Hall of Fame: The Mount Rushmore of Cannabis Legends

Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and Tommy Chong may be some of the more obvious honorees for Cannabis Now’s Legacy: Hall Of Fame, but they’re hardly alone. Cannabis giants Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, Ed Rosenthal, Dale Sky Jones and Steve DeAngelo also make the cut of the Cannabis Now “Hall of Fame” for 2023.

Tommy Chong

The grandfather of weed and one-half of the most iconic stoner comedy duo in history needs no introduction. READ MORE.

Hall of Fame: Steve DeAngelo

Steve DeAngelo

The cannabis advocate and author was dubbed “the father of the legal industry” by the former Speaker of the California Assembly. READ MORE.

Snoop Dogg

The Long Beach native and hip-hop superstar’s love of cannabis is legendary. READ MORE.

Melissa Etheridge

The breast cancer survivor and Grammy-award-winning singer/songwriter attributes cannabis to opening her conscientiousness when writing music. READ MORE.

Hall of Fame: Dale Sky Jones

Dale Sky Jones

The President and CEO of Oaksterdam University provided the model for cannabis reform as the spokesperson for the first statewide legalization initiative, California’s Prop 19. READ MORE.

Ann Lee

Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) founder Ann Lee is an unexpected ally in the fight again prohibition. READ MORE

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam

The father of cannabis research paved the road for scientists to better understand the herb’s immense resource for medical purposes. READ MORE.

Willie Nelson

The country music outlaw has been an outspoken cannabis advocate for decades—and out-smoked a few notable names. READ MORE.

Ed Rosenthal

The author and activist is widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on cannabis cultivation. READ MORE.

Mike “BigMike” Straumeitis

The renowned and respected CEO of Advanced Nutrients is as passionate about philanthropy as he is about the cannabis plant. READ MORE.

Keith Stroup

The founder of NORML has spent much of his professional life working to legalize cannabis. READ MORE.

Nikki Lastreto and Swami

The Emerald Triangle power couple is a cornerstone of California’s craft cannabis community. READ MORE.

Ricky Williams

The retired NFL star has used his platform and extensive experience to change the conversation around cannabis for athletes and patients. READ MORE.

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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40 Under 40: The Superstars, Power Players and Top Cannapreneurs

The Cannabis Now “40 under 40” honorees for 2022 have collectively moved the needle in some significant way in the US impacting millions of prospective consumers.

Be they artists, politicians, marketers or business executives, the honorees embody their generation’s all-in approach to cannabis: There’s no time like the present.

Given the work ethic and passion on display on this list, the future of cannabis looks bright indeed.

Read on to learn why these superstars, power players and cannapreneurs earned a place on our 40 Under 40 honorees in 2022.

Berner on Fire: Cookies & Dough

With Berner’s big New York City moves, the mogul turns towards the future. READ MORE.

Oh, To Be Wiz Khalifa

The busiest celebrity cannabis CEO is focused on the prize. READ MORE.

Brett Stevens Lights It Up

As Fohse earns the no.19 ranking of fastest-growing private companies, the lighting juggernaut’s leader says he’s just getting started. READ MORE.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The youngest woman serving in the US Congress has also been a fervent cannabis advocate. READ MORE.

Ankur Rungta

After cutting his teeth as a corporate lawyer and investment banker in New York City, Rungta applied that knowledge to cannabis. READ MORE.

Kassandra Frederique

Frederique is the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a national nonprofit organization that works to end the War on Drugs. READ MORE.

Jared Mirsky

Mirsky has been crafting, creating and cultivating cannabis brands since launching his award-winning advertising agency in 2009. READ MORE.

Jessica Gonzalez

Cannabis and trademark attorney Gonzalez became New Jersey’s first cannabis professor in 2021. READ MORE.

Alex Levine

Just a teenager when he first started working in legal cannabis back in 2010, Levine has spent his entire professional career in the cannabis industry. READ MORE.

Alexander Farnsworth

The 30-year-old cannapreneur calls his weed store “a museum for marijuana, a palace for pot and a chapel for cannabis.” READ MORE.

