Predating the criminalization of cannabis itself, the first commercially cultivated hemp in the US was grown by enslaved African people for the benefit of white colonists. In time, an increasing series of ever-stricter laws would use cannabis—and later, crack cocaine—as a straw man to oppress Mexican immigrants and Black Americans.
Culminating in America’s infamous War on Drugs campaign, the past 50 years has seen skyrocketing incarceration rates headlined by disproportionate detainment, arrest and conviction rates for minorities. However, in the wake of a legalization revolution for cannabis—kicked off in 1996 when California’s landmark Prop 215 was approved by voters, legalizing medical marijuana—a renewed focus on restorative justice has dovetailed with the arrival of cannabis a major new industry.
Let’s celebrate this welcome change by looking at five Black cannabis industry leaders working to create a more equitable industry from within.
CEO & Chairman of The Board, The Parent Company
It doesn’t get much more high profile than serving as CEO of California’s leading consumer-focused, vertically integrated cannabis company, but Troy Datcher thrives in the spotlight. He sees plenty of it as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of The Parent Company, which boasts big brands including Jay-Z’s Monogram and Caliva Dispensary and Delivery within its robust portfolio. Datcher also supports The Parent Company’s mission to “disrupt a sector that has disproportionately impacted communities of color” with a social equity ventures fund established with $10 million of initial funding.
National Director of Social Equity, Curaleaf
A native of Birmingham, AL, Darius Kemp’s career trek includes a stint as a Peace Corps volunteer, work in labor union organizing and his current role as national director of social equity for Curaleaf. Kemp’s accomplishments also include developing 14 social equity brands that have collectively sold more than $15 million worth of BIPOC and women-owned cannabis products to date. In his work with Curaleaf, Kemp remains focused on creating a cannabis industry able and willing to rectify the problems created by America’s failed war on drugs. To that end, Curaleaf has amassed an enviable reach as a leading medical and recreational dispensary brand serving 350k+ registered patients across 23 states.
Disappointed by the diversity issues she observed taking root in mainstream cannabis culture, Mary Pryor co-founded Cannaclusive in 2017 to facilitate fair representation of minority cannabis consumers by offering free resources including a stock photography gallery dedicated to diversity. Another resource, InclusiveBase, provides a directory of BIPOC-owned and operated cannabis companies across the globe. In 2020, Pryor spearheaded The Accountability List and founded Cannabis For Black Lives (CfBL). In 2021, Pryor was the recipient of the CLIO Cannabis Impact Award and presently counts a role as advisor to The Parent Company among her myriad duties and projects.
Amber E Senter
CEO, MAKR House
Chairman of the Board & Executive Director of Supernova Women
At the rate Amber E. Senter is going, she’s going to need a full-length book to list all her accomplishments. As of now, Senter’s impressive credentials include more than two decades of marketing and project management experience. She’s also the founder and CEO of MAKR House, a distribution and infused cannabis products company, where she heads fundraising, supply chain management, government relations, strategy, product development and marketing. Senter is also co-founder, chair and executive director of Supernova Women, formed in 2015 to empower people of color to become self-sufficient cannabis industry shareholders. Furthermore, during her tenure as the former chief operations officer of a Bay Area dispensary, she obtained the first onsite consumption permit issued by the City of Oakland.
Co-Founder & CEO, Presidential Cannabis Co.
Everett Smith had hoops dreams that blossomed into a thriving career in the cannabis industry. After finishing his basketball career in Europe, Smith launched Los Angeles-based Presidential RX in 2012. Today, he oversees one of the largest infused flower cannabis companies—as well as the third largest pre-roll brand—in California, with products available in some 400 stores across the state. Now proudly shelved at powerhouse dispensaries such as MedMen and Sherbinskis, Smith’s Presidential is a success story to overshadow even the most impressive of half-court heaves.
What’s one great way to tell if an industry is doing well? More jobs open up, and salaries improve. What’s a great way to know there are problems? When more and more jobs get cut. That’s where we are today, as mass layoffs continue in the cannabis industry, signaling a host of problems, with no solution in sight.
When the industry first started it was a true free-for-all. The predictions for market growth were off-the-charts, and it seemed like every big international company wanted to swoop into newly legalized locations to take advantage of this new reported cash cow of an industry. Everyone wanted in. Lots of people made investments. We all waited with baited breath to see who among us would become the new weed industry millionaires.
Now, we’re a few years in, and the landscape has changed, along with expectations. CBD has faded out into almost nothing, medical markets are getting eclipsed by recreational markets, which themselves are still often eclipsed by black markets. Prices remain high in many places due to insane taxing, and governments have been slow to pick up on this as an issue. Overproduction has (let’s be honest, predictably) come into play, causing prices to plummet in every venue. And the once thriving industry, is now showing its cracks, with sales plummeting in many places.
Last year the reports started really rolling in about industry closures and layoffs. Smaller names were already having a hard time making it in due to expensive regulation, extreme competition, and extra costs like slotting fees at dispensaries; making it seem like a game for the big dogs only. But even they’re having issues. And now as 2023 gets underway, the mass layoffs continue, both in the US, and around the world.
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Mass layoffs in the cannabis industry – global
Clever Leaves Holdings is a Colombian cannabis company with operations in Portugal. On January 23rd of this year, the company announced restructuring plans that include cutting nearly ¼ of its staff. Clever Leaves is in the medical space, creating pharmaceutical-grade products. This restructuring means winding down all operations in the Portugal location. In fact, the company wants to move everything back home to cut costs, saying:
“By exclusively cultivating and producing our cannabinoid products in Colombia, we aim to leverage our existing cost efficiencies in the country as we ramp our dry flower offering,” said Andres Fajardo, CEO of Clever Leaves. “We believe this transition will allow us to optimize our production infrastructure and drive increased cost savings, positioning us to compete more effectively in the global medicinal cannabis market.”
As of the end of September, the company had $12.1 million in assets in Portugal. The facility included cultivation, post-harvesting, and manufacturing activities; though it sounds like all of this will eventually end. It’s also not the only company operating out of Portugal that wants to cut back. On January 17th, cannabis giant Tilray Brands announced it too was looking to cut about a quarter of its staff. The facility in Cantanhede is also a medical cannabis products facility. Said a Tilray spokesperson to MJBizDaily:
“A total of 49 jobs will be affected in the production, manufacturing, quality, quality control (laboratory), cultivation, supply chain, facilities, warehousing, logistics, procurement, and IT. These changes, which are in line with Tilray’s rightsizing to meet the needs of the current economy and the state of legalization across medical and adult-use cannabis, will take place over the next three months.”
