acquisition brings together two of the leading operators in the industry, pairing a leading footprint with proven operational, brand and competitive excellence,” Bachtell said. “The combination is highly complementary and provides unmatched scale, depth, diversification and long-term growth. On a pro-forma basis, the combined Company will be the largest cannabis company by revenue, the number one wholesaler of branded cannabis products, and the largest nationwide retail footprint outside of Florida.”

“We look forward to welcoming the incredible Columbia Care team to the Cresco Labs family. I couldn’t be more excited about this enhanced platform and how it furthers the Cresco Labs Vision — to be the most important and impactful company in cannabis,” he added.

Nicholas Vita, CEO of Columbia Care, said the merger was guided by his company’s founding mission “to deliver the best outcome for our stakeholders.”

Columbia Care is “one of the largest and most experienced cultivators, manufacturers and providers of cannabis products and related services, with licenses in 18 U.S. jurisdictions and the EU,” according to the press release from the companies on Wednesday.

“In an evolving industry, the opportunities to better achieve our mission through consolidation led us to this historic moment,” Vita said in a statement on Wednesday. “With Columbia Care’s strategic national footprint in the most attractive markets and Cresco Labs’ success in execution and incredibly popular brands, we will together create the most important — and the most investable — company in cannabis. Getting to know Charlie, his team, and the culture at Cresco Labs has given me a high level of confidence in the ability to successfully integrate Columbia Care and maximize the tremendous value of the combined footprint.” Per Marketwatch, “shares of Cresco Labs fell 6%, while Columbia Care stock rose 1.3%” following the announcement of the deal on Wednesday.

The still-burgeoning cannabis industry in the United States is already lucrative, but some market analysts have indicated that mergers like this one will be necessary for companies to maximize profitability.

Owen Bennett, an analyst with Jeffries, told Marketwatch that he gives Cresco a “buy” rating.

“We see the combination creating a clear industry leader,” Bennett said. “The combined company will have scale across most key states, industry leading brands and wholesale across these states, and much improved margin profile.”

In creating the largest multi-state cannabis operator, the merger gives Cresco “the largest pro-forma revenue in cannabis today at over $1.4 billion,” the company said.

The company said it will also now have more than 130 retail stores across 18 different markets, making it the second largest retail footprint in the industry.

And the company will now have the top share position in four markets –– Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Virginia –– the second largest share in Massachusetts and a “pathway to a top-3 position” in New York, New Jersey and Florida.

“The combined company will have a meaningful presence in today’s most influential markets,” the company said in its press release on Wednesday, “and those with the biggest tailwinds for growth and adult use upside including”: New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and Florida.

The post Cresco Labs Acquires Columbia Care in Bid To Become ‘The Leader in Cannabis’ appeared first on High Times.

1 in 4 Americans Consume Cannabis, Study Shows

Americans have come a long way when it comes to cannabis legalization and consumption. In 1969, Gallup’s first poll on cannabis legalization found that only 12% of Americans favoured cannabis legalization (1). Public opinion on cannabis legalization and consumption has changed a lot since. Cannabis legalization is building more momentum in the US, and attitudes […]

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5 of the Most Profitable Pot Stocks to Buy for 2021

Cannabis has been both one of the best and worst stocks to invest in for 2020. Pot stocks fell 50% from January to March, but have since risen 75%. We can thank Joe Biden, the US’s impending marijuana legalization, and COVID for making everyone want to stay home and smoke weed for its comeback. But […]

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Heading Into 2021 – Best Cannabis Stocks to Buy, and One Major Mistake to Avoid

The real winner on election day was cannabis. We now have legal, adult use cannabis in 15 states, and roughly 75% of the country has legalized medical marijuana – how does that play out when it comes to stocks?

In total, we have four new states (Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Montana) with recreational marijuana and another state (Mississippi) that passed legislation to launch a comprehensive medical program. Next year, Florida, New York, and Ohio are expected to pass adult-use legalization measures as well. When that happens, nearly half of Americans will live in a state where they can legally use marijuana.

With so much attention on legalization and future markets, cannabis stocks are expectedly hot. Even despite the pandemic, many cannabis stocks remained stable and have been skyrocketing in recent weeks. Check out the top few companies we’ve been keeping my eye on, and make sure to read to the end to learn about the biggest mistake to avoid when investing in today’s cannabis industry.

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Planet 13 (OTC:PLNH.F)

Referred to as the “Disneyland of Cannabis”, Planet 13 is the largest dispensary in the world. At 115,000 square feet, it’s larger than an average Walmart, comparable to a small shopping mall. And it’s much more than just a run-of-the-mill dispensary, it’s an experience. Inside there is a restaurant, a museum, regular entertainment, and a viewing area where customers can watch the manufacturing process of various different cannabis derivatives.