Steve Cantwell

The 35-year-old former UFC fighter says he’s living his best life as an innovative grower in Nevada’s legal cannabis industry. READ MORE.

Hillary Peckham

Uplifting the voices of women in cannabis is an important part of Etain’s presence in the space. READ MORE.

Calvin Johnson

Simply put, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson was among the NFL’s elite in part because of cannabis. READ MORE.

Ross Lipson

Dutchie is the highest-flying software company in legal weed, with a $3.8 billion valuation just five
years after the company’s launch. READ MORE.

Stephen Murphy

When his company first launched, there were 10 legal markets globally. There are now more than 40. READ MORE.

Jason Washington

For Washington, it’s about the medicinal value and the positive impact the plant can make in people’s lives. READ MORE.

Erik Altieri 

Erik Altieri is the youngest-ever executive director of NORML. READ MORE.

Kevin Durant

Durant represents thousands of athletes who span a multitude of professional sports across the country using cannabis to deal with both the physical and mental challenges of playing at the highest level. READ MORE.

Kevin Kuethe

Kuethe predicts that companies in the cannabis space with the best technology will continue to succeed. READ MORE.

Allie Cassidy

Oregon-based Allie Cassidy has built her adult-use and CBD farm TKO Reserve into one of the state’s most ballyhooed brands. READ MORE.

Mary Bailey

Mary Bailey is dedicated to fighting for those who have been wronged by the criminalization of cannabis. READ MORE.

Leo Gontmakher

Gontmakher believes the value of being a true leader in cannabis is pushing forward into the unknown. READ MORE.

Alicia Ratliff

From the onset of working in the cannabis industry, Ratliff knew she needed to help people. READ MORE.

Luke Anderson

The co-creator of Cann Social Tonics describes himself as previously canna-curious, but now a convert. READ MORE.

Bella Thorne

The Disney child star turned cannapreneur credits cannabis for completely changing her life. READ MORE.

Karson Humiston

Humiston founded Vangst, the cannabis industry’s leading recruiting platform. READ MORE.

Mona Zhang

Zhang is the cannabis policy reporter for the massive news and political website, Politico. READ MORE.

Chad Bronstein

Having raised more than $100 million across the three successful corporate entities, Bronstein is determined to leave his footprint on the industry. READ MORE.

Roger Volodarsky

The Puffco founder is on a mission to make the highest level of consumption devices. READ MORE.

Mary Pryor

Pryor is a powerhouse and a leading voice in the cannabis social equity arena. READ MORE.

Victoria Plummer

Plummer sees her involvement in cannabis as an opportunity to help destigmatize the plant. READ MORE.

Julia Jacobson

Jacobson is dedicated to intentionality, transparency and organic cannabis farming practices. READ MORE.

Jacob Plowden

Plowden co-created the Cannabis Cultural Association (CCA), a New York City-based nonprofit helping marginalized individuals, typically people of color, transition to the legal market. READ MORE.

Fabian Monaco

Monaco’s extensive experience in capital markets has led Gage dispensaries to stratospheric success. READ MORE.

Shaleen Title

The attorney and longtime drug policy advocate is determined to make the cannabis space more inclusive. READ MORE.

Thomas Winstanley

The marketing expert has led the growth of one of Massachusetts’ largest dispensary chains. READ MORE.

Seth Rogen

The actor, writer, producer and director has been regarded as one of Tinseltown’s most notable weed aficionados. READ MORE.

Tom Angell

Tom Angell is arguably one of the most informed and respected resources for all things cannabis policy. READ MORE.

Nadir Pearson

The founder of SMART is on a mission to build an ecosystem of equity-minded industry leaders. READ MORE.

Jun S. Lee & Vince Ning

The founders of Nabis, the leading weed wholesale platform in California, cut their tech teeth in some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley. READ MORE.