To give an idea why this is happening, consider that in the quarter ending November 30th, 2022, the company posted a $61.6 million net loss. Tilray is a public company and can be found on the NASDAQ and Toronto Stock Exchange under TLRY. Clever Leaves also had huge losses of $37.3 million, in the first three quarters of last year. It only earned $13.2 million in the same time frame. Clever Leaves is publicly traded under CLVR on NASDAQ.
In Canada, Delta 9 announced that it would temporarily lay off 40 people. This is interesting wording as it implies the company does believe it will be able to reverse these layoffs. Realistically, maybe it will, but a stronger reality might be that none of these jobs are coming back for any of these companies. This cut in the company’s Winnipeg facilities accounts for 40% of its staff.
Fellow Canadian company The Flowr Corporation (OTC:FLWPF) a cultivation services enterprise with locations in several countries, made some big changes last year to keep from bankruptcy. It cut employees to the tune of $4 million in savings, accounting for 40% of its workforce. Along with this, it made a deal to sell off its subsidiary Flowr Forests, a 16 acre property for cultivation. This is considered a non-core asset, and makes the company $3.4 million in revenue.
Mass layoffs in the cannabis industry – US
The US might not have federally legal weed, but it is home to the biggest cannabis industries. However, things aren’t doing better within the borders of the US, than they’re doing outside them. One of the big ones to announce major cuts of late? Columbia Care, Inc., which operates in several states, and owns Green Leaf Medical LLC, which is about to make a bunch of people jobless. How many? 73. As of February 28th.
According to the company: “In order to meet the appropriate supply and demand levels of the market, it was necessary for us to reduce the workforce at our cultivation and production facility.” It continued, “We are hopeful that with adult use on the horizon, this facility will be back up to full capacity in the future.” It’s pretty clear this cut is indeed due to a lack of business.
Leaflink, a wholesale tech platform out of New York, is also cutting jobs. Late last year it was reported that 80 employees were sent looking for new work. Much like the other companies to make cuts, the company explained: “Unfortunately, as the cannabis industry continues to face headwinds and the current macroeconomic environment, we needed to take the next step in our evolution to continue supporting the industry.”
Truelieve, a company offering medical cannabis products and services out of Tallahassee Florida, and which operates in many states, also made a similar announcement at the end of last year. Workers were cut from its McKeesport Pennsylvania cultivation facility, numbering approximately 36. This is technically small potatoes considering the company employs in the neighborhood of 8,000, but its also not the first cut. The company laid off workers in three Florida locations: Midway, Monticello, and Quincy, as well.
While the cut was blamed on “Trulieve’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Arizona-based multistate operator Harvest Health & Recreation in 2021,” it also came on the heels of the company posting a quarterly loss of $115 million.
Yet another Florida company, Springbig, a technology company for weed-specific marketing software, cut 23% of its workforce (37 employees) late last year. The company is trying hard to turn a profit amid an industry that seems harder and harder to turn a profit in. These cuts were meant to save $200,000 in the short term, and 21% in the first three quarters of 2023.
Springbig had just merged with Tuatara Capital Acquisition, in order to get on NASDAQ; trading under SBIG. The company’s shares have plummeted from $4.50 last June, to 82 cents at the end of 2022. Prior to the drop it had reported $24 million in yearly revenue, with a $275 million valuation, as per Green Market Report.
If you’re a big reader of cannabis news, then the publication Leafly is likely familiar to you. Well, even Leafly Holdings is having problems. In October of last year, it was reported that the cannabis resource and marketplace, would cut 56 jobs, or 21% of its staff. Leafly, traded under LFLY on NASDAQ, is looking to save approximately $16 million a year, saying, “These reductions will help preserve our ability to respond to opportunities as this industry continues to mature and expand, and allow us to more effectively manage our capital.”
Previously mentioned layoffs in the cannabis industry
This is unfortunately not the first time I’ve reported on cannabis industry layoffs. Last year made one thing very clear: the market is not as sound as many wanted to believe; and the overall market predictions in place, are falling short of reality.
Some of the big layoffs already reported on, include Weedmaps, which cut about 25% of its staff; Curaleaf Holdings, which just got rid of 220 employees; Akerna, which released 1/3 of its staff, or 59 workers; Dutchie, which removed 8% of its workforce, amounting to 67 jobs lost; Canopy Growth which sold all its retail locations, and cut 245 jobs last year; and Aurora Cannabis which cut 12% of its workforce as a part of corporate restructuring to save money.
With the biggest names in cannabis faltering, it brings up the question of who can survive. More companies to let employees go recently, include California’s Eaze, which laid off around 25 employees last year; Lume, a cannabis company out of Michigan closed four out of 30 of its stores; and Nature AZ Medicine, an Arizona medical cannabis company, cut up to 100 employees as a result of medical sales falling.
There’s nothing saying that 2023 won’t turn into a banner year for cannabis sales, and there’s nothing saying that all of these companies won’t recoup their losses, or hire back the numbers they lost. But right now, things aren’t looking fantastic for cannabis industry growth, and these layoffs are a good indication that more bad news might be coming.
Will the cannabis industry rebound? Or are these mass layoffs an indication that the weed industry has hit a wall? And maybe most important to ask, if it can be saved, what kind of changes are necessary in order to facilitate this?
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The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) recently informed three medical cannabis producers that they will receive an expanded producer license, which will allow them to work with both medical cannabis and adult-use cannabis products.
DCP Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull said in a press release that this is one of the final steps toward a regulatory market sometime next year.“The Department’s priority is to have a safe, well-regulated marketplace for consumers,” said Seagull. “I am grateful to the Drug Control and Legal teams at DCP who have worked—and continue to work—tirelessly, since the passage of the law, toward a safe and successful market opening.”
Connecticut law states that sales can’t begin until 250,000 square feet of growing and manufacturing space is approved for adult-use. In a press release from the DCP, the department said that cannabis sales can’t proceed until the state’s four medical cannabis producers and cultivators have been approved. Currently, this includes Advanced Grow Labs LLC, Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions LLC, and Curaleaf LLC. One more application from Theraplant was received on Nov. 10, and the DCP is reviewing that application for license conversion.
