The High Times 100 celebrates the 100 most influential people in the cannabis world. From entrepreneurs and activists to entertainers and cultivators, the women and men on this illustrious list are shaping the current cannabis industry. Learn more about the most influential people in marijuana in our second annual HT 100.
Actor, comedian and singer Jim Belushi lost his older brother John to an overdose in 1982 and he often remarks that John would be alive today if he’d only stuck with cannabis. A true believer in the medicinal properties of pot, Jim started Belushi’s Farm in Eagle Point, OR, to grow craft-quality marijuana. With beautiful views of the Rogue River, Belushi’s 22,000-square- foot state-licensed growing facility produces pristine healing flowers with wellness in mind.
Former President of Mexico
Having served as president of Mexico for six years, Vicente Fox knows the failure, futility and costs of the War on Drugs better than anyone. As a business- man, he sees the tremendous opportunity presented by a legal landscape. Having grown up on a ranch, Fox knows what the industry can do to help farmers who suffered under cannabis and hemp prohibition. In 2018, he joined the High Times board to help advise and guide the renowned brand into the future.
Some may know of Montel Williams as the longtime Emmy Award–winning TV talk-show personality, but he’s also one of the highest-profile early advocates of medical and adult-use cannabis in the United States, and he’s been using cannabis to treat symptoms of his multiple sclerosis since 1999. He created Lenitiv Scientific in 2017, a purveyor of high-end hemp and cannabis products, and he’s even used his status as a former Marine and Navy officer to help veterans access cannabis without losing their benefits.
GCH Inc. was established in 2014 with the legendary singer, songwriter and longtime cannabis advocate Willie Nelson, and the company’s product lines include the flagship brands Willie’s Reserve and Willie’s Remedy. As a co-founder and vice president of brands, Elizabeth Hogan employs her development expertise to lead and elevate the marketing strategy for the cannabis and hemp-derived product lines. Expect GCH’s portfolio of clients and partners to continue growing under Hogan’s skilled tutelage.
Kristi Knoblich Palmer
Kristi Knoblich Palmer co-founded Kiva Confections in 2010 with the mission to consistently produce safe and delicious edibles. Knoblich Palmer makes our list of influential people for the second straight year thanks to her guidance of Kiva Confections’ excellent customer service, employee development and best practices in manufacturing, business and marketing. In addition to her work with Kiva, Knoblich Palmer is a board member of the California Cannabis Industry Association.
Berner is both a devoted family man and a busy entrepreneur with a seemingly endless parade of work achieved in the cannabis realm – he’s even been called “the Emperor of Cannabis.” Berner’s Cookies boutique has partnered with CannaCraft, Absolute Ex- tracts, Care by Design, and more and created two new locations in LA that are now hotspots. Berner also manages multiple other projects, both in his cannabis-sector pursuits as well as in his flourishing music career. See our interview with Berner in the June 2019 issue.
When he was just 20 years old, Mike Tyson became the world’s youngest heavyweight boxing champion. He remains one of the most formidable fighters the sport has ever known. Since retiring, Tyson has had a successful career as an entertainer, motivational speaker, author and philanthropist. In 2017, he and partner Robert Hickman teamed up to launch the Ranch Companies, a world-class branding organization with a diversified cannabis product and entertainment portfolio that includes Tyson Ranch.
Brendan Kennedy left a successful career in investment banking to explore the greener pastures of the emerging cannabis industry. Since his co-founding of Privateer Holdings with Christian Groh and Michael Blue in 2010, the company has grown into the biggest American-owned cannabis private-equity firm in the world – acquiring and developing properties such as Tilray, Leafly, Marley Natural, Goodship, High Park Company and more. Learn more in our Privateer Holdings profile in the June 2019 issue.
Michael “BigMike” Straumietis is the founder of Advanced Nutrients, the powerhouse cannabis nutrient company that does over $110 million in sales annually worldwide. BigMike boasts four decades of cultivation experience and innovation, and now he’s channeling that expertise into cannabis consumables. Straumietis recently launched BigMike’s Blends, an ultra-premium line of pre-rolls, as the initial offering from Lacturnus Labs – a $30 million state-of-the-art cannabis research laboratory in Los Angeles, the first facility of its kind in the United States.
Reggae legend Bob Marley’s youngest son, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, has made quite a name for himself in both the music world and the cannabis industry. The Grammy Award–winning reggae artist entered the cannabis space with his company Stony Hill, through which he’s released a line of CBD products. Marley also teamed up with Ocean Grown Extracts, which creates high-quality concentrate products like the Speak Life OG vape cartridge. Additionally, Marley is part of a team of investors that bought High Times magazine in 2017.
Billy Levy & Peter Miller
Before launching SLANG Worldwide, Billy Levy and Peter Miller co-founded Mettrum Health Corp., a Canadian licensed producer that was acquired by Canopy Growth. With backgrounds in tech, marketing and, of course, cannabis, Levy and Miller founded SLANG Worldwide, an industry leader in branded consumer products. SLANG’s impressive portfolio includes brands like O.penVAPE, Firefly and Organa Labs.