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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40 Under 40: Jacob Plowden

Jacob Plowden grew up surrounded by the effects of drug prohibition and watched friends and family around him go to prison. Frustrated by the inequities faced by minority communities in the War on Drugs, Plowden works tirelessly to highlight the lack of diversity and the need for inclusion in the legal cannabis industry, especially for the new generation of minorities.

While at Baruch College, Plowden began his advocacy pathway with Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), the largest global youth-led network dedicated to ending the War on Drugs, which disproportionately punishes and incarcerates Black and brown individuals.

The SSDP brings together young people of all political and ideological stripes to encourage honest conversations about drugs and drug policy.

“I’m passionate about justice in cannabis, because as a man of color, cannabis has always carried a stronger stigma and greater legal consequences for people in my community,” Plowden said.

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Brett Stevens Lights It Up

A poster of a Lamborghini on his childhood wall says all you need to know about Brett Stevens. The man knows  what he wants and gets it done. The CEO and co-founder of Fohse, the white-hot lighting company that has wowed the cannabis industry and made Stevens nothing short of a rock star, drove up to his office on his day off in a $550,000 silver Lamborghini with his girlfriend. Somehow pulling off the look consisting of turquoise shorts, brown sandals and black Fohse T-shirt, the not-quite-yet-40-year-old isn’t resting on any laurels. Despite his undeniable success at Fohse, he still puts in the time and clearly wants more.

Stevens came into an industry that was pre-set and showed how it could be done differently with best-in-class standards and the results are self-evident: Cannabis growers seemingly cannot get enough of Fohse lighting for cultivation.

Calling itself the future of horticultural science and engineering, Fohse is the leading manufacturer of high-performance LED grow lights that increase productivity from 30 to 60 percent. And Stevens isn’t stopping at cannabis. He and his team are developing technology that he expects to boost food production around the world. That, of course, would be a global game changer.

Born on a military base, the son of a US Marine, the Stevens family, which consisted of nine siblings, moved from the sunshine of San Diego to an Iowa farm when he was ten. They raised pigs, cows, horses, ponies, chickens and grew wheat, hay and leased land for soybean production. Stevens grew up with a strong work ethic crystalized by his ritual of getting up at 5am during his middle school and high school years to clean pig pens and any number of farm chores. In the summer months, Stevens worked in the fields.

Stevens’ roots as an entrepreneur started early and at 21 he opened a club and soon bought another. He eventually sold them and used the profit to pursue his passion to fight mixed martial arts. It took an injury and finding a fighter to take his place in Ireland where he made a couple of thousand dollars before he realized that he could manage fighters (and not get beaten up in the process). It was his first multimillion-dollar company he started in his early 20s which he again sold in 2007.

Stevens went back to fighting, managing fighters and doing other ventures before seeing another business opportunity a decade ago to sell makeup at music festivals under the brand Plur.

Fohse President Ben Arnet (left) and CEO Brett Stevens (center) examine plants at The Grove alongside Director of Cultivation Mike Howard.

All the requisite late nights, the heavy partying and constant traveling by bus across the county took a heavy toll on Stevens. He moved to Las Vegas in 2014 and pressed “pause” to all of the eclectic madness when some friends got busted for weed and went to prison. With the money he made from his makeup business, Stevens contemplated his next move.

“We always wanted to get into cannabis,” Stevens tells me as we sit in his Las Vegas office. “We’ve been working in the cannabis industry essentially while we were doing other things, and that’s why they got arrested.”

In 2015, Stevens launched Fohse. It came about from investing in a local motorcycle shop when he met someone in the cannabis industry seeking a medical license in Nevada. Stevens invested $1 million to build an indoor cultivation facility only to discover that Ben Arnet, an acquaintance of mutual friends, invested his money too. They would eventually hook up to launch Fohse.

“We knew right away that we’re pumping all the AC in the room just to cool the lights down and why don’t we just run an LED light,” Stevens said. “LEDs are the future, but there were only two or three companies making them at the time.”