Additionally, seven medical cannabis dispensaries also received confirmation that they’ve met the criteria for conversion to a hybrid cannabis license, however these do not contribute to the minimum 250,000 square footage requirement that will allow sales to begin.
Just one month after Lamont signed the bill, Connecticut officials launched a cannabis education and information website to clear up questions that residents may have. In September, there had already been an expectation that sales could be delayed. “We’ve been suggesting that there will likely be sales by the end of 2022, and we’re still aspiring for that. Obviously, we have to see how things play out in the next few months,” Seagull said in September 2021. “It’s really important to us that we preserve the medical marketplace that currently does exist. It’s important to us that that market, which is working well and helping a lot of people, doesn’t get swallowed up.”
Earlier this year in May, more than 15,000 dispensary applications were submitted with anticipation of sales beginning in Connecticut soon. Additionally Gov. Lamont signed legislation earlier this year in May to address the ongoing practice of cannabis gifting that lies in a grey area of sales.
Most recently in September, the state launched a new educational campaign “to promote responsible cannabis use by adults.” “Protecting public health and safety includes providing people with the tools and knowledge to make informed decisions to keep their families safe,” said Lamont about the campaign. “We’re working to educate the public about the steps they can take to protect themselves and their families from accidental ingestion and over-consumption. We encourage adults who choose to use these products to do so responsibly.”
According to the 2022 MJBiz Factbook, Connecticut could collect up to $250 million in the first full year of sales, and $750 million by the fourth year.
Connecticut is one of New York’s eastern neighbors, and news of Connecticut’s progress arrived just one day after the New York Office of Cannabis Management announced its first round of license approvals. This included 28 “justice-involved individuals” and eight non-profit organizations. According to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, the state plans to open its first 20 dispensaries by the end of 2022.
No culture is a monolith, yet some cultural exports are unmistakably German. The blue-and-white roundel of Bavaria stamped on hoods of upscale cars signals precision engineering. A smiling blond barmaid carrying an impossible tower of beer steins to an outdoor table in late summertime is an efficient—and punctual—good time.
But now, after the newly installed German government vowed to legalize adult-use cannabis as part of its coalition contract, ambitious entrepreneurs are predicting for Europe’s richest and most populous country a future that features cannabis-loving tourists, drawn to a new global locus for “cannabis kultur.”
Will foreign tourists from The Netherlands and California leave their familiar coffee shops and legal dispensaries behind for a vacation in Frankfurt or Hamburg? It seems like a hopeful stretch. Traditional German values aren’t consistent with the counterculture underground. And a shift toward the new international locus shifting to central Europe would require a massive cultural reorientation. At present, all of the legal cannabis consumed in Germany could be handled by 15 averaged-sized US dispensaries. In other words, the “German cannabis industry” could hide in a Denver, Portland or Los Angeles neighborhood without anyone noticing. And visions of that future must somehow overcome a wall of cultural reluctance, as most Germans look down on cannabis culture as something dirty, disheveled and far removed from classic Teutonic values.
However, after the new, so-called “traffic light” ruling coalition took power in October 2021 and vowed to legalize adult-use cannabis as part of its coalition contract, ambitious entrepreneurs and enthusiastic boosters say with straight faces and detailed reports that they’re putting their bets on Germany. With 82 million people and the world’s fourth-largest economy, Germany is the most populous and richest country in Europe, with influence that sets the tone for the rest of the continent. That means Germany would be the wealthiest and most populous country in the world with federal legalization—and will be so until the US, China or Japan legalize cannabis nationwide.
So far, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government is moving slowly but steadily, and all according to plan. In May, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach confirmed that draft legislation could appear as soon as the fall, as soon as experts and lawmakers heard evidence and testimony at a series of hearings in June. On June 13, Bukhard Blienert, Scholz’s drug and addiction commissioner, kicked off what he called “the preparatory phase of legislation” with the first hearings at the Federal Ministry of Health.
Hearing topics included “which measures can be used to ensure the next protection for young people, health and consumers in the event of implementation,” according to a news release, but there was no sign that Scholz’s government was second-guessing itself.
“Like many others, I have worked for years toward us in Germany finally ending the criminalization of cannabis consumers and beginning a modern and health-oriented cannabis policy,” Blienert said in a statement.
So, perhaps there’s something to the claims that “the future language for cannabis will be German.”
“It’ll not only be lederhosen, pretzels and beer in the future,” says Niklas Kouparanis, CEO and co-founder of the Bloomwell Group, a Germany-based holding company that investment news outlet Benzinga called the “leading” cannabis company in the continent. “I think cannabis made in Germany would be something on the bucket list of a US cannabis consumer.”
Kouparanis circulated a survey demonstrating the enthusiasm and wishful thinking that accompany the opening of any new cannabis market—and, he hopes, forecasts a future in which Germany is the leader in research and product development, as well as cultural mindset. As per his survey, 66 percent of respondents—including Americans—said they’d visit a dispensary, social club or consumption lounge in Germany.
All the metrics are there for Germany to be a powerhouse of some kind in a global cannabis market. Though production will probably remain in sunnier southern Europe (Germany currently imports most of its cannabis from Portugal), all the ingredients are there for the country to seize a dominant position in general business: population, technological know-how and a business-friendly regulatory environment open to outside investors.
“Germany will be the leader of the European cannabis movement,” agreed Alex Rogers, the US-born co-founder and CEO of the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC), Europe’s largest B2B cannabis convocation—which, not for nothing, takes place in Berlin, and has grown “five-fold” every year.
In addition to the population more than double that of California and Canada—where, in the latter’s case, legalization triggered a stock-market rush—Germany has “a head-start with its medical program,” Rogers says. “It’s the place in Europe that’ll probably be the biggest weed market in Europe for all of those reasons.”
Companies already involved in cannabis include Demecan, a Berlin-based firm that’s one of the three licensed to produce medical cannabis in the country. Though there are still more questions than answers—with regulations still to come—Demecan is lobbying to ensure that quality standards are maintained while continuing with the prior mission: convincing Germans that cannabis is indeed legitimate and acceptable.
“The topic of cannabis in medicine is still fraught with prejudice,” said Franz Grossman, a company spokesman. “No research was conducted in this field for a long time and the study situation is consequently weak. This deficiency must now be made up for.”
But Germany “can and should be world quality leaders and set the standards,” he added. “Germany is a leading country when it comes to pharmaceutical production. Cannabis should absolutely be no different.”