With a place like Planet 13, located right off the Las Vegas strip, there was considerable fear about what kind of effects the pandemic and lack of tourism would have on the business and holdings. In my opinion, what really set P13 apart from other touristy destinations is how quickly hey pivoted to a delivery business model that catered to the local community. At the beginning of the pandemic, around April, Planet 13 shares where selling for just around $1. Now, they’re hovering around $3.50.

“They’ve done an excellent job of adapting to very challenging times and Planet 13, they got hit really hard. They operate right off of the Las Vegas Strip with their superstore there, and of course, when the pandemic hit, tourism just evaporated. But the management team really moved quickly,” says Motley Fool contributor Keith Speights.

“They switched to a distribution model within the state of Nevada and serving the local market more than just tourists and really have managed to get through an extremely difficult time. I think their last quarterly report, their revenue was actually even a good bit higher than it was in the prior-year period. So, I think Planet 13 is really positioned well to come out of the pandemic quite strong.”

Cresco Labs (CNSX:CL) (OTC:CRLBF)

Ever since it was founded in 2013, Cresco Labs has held its ranking as one of the nation’s fasted growing cannabis companies. Cresco Labs is the third largest producer of cannabis products in the country, currently operating 19 dispensaries across nine states, and their products are sold in nearly 800 dispensaries throughout the United States. They manufacture a wide array of products including raw flower, vape cartridges, edibles, prerolls, and cannabinoid sprays and capsules, which they just launched last month

At the moment, this company is just about breaking even but still not profitable. However, shares are trading at a price-to-sales (P/S) ratio of 5.8. That seems high, all things considered, but it’s because investors are convinced they’ll turn a profit with Cresco Labs in the Very near future.

During the first half of the year, nearly all of the company’s dispensaries in all the states where they currently operate saw over 30% sequential sales growth. In California, which is the world’s largest and most competitive marijuana market, Cresco Labs showed quarter-to-quarter sales growth of 41 percent. It’s a strong possibility that shares will go up when the company reports their third quarter earnings, with will be released on November 18.

GrowGeneration (NASDAQ:GRWG)

GrowGeneration is another company that’s playing it smart. They stand to benefit significantly from legalization as states continue expanding their marijuana markets and giving people the right to grow cannabis in the own homes. As a way to save money in the long run, and have complete control over the growing environment, it’s becoming increasingly popular to set up a small home-grow.

GrowGeneration operates 31 hydroponic garden stores in 11 different states – which they plan on expanding to 50 stores in 15 states by the end of 2021. They provide nutrients, additives, lighting, fertilizers, and environmental control solutions to both individual growers and large-scale industry producers. It’s the largest chain selling such products, and their future doesn’t hinge entirely on the cannabis industry as they supply the needs of hydroponic growers of many other types of produce, such as tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers.

The company showed a revenue increase of 175% last year, bringing their profits to $76,4 million. By 2021, management expects to see roughly $300 million in sales and $36 million in operating income, excluding non-cash items (EBITDA). That’s nearly double the adjusted EBITDA of $20 million that GrowGeneration expects to rake in by the end of final quarter.

GrowGeneration ranked as the best-performing cannabis stocks during the first half of 2020, and third quarter earnings, which were reported September 2020, showed a revenue growth of 153% year-over-year. Shares are trading at a P/S ratio of eight.

Biggest Mistake Cannabis Investors are Making Right Now

The big mistake that some investors are making, though, is being to bullish, based on the assumption that the U.S. is set to soon legalize cannabis at the federal level. This is accurate, to an extent, and as many of us who are following investment trends noticed, cannabis stocks briefly soared when Joe Biden was named president on December 3rd.

But let’s not forget that Biden isn’t very enthusiastic about cannabis reform. As a matter of fact, any mention of cannabis reform was completely omitted from Biden’s initial draft transition plan on racial equality, despite campaign pledges to make that a priority.

To make matters worse, republicans still have a stronghold over the U.S. Senate. With senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), we can expect any bills regarding cannabis legislation to be swiftly blocked. Despite backing hemp revisions in the 2018 Farm Bill, Sen. McConnell has stood in the way of marijuana reform for years.

As of now, the GOP is slated to hold 50 Senate seats next year, and it looks like two remaining races Georgia is the deciding factor on which party has the majority. So, if (or when) Republicans win those southern elections, it means Sen. McConnell will remain senate leader and go on preventing progressive cannabis bills from even reaching the Senate floor for a vote.

So yes, full federal cannabis legalization is on the horizon, but don’t start basing all your financial decisions on that just yet.

Final Thoughts

Cannabis stocks are hot, but still not so expensive that the average investor is alienated from the market. If you have the means, it’s great time to put your funds into the industry and get some shares of a reliable company that shows promising growth trends. Above are a few that have been getting a lot of attention and are positioned to perform well over the coming years.


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