When they first tried the LED lights, which didn’t work to their satisfaction, the business partners looked for a solution. They turned to an inventor friend of Arnet in Minnesota for a light that was high power, low energy consumption and would run cool below 100 degrees—what was considered a unicorn and took two years to come up with a fixture in 2017. At the time, everyone was running into the market with a cheap light that fell apart, but Stevens said they wanted to bring the industry something that would create value.

“We both divested from everything we had,” Stevens said. “We sold our cars and lived in a house where we worked together. It took millions of dollars to get this company off the ground, and the only people putting money in it were Ben and me. We put $2.6 million into the company before we even saw a dollar back. We put all of our chips in and then sat there and waited.”

And what a wait it was.

“We knew we were coming in with something that was market disrupting, and we knew we were coming to the market with the most high-end and premium fixture in the world,” Stevens said. “We put a ton of time and money into testing everything. It’s a 1,500-watt light that nobody had anything like in the industry.”

Fohse’s first sale in 2017 was a $21 million contract in Canada spread out over four years. Overall, the company delivered $14 million in lights in 2018, $28 million in 2020, $40 million in 2020 and $50 million in 2021. The company is on track to do more than $70 million in 2022 and could soon approach $100 million, Stevens said.

Today, Fohse works with many large cannabis companies, including those owned by celebrities—NFL player Calvin Johnson, actor Jim Belushi, boxing champion Mike Tyson, singer Toby Keith, actors Cheech and Chong and many others. All of Fohse’s success came after the founders turned down a $40 million check for the company before it sold one light. The duo wanted to run the company and weren’t in it for that amount of money, Stevens said.

“The reason why our light is so popular is because it does what it says it’s going to do,” Stevens said. “It actually grows more products than our clients did before. It’s reliable, and it’s built like a tank. It’s not like a cheap private label, but this light has been drawn from the ground up by guys who are insanely passionate about it. We’re not the most profitable company. We could build our projects cheaper and make way better margins, but we don’t want to. We want to make the best product in the world and make sure every single time we hang our lights, people come back and say ‘those are the best lights we ever hung. That was the best investment we ever made.’”

The Grove, a popular dispensary in based in Las Vegas, utilizes Fohse grow lights with great success.

With an eye towards philanthropy, Stevens says Fohse has donated to groups advocating for legalization, but the focus remains on The Last Prisoner Project, an organization dedicated to cannabis criminal reform. The company is also concerned with the planet as it strives to leave a low- or no-carbon footprint in its wake. Fohse donates a portion of the its profits to pro-Earth charities.

And speaking of charitable work, Stevens says Fohse is prepared to help in a more significant way. “We want to go beyond cannabis and feed countries,” he says. “I want to grow kale, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers and every microgreen ever made and everything that grows. I want to build specific lights to grow every single specific plant in a way that’s most beneficial to that plant and most efficiently like we’ve done with cannabis. We’re in an organic farm in Nevada, and we’re crushing it right now.”

Stevens was born to be an entrepreneur given his start at an early age and says he’s confident his 18-year-old self would definitely approve of what he’s accomplished.

“He’d say I knew you were going to do it,” he says with a smile. “I had a picture of a Lamborghini, and I wanted it from the time I was in fourth grade. From the time I was little, I knew there were things I wanted to do. We struggled growing up. My parents had a lot of kids so for me as the oldest male, I always wanted to help my family. My dad was an entrepreneur. He was a very smart man. He started a magazine company and sold that. I saw him work on the farm and work so hard. I wanted to be the 2.0 version of that.”

Stevens said he—and Fohse—aren’t done yet, not even close. Fohse will always have its headquarters in Las Vegas,  he says, but they’re looking at branching out to Florida, and  he’s personally considering relocating to Europe next year. Stevens also wants to see Fohse reach $200 million revenue a year with a $1 billion exit strategy. He has other goals, too,  like his desire to get married.

“I have a lot of things that I’m not ready to say. I have a lot of things I want to do that are big—big.”

Stevens is sitting near the top of the cannabis hill and shows no signs of coming down. Brett Stevens is lighting up every step of the way. 

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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