There are some facts behind the familiar enormous numbers filling investor decks and lofty market-research projections. According to a study published by Justus Haucap, a professor of economics at the Dusseldorf Institute for Competition Economics, German demand for cannabis could balloon from 15 to 20 tons a year currently to 400. That’s enough weed to generate €5 billion for the government in combined tax revenue and law-enforcement cost savings.
Markets have already demonstrated some data to support the potential of German cannabis. Bloomwell, for example, has grown since its June 2020 founding to employ more than 200 people. And last year, around the time when the new ruling coalition announced the country would legalize, Bloomwell closed a seed round in which the company raised $10 million from major industry players. Among them was Boris Jordan, the chairman of Curaleaf, the publicly traded behemoth that’s one of the largest cannabis companies on the planet.
Other American companies might fulfill some of the export demand while also contributing to a burgeoning cannabis-fueled tourism sector—a global draw along with Oktoberfest and idyllic town squares nestled in valleys.
However, that would require Germany to open dispensaries that welcome foreign tourists, and for the legal framework that the country has yet to determine to allow consumption lounges. Germany would also need to refrain from limiting recreational cannabis to exorbitantly expensive grams produced by a tiny handful of major companies and sold exclusively in pharmacies, as is the case with medical cannabis in the country.
“Germany has always had a leading position, especially in Europe,” Kouparanis said. “If it’s done correctly, it could be the blueprint for the European Union, and I think also globally. It’ll be the biggest domestic cannabis market in the world—bigger than even California.”
That’s a big “if,” of course. Like everywhere else cannabis has been legalized—and with the enormous and thriving illicit markets in the US threatening to choke out the over-taxed and over-regulated legal markets in California, Oregon and other states serving as a warning— “how” cannabis will be legalized matters very much.
Exactly how Germany will implement legalization remains unclear. There are far more questions than there are answers: How many licenses nationwide? How many licenses in each town? Will cannabis be available in dispensaries? In pharmacies? Will there be home grow?
And there’s also some troubling precedent: the country’s medical-cannabis experiment.
Though the perils of over-regulation and over-taxation are on display throughout the legal cannabis world, strict corporate control was the watchword for medical marijuana in Germany. The government authorized only three companies to cultivate medical cannabis in 2019. Along with Demecan, the locally owned business, the other two were subsidiaries of Canadian giants Tilray and Aurora, which imported much of their biomass from Canadian greenhouses. For patients, until last summer, cannabis was available in certain pharmacies only for steep prices.
But that was all under the departed Angela Merkel government. Many experts believe the current government is apt to be more accommodating—and, based on early conversations with lawmakers who appeared interested and eager to capture opportunity rather than exert total control—there are early signs of hope.
Based on their interest as well as constitutional law, when a regulatory framework is finally decided, it’s more likely Germany will limit the number of licenses awarded per entity while allowing as many total entrants as the market will bear, several sources predicted.
That’s more than enough encouragement for Ali Jamalian. The 43-year-old is the founder and CEO of Sunset Connect, a certified equity business in San Francisco, where Jamalian—who grew up in the Dusseldorf area, close enough to reach Amsterdam by train—is also chair of the local government’s cannabis oversight committee. Jamalian flew home in February 2022 to chat up some local politicians and gauge interest—and, like Feike, to see if there was any hope that the bright future forecasted by boosters such as Kouparanis could actually become reality.
He went armed with presentations, as well as a threat: If local leaders in Dusseldorf weren’t interested in fostering a local cannabis industry, “I’ll take my Chinese investors and go to Cologne and do it there,” Jamalian vowed.
The message seemed to land. Cannabis is a rare opportunity, and legalization an inevitability. But in order to become a destination more attractive than a West Coast city, social-club mecca Barcelona or even increasingly open New York City, there will still be a cultural stigma for cannabis to overcome. Anti-cannabis sentiment is inextricably tied with rising anti-immigrant xenophobia in Germany and in many other European countries.
“It makes you lazy, it takes your ambition away; if you smoke weed, you’re just by default a total loser—there’s no question that narrative is pervasive in Germany,” says the ICBC’s Rogers. “This being said, look at how many people wanted legalization ten years ago versus now. We’re seeing a huge rise, and 90 percent of Germany is pro-medical marijuana, more so than in some American states.”
Jamalian agrees. “The stigma in Germany is a hundred thousand times what it is in the US,” he says. “You have no cultural relationship.”
But along with a legitimate festival culture and some counter-cultural capitals such as Berlin’s legendary club scene, what you do have is another cultural trope: rationality.
“You have moral acceptance, on a scientific level,” he says, meaning medical marijuana. A wellness approach and pharmaceutical advancements may be the key to unlocking the German cannabis market and overcoming any cultural reluctances.
Though Germans have a legendary body-freedom movement—nudism as we know it began in Germany—on drugs, the country “is very conservative,” says Lisa Katharina Haag, the CEO of MJ Universe.
Haag worked in the hospitality industry before registering a lobbying company and is now the only woman on the board of Stimme der Cannabiswirthschaft (the “Voice of the Cannabis Industry”), a leading trade association that currently boasts 60 members.
Germany also has a strong federalist system of government. Each of the 16 federal districts are granted significant regulatory power. Districts could choose to be “very restrictive,” she said, and might be swayed by inevitable pickets of anti-cannabis protesters, such as parents calling for controls to “save the children.” Districts could also follow the model of The Netherlands and restrict access to cannabis businesses only to German citizens, blowing up the tourism model so eagerly touted by Kouparanis and other backers. And in some rural conservative areas, particularly in the south, someone caught with as little as two grams of cannabis commits an offense newsworthy enough to land in the local paper.
So, is Germany going to be like California, Canada or something else entirely?
“We don’t know,” Haag says. “A lot of lobby work must happen still. But, in general, I think Germany is more open than you may consider.”
This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.
The storefront on Allen Street, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, proudly sports a cannabis leaf logo on its awning. Beyond the security workers who check ID at the door, buds, edibles and pre-rolled joints are on open display in glass cases. There isn’t the slightest hint of stealth or disguise.
Don’t Call It A ‘Loophole’
This is one of three Empire Cannabis Clubs locations around the city—the others are up the island in Chelsea and across the East River in Williamsburg. Co-owner Jonathan Elfand says three more are planned—for Hell’s Kitchen, the Upper East Side and Greenpoint.
Speaking to Cannabis Now in a small park across from the establishment, Elfand boasts of his legacy credentials. “I’ve been messing with the marijuana trade in New York City since the 1980s,” he says. “I’ve grown weed in New York, sold weed in New York. I’ve been arrested numerous times, including on federal cultivation charges.”
Elfand says including the 10-year term from that bust in ’98, he’s spent 14 years behind bars for cannabis. “We want to make sure cannabis goes to the community, the way it’s supposed to. I refuse to get into the system,” he expounds. “After 215 in California, millions of dollars came in from people with no history in cannabis. Corporate cannabis is not taking over New York City, that’s not happening. We don’t want it to be just CuraLeaf and MedMen.”
And Elfand insists the law is on his side, dismissing the terms used in the media to describe his enterprise.
“I’ve read through the law. This isn’t a ‘gray area’ or a ‘loophole,’” he says. “As long as you are transferring it hand-to-hand without profit, it is not a sale under the law. I make money off membership fees, not the cannabis. I am not selling, I am facilitating transfer. The cannabis is sold for the price I pay to acquire it and get it on the shelf.”
Elfand says the club received a “cease and desist” letter from New York’s Cannabis Control Board in February. He says they replied to it with a letter explaining their legal position, and never heard back.
A press release issued by the business at that time stated: “Empire Cannabis Clubs is a not-for-profit cannabis dispensary (NFPCD) that aims to serve the goals of its members while ensuring an inclusive marketplace built upon social and economic justice for this rapidly growing industry before billion-dollar corporations are allowed to dominate the market and corrupt the process.”
And indeed, the official New York Courts website states that under the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA), signed into law by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in March 2021, “it is now legal for a person 21 years of age or older to give or transfer up to three ounces of cannabis and up to twenty-four grams of concentrated cannabis, to another person 21 years of age or older, as long as it is given without any payment.”
Elfand emphasizes that he is conforming to every industry standard. “Everyone is scanned in; everyone is over 21. It’s all above-board. All products are lab-tested.”
Now the testing is mostly done out of state, he says, but adds that he hopes to open a laboratory in New York. Quantity per sale is limited to three ounces of flower or 24 grams of concentrate—the permissible quantities for personal possession (outside the home) under MRTA.
Elfand is one of four co-owners, including his sister and brother. He says Empire Cannabis Clubs has some 100 employees, the majority with criminal records. “We try to get people who have been victimized by the war on drugs,” he says.
The business is paying sales tax (even though it denies making any “sales,” as legally defined), and is among several listed on the New York Dispensary Events website.
“Others may be flying under the radar in New York City, but that’s not me,” Elfand insists. “We’re paying taxes, we have a social equity program, and we’re providing top-quality product safely and securely while making sure mom and pop can take some of that money back to the Bronx for their families.”
Legacy Operators Favored
Do businesses on the model of Empire Cannabis have a future as the licensed retail market is about to come online?
Officially, New York’s legal cannabis program is being crafted to prioritize legacy operators. On July 14, the Cannabis Control Board issued long-awaited regulations allowing entrepreneurs to apply for licenses for retail establishments. The first round of Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses will go to “justice-involved individuals”—that is, those with past cannabis convictions.
The first 150 will be eligible to receive aid from a $200 million Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund.
“This is a tremendous stride in the right direction,” Control Board chair Tremaine Wright, a former Assembly member from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, told the Daily News. “We’re leading with equity in this state.”
On Aug. 5, the Control Board issued the first 15 licenses for cannabis processors, and announced regulations for testing labs to apply for licenses. On that occasion, both Wright and Alexander made statements pledging inclusion for legacy operators.
“Processors aren’t just an important part of the cannabis supply chain, they are creators, who take a raw plant and transform it into tested, consistent, high-quality products that consumers can trust,” Wright said. “When we open New York’s first stores, owned and operated by New Yorkers harmed by the misguided criminalization of cannabis, the shelves will be lined with infused edibles, topical creams and concentrated oils. None of those products would be possible without these first processors launching New York’s cannabis industry.”
Alexander adds: “These processors aren’t just expanding their own businesses; they are committed to also mentoring the next generation of cannabis processors. They’ll be teaching vital manufacturing skills to those with a passion for cannabis…New York’s entire cannabis ecosystem will create opportunities for those who have been shut out of jobs and industry, and will bring those skills to communities across the state.”
A Unified Legacy Operators Council (UNLOC) has been founded by a group of 25 entrepreneurs to advocate for this sector. Among the members are veteran rappers Umi and M-1 (formerly of Dead Prez).
Umi recently told the Albany Times-Union, “I’m not hearing enough about the culture that’s behind the actual plant.” Added M-1: “There’s no way that the same capitalist exploitation that has happened in America can be good for cannabis.”
But Big Bud Is Circling In
And indeed the notorious multi-state operators (MSOs) are making no effort to hide their ambitions for the Empire State. Their representatives were certainly out in force for the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBE) held at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center the first week of June—featuring an “Industry Yacht Party” on the Hudson River.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams (a former NYPD cop) addressed the CWCBE, famously quipping to the crowd: “I’m a bit disappointed. I thought I’d walk in the room and have a nice scent of weed goin’ on in here.” (This despite the fact that the Javits Center does not allow smoking of anything.)
A more telling comment was offered by Gretchen Gailey, chief strategy officer for the CWCBE. She told the assemblage: “We say brands are born in California but made in New York. The real money is going to happen in this part of the country. This is where the population of the US is.”
MSO CuraLeaf has four medical marijuana retail locations in New York state, including one in the Queens neighborhood of Forest Hills. It’s already applying to begin recreational sales at its location in New Jersey’s Bordentown, and is expected to follow suit in New York.
The 10 “registered organizations” that are licensed to distribute medical marijuana in New York are “scrambling” to position themselves for the adult-use market, in the words of the New York Times. The paper notes that some of these “ROs” donated to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign, and nearly all have hired lobbyists, spending more than $2 million this year in expectation of a big share of a projected $6 billion market.
CuraLeaf got into a spot of bother with regulatory authorities in August, when it was forced to pull thousands of products from the shelves of its New York dispensaries for misleading labeling. CuraLeaf apparently began calculating THC content by “dry weight” rather than “wet weight” (the state norm) in order to jack up percentages. The Office of Cannabis Management said it couldn’t do that without prior official approval.
Speaking to the environmental contradictions of Big Bud, MSO Vireo Health apparently needs more electricity for its new cultivation and processing facility than can be provided by the technology park where it has set up shop. The Leader-Herald in upstate Gloversville reported that Fulton County industrial development officials were “shocked” to learn from Vireo that the county-financed transmission line into Tryon Technology Park wasn’t sufficient for the MSO’s planned operations.
And some perceive there are still obstacles for the little guy. The $2,000 non-refundable application fee for adult-use retail outlets is far below the $10,000 fee for medical marijuana dispensaries. But applicants must submit tax documents showing they’ve owned and operated a profitable business for at least two years. And Bloomberg Tax recently noted: “Those fortunate enough to obtain one of New York’s recreational cannabis licenses will be forced to contend with a gauntlet of state and local taxes.”
Since June 1, the Cannabis Control Board has issued some 160 cultivation licenses for the adult-use market, with many hemp farmers getting in on the act.
In April, the state legislature passed a bill allowing already-operating hemp farms to get early adult-use cultivation licenses, to supply retail businesses as soon as they open. But the MSOs are certain to be next in line.
Crackdown on Independent Operators…Sort of
In New York City, there has been much media hyperventilation about the proliferation of unlicensed retail establishments—often derided as “line jumpers.”
Typical is a recent story in the New York Post, “New Yorkers Worry Over Flowering Weed Market.” It sensationalizes about a “Green Mile” that has emerged within “Hell Square”—the name for a section of the Lower East Side filled with noisy bars and eateries that irk the locals. The article mentions both Empire Cannabis and Granny Za’s on Rivington St., where patrons are “gifted” a quarter-ounce of cannabis if they pay $75 for a piece of digital artwork. The Post calls this using “clever loopholes.”
Such coverage has contributed to calls for a crackdown by the New York Police Department. On July 8, the unlicensed open-air cannabis market that’s been operating in Washington Square Park, the heart of Greenwich Village, won some bad press. A Parks Department worker tried to confiscate one of the tables that had been set up—and got into a physical scuffle with the merchants. Two were arrested and charged with assault.
There are growing calls from well-heeled area residents to shut down the Washington Square market, and the NYPD earlier this year announced a “zero tolerance” policy for unlicensed cannabis sales in the park. But in fact, the open-air market persists as summer fades into fall.
In the first significant move toward a crackdown, on Aug. 16 the NYPD seized 20 of the trucks that rove the city to make sidewalk cannabis sales. The Department’s Chief of Patrol Jeffrey Maddrey proudly tweeted: “If you are looking to buy illegal cannabis from the Weed World Bus located on 5th Avenue & 40th Street, it is no longer open for business. We do not anticipate it opening for business anytime soon!”
Technically, however, the seizures were made because of parking violations.
And in May, Liz Kreuger, the same Manhattan state senator who shepherded through the MRTA, won approval in the Senate for S.9452—a bill that would change the language of the MRTA to expressly prohibit unlicensed monetary transfers of cannabis. It failed to pass the Assembly before the legislative session ended in June.
Jonathan Elfand believes his Empire Cannabis Clubs set the standard for responsible practice in the unlicensed sector. He has this to say to the sector’s critics: “Tell all the people in line for licenses that I’ve been in this all my life, and I don’t want to see it taken over by corporate money.”
Like California fire season, “Croptober”—the term for the annual flood of sungrown cannabis entering the market during the fall harvest and the subsequent price shock, as supply on hand far outstrips demand—is now a yearlong phenomenon.
But this year aims to be worse for everyone, as October is due to bring bad tidings for c-suite types and investors in Big Weed. With the third quarter closing Sept. 30 and the next earnings reports for publicly traded companies due beginning Oct. 15, “Croptober” is on track to be “Crashtober,” the autumn of major cannabis companies’ serious problems.
Anticipating this, the #MSOgang appears to be getting ahead of the trouble. Rather than blame consumers for not buying enough cannabis or themselves for growing too much, a parade of executives and investors recently told POLITICO that the real problem is Congress, and that the real reason they have been gushing cash for years now is lawmakers’ failure to pass any number of significant cannabis reform bills.
While federal tax law and federal prohibition no doubt play a significant role, these are also not new problems for cannabis businesses. But as several observers, entrepreneurs and other cannabis business types contacted for this article said, 2022 feels different.
Investors are tired of seeing companies burn their cash. And with more than a half-billion in losses through half of 2022, companies are running out of cash to burn.
Continuing a trend seen all year long—and in defiance of otherwise across-the-board inflation— cannabis prices continue to decline almost everywhere the plant is legal for Americans to buy and consume, according to recent data compiled by Cowen, one of the leading analyst houses tracking the industry. About the only place prices are high(ish) and stable are in states with new adult-use markets with limited competition, such as New Jersey.
Though most every major cannabis company in the United States has a presence in New Jersey as well as New York, where the most recent news is that licensed and regulated retail sales won’t start until 2023, almost a full two years after legalization—and both states have enormous potential measured in the billions of dollars, according to market forecasts—mere promise doesn’t appear to be enough to satisfy the concerns of investors big and small.
Despite revenue from legal cannabis projected to hit $32 billion this year and $72 billion by the end of the decade, big marijuana companies are pleading poverty. So far, the country’s two dozen biggest publicly traded firms lost a combined $550 million on revenues of $4.5 billion, as per POLITICO.
Some observers have said that cannabis companies themselves are at least partly to blame—that, maybe, they invested too much in enormous grow facilities that don’t produce enough good cannabis, or at least produced enough mediocre cannabis to depress prices and encourage consumers to shop on the traditional market. But at least publicly, most investor types are blaming lawmakers.
“The idiots in Washington are causing the problem,” as Matt Hawkins, a private equity veteran and founder of Entourage Effect Capital, which sunk big money into MSOs including Green Thumb Industries, told POLITICO. “They need to understand that in order for this industry to grow and thrive that has to be passed.”
Even advocates of small weed agreed with the general analysis. Everybody is hurt hard by tax code Section 280, which forbids cannabis businesses from making the normal tax deductions—deductions that, for other firms, mean the difference between profit and a loss, or a tiny margin or a fatter one.
“Obviously every business’ situation is different, but I would concur that federal policy is about the most significant impediment to positive cash flow, particularly the impact of 280E,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, which advocates for small businesses. “The situation is worse for smaller businesses which cannot withstand extended periods of losses.”
That said, Smith’s sympathy is limited for large firms who based revenue projections on assumptions that federal policy would change—and then “didn’t and don’t invest in the effort to change federal policies either,” he said.
Dealing With the Flow
Observers note that cannabis executives appear to be admitting there’s trouble in various ways, sometimes subtly, sometimes very obviously. Companies have already laid off hundreds of workers across the country, as MJBizDaily reported last month.
At the recent Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago, Curaleaf founder and chairman Boris Jordan turned heads with the prediction that 50% of cannabis sales “five to ten years out” will be infused beverages, with the other half (presumably) split between flower, edibles and vape cartridges currently dominating the market.
The prediction earned Jordan some headlines in the business press and some mockery on Twitter, but he may also have tipped his hand.
He made a similar prediction—that the SAFE Banking Act, federal legislation that would allow better access to banks and investors for state-legal cannabis businesses, would pass during the lame duck session between the midterm elections and the next session of Congress—back in May.
He may be legitimately hopeful, and he may be right, but by hedging his bets that federal help is coming—or even something better five years down the road—he may also be speaking to anxious and impatient investors, wondering when (if ever) their returns are coming. Something must change, but if it’s not federal policy, cannabis companies will need to make a major correction starting as soon as this fall—the fall of fail.
The cannabis-themed NFT gallery in Phoenix, Arizona is set to open to the public at a special event held on July 22, featuring NFT artwork by Elise Weiland. The event is in partnership with Plant. Body. Soul., a creative marketing agency that focuses on cannabis, which is hosting the debut of the NFT gallery, called Owls After Dark.
The opening night event is called Friday Highday After Dark, which according to a press release, will be the “first phase of the [Plant.Body.Soul.] agency’s NFT roadmap.”
Plant.Body.Soul. Managing Partner and Co-founder, Jennifer Miles, explained her hopes for the future with this new NFT project. “The minting of the Owls After Dark NFT gallery marks the first step in our community access utility project that seeks to unite members through innovation, art, music, and real-life experiences,” said Miles.
The gallery’s other Co-founder, Gordon Ogden, also commented on the exciting prospects for these unique NFT offerings. “We are committed to the continual expansion of our NFT community,” said Ogden. “In the months following the launch we plan to hold exclusive events curated for registered NFT holders, create a Discord server for members, and incorporate additional features and virtual reality experiences.”
Weiland’s digital artwork often centers around the psychedelic, abstract digital sculptures, and exploring unique fantasy environments. Some of Weiland’s influences include “internet culture, design culture, tattoo culture and counterculture,” which are usually depicted with many colorful elements that they describe as fun, dreamy, and perhaps a little bit dark”. Last year Weiland crafted a 3D procedural techno forest for the Fall 2021 issue of Broccoli Magazine’s mycophiles magazine, called Mushroom People.
Those who purchase NFTs featured in the Owls After Dark gallery will also receive real-world benefits as well. These rewards include access to swag drops, a high-quality art print of their NFT, and regular access to Plant. Body. Soul.’s ongoing Friday Highday Happy Hour and Friday Highday After Dark events. The NFTs will be available on OpenSea, one of the largest NFT marketplaces, after the event begins.
Recently NFTs and cannabis have become a popular partnership, with some cannabis brands featuring NFT artwork on their packaging. But it’s also being used as a collaborative effort to promote advocacy in the industry as well.
The Weldon Project’s Founder, Weldon Angelos, praised the merging of cannabis and art for the community. “I began The Weldon Project and launched the MISSION [GREEN] initiative to raise the bar for awareness, social justice, and social equity around cannabis and provide relief to those who have been negatively impacted by unjust drug laws,” said Angelos. “This NFT project with the Black Comics Collective and Burn1 is exciting because it allows me to further our mission while creating an exciting new blend of art, music, and activism.”
Of all the countries on the old continent, good old Germany is the one that is on the verge of a large-scale legalization of cannabis, which will significantly change the cannabis culture and will have to decide between two paths. Does it go the traditional way of the green Amsterdam school or does it follow the zeitgeist of the purple American-Californian philosophy in its then-new financially strong market? This editorial looks at the current situation in the economic powerhouse of the E.U., ventures a glimpse into the future and clarifies whether there might not be a third alternative path for Germany.
But before we can dare to look into the crystal ball and make predictions, we need to take a look at the current situation. An analysis of the current state before we can turn our attention to the target state. Germany does not have a national, recognized cannabis culture in the classical sense. Nor does Germany have any hotspots for cannabis culture, as Barcelona is for Spain or Copenhagen is for Denmark. While the judiciary in the south of the Federal Republic of Germany is still partly tough on small offenses, the police in other metropolises of the country are already wiser and in Berlin, Leipzig, Hamburg, or Cologne much more generous towards private cannabis users. Nevertheless, in the 16 years of Angela Merkel’s and the conservative CDU’s chancellorship, no sustainable cannabis culture has been able to develop. This does not mean that cannabis has not developed in Germany.
Since 2017, cannabis has been legally available for medical use. CBD products are everywhere and available at every second kiosk (bodega) and every Späti (the German’s favorite word for a small deli). Although the regulations are high you can find CBD flower everywhere, even the recognition factor has developed. The idea of a cannabis culture is in demand, even if THC is missing and cannabis containing THC still often has to be bought in parks around the corner or dubious areas. However, the current state of things also includes the fact that in the country of Bayer and BASF, a new branch of biochemical innovation has quietly emerged, which has already made financially strong experts in the industry such as Boris Jordan of Curaleaf become active. The great hunger in Germany for a social cultural embedding of cannabis and the German spirit of innovation in medical cannabis are two sides of the same coin, which could open up a path between green and purple fronts for Germany and, upon closer examination, make it a logical place for the further development of the worldwide cannabis culture. Clearly, the starting signal for legalization came from politics.
The new government elected in 2021 under the Social Democrats of Olaf Scholz has initiated a turning point. From a German perspective, this seems almost paradoxical, as Scholz took office promising to be the continuation and male version of Angela Merkel, who was known in U.S. circles as the so-called “Teflon chancellor.” So there is no point in looking at the current chancellor and his Social Democrats from the SPD on this issue, since he, like Merkel before him, does not let any issues stick to him. As a matter of fact, the focus has to be turned to the two parties that govern together with Scholz. The more left-wing Green Party Alliance 90/The Greens and the Free Democrats of the liberal party FDP. This government (SPD=red; FDP=yellow; Greens=green), known as the “traffic light coalition”, has defined in its coalition agreement that cannabis will be legally available in licensed specialized shops. The fact that three parties are governing in Germany is a novelty and had been expected with great excitement, as the last attempt at a three-party coalition had failed in the exploratory talks. The hype is real.
The legalization of cannabis had been on the agenda of the Green Party and liberal FDP for some time and was therefore an important unifying factor with media impact. The Greens were founded as a pacifist and alternative party and thus legalization was woven into the party’s DNA. The Liberals recognize the potential of a new market and trust in the individual’s personal responsibility in deciding for or against cannabis. They can also trust in the functions of a newly forming free market.
Despite all the justified criticism of capitalism, the example of cannabis shows some of the strengths of this economic system. The forces of a free market (with state framework conditions for all) set continuous improvement processes in motion, because companies want to set themselves apart from their competitors in terms of quality. Innovation, passion, and product understanding drive the industry to new heights. The customer and their needs must be understood and cannabis must be thought of in a holistic way in this new market. There must be full vertical integration without abusing the credibility of cannabis as a cultural property and allowing cannabis to degenerate as a profit-driven vehicle, as some German lobbyists are already trying to do. This is also a paradox, as some of them come from the CDU.
The best case of how to do it right is the company Boris Jordan invested in. Europe’s leading medical cannabis company—The Bloomwell Group. The Bloomwell Group, based in Frankfurt a. M., shows how cannabis in its dual function as a medicinal plant and cultural asset can work in a corporate context. The company houses three entities. Algea Care, which as the leading telemedicine company on German soil, stands for ensuring therapy and access to medical cannabis. Ilios Santé, the importer and trading arm, and the slumbering giant Breezy. The latter, through a cooperation in the near future, will enable the cashing of prescriptions for medical cannabis and position itself in the German market as the leading lifestyle brand in the cannabis space. Breezy will satisfy the hunger after legalization.
Germany’s sophisticated industry is already positioning itself as a global leader in medical use with cannabis in some areas, showing a clear case. The technical know-how and entrepreneurial spirit are there. The social desire for a credible cannabis culture is great and the political will for legalization is there. Breezy operates in a wonderful biotope where a thriving cannabis brand can manage to combine culture and technology. In my column for the nationally-published startup magazine Business Punk, I wrote about “the respectful treatment of culture.” Cannabis is the unifying factor of several cultures that need to be embedded industrially and legislatively in a sensible way. It is important to take the different influences and communities with us. My work as a designer in the fashion industry has shown me that it is important to use synergies. First anchored in the niche and subculture, I launched my own streetwear collaboration with soccer team VfL Bochum 1848, a first division team of the Bundesliga. Bloomwell not only knows how to use synergies, but also how to create them.
In my role as VP of Marketing, I was able to win rap star and entertainment mogul Xatar as our first brand ambassador and partner. Germany offers high-growth investment opportunities in the coming years and it’s up to the cannabis enthusiasts from the beginning to pave the market with an emotionalized approach and help shape our common culture.
Maybe we’re gonna be talking about the German Blue strains soon? Who knows…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dan Daviau Canaccord 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rachel Wolfson Comedienne 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 $2 billion. Red White & Bloom’s growing portfolio boasts strong brands and proprietary product development capabilities—focusing on a “house of brands” strategy in both cannabis and hemp-derived product lines.
Jason Gellman Owner, Ridgeline Farms Growers up north all know the trusted name of Ridgeline Farms. Ridgeline Farms owner Jason Gellman was honored for the 2018 Business of The Year Award at the Southern Humboldt Chamber of Commerce—the first time for the Southern Humboldt Chamber of Commerce, and for Jason Gellman, to have the award go to a local craft cannabis farmer. Humboldt County-based Ridgeline Farms focuses on quality over quantity, family values and environmental stewardship in the company’s owner-operated cannabis farm. Gellman and Ridgeline Farms have won multiple awards including Emerald Cup wins.
Matt Zingler Co-founder and Co-CEO, Rolling Loud Some careers are more exciting and rewarding than others. Co-founder and Co-CEO of the Rolling Loud Festival Matt Zingler works with his business partner Tariq Cherif. The two of them also founded Dope Entertainment, Florida’s premier Hip-Hop touring company. The Miami-based festival Rolling Loud has turned into one the hottest lifestyle events. In past years, the company’s massive lineup has featured superstars such as Travis Scott, Post Malone and A$AP Rocky. Part of his resume includes adapting to the massive setbacks from COVID.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Relationships, relationships, relationships. The world’s top business executives will tell you this is what success in any industry boils down to. Drawn to the networking opportunities, and some time on the greens, cannabis leaders teed up for some new and impressive connections at last month’s inaugural Lemonhaze Golf Invitational.
The invite-only event took place on Oct. 19 at the award-winning Cascata Golf Club, located in Boulder City, Nevada, just 30 miles outside Las Vegas. Lemonhaze CEO Brian Yauger is setting out to bring the cannabis industry the most coveted networking opportunities and exclusive experiences.
“This is where the executives and the most powerful decision-makers in the industry get together to hobnob every year,” Yaguer said. “The golf tournament is a tool for bringing the cannabis community together.”
Founders, VP’s, and C-suite executives traveled from around the country for a next-level networking experience that combined the outdoors, sports, entertainment—and of course lots of cannabis-related conversations. Guests included the likes of Curaleaf CEO, Joe Bayern; Heisman Trophy Winner, Ricky Williams; along with execs from KIVA, Med Men, Bhang, Wana Brands and more.
Upon arrival in Las Vegas, tournament players were transported to the golf course in party buses stacked with the who’s who of cannabis. Foursomes then took to the green for some healthy competition and handshakes, with industry mixers set-up before and after golf, undoubtedly as important as the game itself.
While Lemonhaze first became known for its budtender parties thrown around the country, Yauger has since leveled things up. He is now responsible for creating one of cannabis’ most high-profile events.
Those itching for an invite to next year’s Cannabis Industry Executive Golf Invitational will be delighted to know that Lemonhaze is expanding its reach across North America. Cannabis insiders in Arizona, Oklahoma, Michigan, California, Illinois, New Jersey and Florida should be on the lookout for upcoming golf outings in 2022.