Ramsey & Adam Hamide
Main Street Marijuana
Brothers Ramsey and Adam Hamide moved from online ticket brokering to finding success in the cannabis retail space. Their three Main Street Marijuana stores were the highest-grossing retail stores in Washington State from 2015 through 2018, with over $1 million in sales as of 2014. They credit their success to stellar customer service, competitive prices and top-quality products.
Jennifer M. Sanders
CNS Equity Partners/ Aura Ventures & The Green Heart
A Harvard grad and the founder of CNS Equity Partners, Jennifer M. Sanders has a deep understanding of alternative agriculture, holistic health, philanthropy, international investment regulatory compliance and enterprise risk management, along with 15-plus years of leadership and business-management skills. She boasts a slew of cannabis and related business certifications and she has worked with regulatory authorities in Canada, China and elsewhere.
Jeff & Shanna Droege
Husband-and-wife team Shanna and Jeff Droege are the founders of SOL Distro, a multi-million dollar distribution company that delivers quality cannabis products to storefronts throughout California. These cannabis industry veterans have decades of experience with the ownership, operation and consultation of over a dozen dispensaries. Their knowledge and experience help make SOL Distro an industry leader, boasting award-winning products for medical cannabis patients and adult-use customers.
MedMen Enterprises is the brainchild of cannabis champion Adam Bierman and his business partner Andrew Modlin, who, since the company’s inception in 2010, have expanded MedMen to become a powerful brand with retail locations in cities across the US. Bierman has been featured on CNBC and CNN and in Bloomberg News, Forbes and Time, among other major news outlets, to discuss his work redefining the way society interacts with cannabis. This entrepreneur uncovered a great opportunity in cannabis, resulting in a successful and inspirational story of huge proportions that is still being written.
The CEO of Wildflower Brands, William MacLean, boasts over 20 years of professional sales experience ranging from ad sales to marketing to the medical industry. He’s traveled extensively to hospitals across North America and met a variety of patients. His medical-facility visits paired with his business experience left him well-poised to create teams of highly qualified experts to produce high-quality, eco-friendly medicine and wellness products.
The co-founder and CEO of the point-of-sale software company Treez, John Yang, boasts technology-management expertise that helps his company serve high-revenue retailers with a variety of locations. As a 12-year-old, he worked in his father’s computer shop and later solidified his experience at Slalom Consulting, a top business and technology firm. Today, his innovative software creations can be found in use at companies across the cannabis industry.
The former founder of Leafly, Cy Scott went on to co-found and hold the CEO position of Headset Inc., a company that helps cannabis businesses make better decisions based on data-driven market intelligence and insights. He also founded the monthly Cannabis Tech Meetup, bringing droves of entrepreneurs and tech wizards together. The meetup has gone on to flourish across America. Scott has a preference for the Tangie strain.
Flav founder and CEO Steven Dang started his company in his mother’s garage. With a knack for cannabis-product innovation and cultivating strong relationships and partnerships with major cannabis players, he was able to grow his product line to include vapes, edibles, oils and more. Flav’s top-of-the-line facilities can be found in six states and counting. Most recently, its FlavCBD line has been launched worldwide and is enjoying high demand.
Governor of Colorado
Before making history in 2018 as the first openly gay man elected governor in the United States, Jared Polis was the cannabis-industry-supporting US Representative for Colorado’s Second Congressional District and directly involved in fighting for the rights of marijuana consumers and the budding industry throughout the tumultuous stages of legalization. During his time in Congress, Polis became known for reaching across the aisle and getting things done for his constituents, and his governorship remains strong and steady as well.
Stand-up comic Doug Benson didn’t become a cannabis user until he was 28, but he’s made up for it ever since. He co-created and performed in the stage show The Marijuana-Logues and starred in the film Super High Me. While performing all over the world, Benson also hosts the hugely popular podcasts Doug Loves Movies and Getting Doug With High and the television show The High Court With Doug Benson.
After a successful career in the tech industry, Kashif Shan’s interest in the myriad medical benefits of CBD drew him to the cannabis space. He founded Folium Biosciences
in 2014. Since then, the company has become the largest vertically integrated producer, manufacturer and distributor of hemp-derived phytocannabinoids in America and a global leader in nonpsychoactive cannabinoids. Folium’s ground- breaking products have helped patients around the world, and the company has become known for developing rare extraction and product formulations.
Medically Correct LLC
As co-founder and president of Medically Correct LLC, Bob Eschino’s main focus is on the company’s sales, marketing and US growth. The company is known for its award-winning “incredibles” line with cannabis-infused chocolate and gummy products. Eschino, a founding member of the Edibles Council of the Cannabis Business Alliance, is also passionate about educating the public on responsible edibles consumption, and he has helped shape cannabis regulation at the state and federal levels.
Futurola is dedicated to creating and developing high-quality rolling and smoking accessories. As a founding partner, Toby Skard has helped oversee innovative Futurola products like the Knockbox, which can roll 100 joints in two minutes, and the Shredder, which can prepare three pounds of pot for rolling in just seconds. The company also partnered with Tommy Chong to produce the King Size Cone Roller. Futurola has headquarters in Los Angeles and Amsterdam.
“You’re gonna like the way you look, I guarantee it” was entrepreneur George Zimmer’s slogan as a spokesman for years after he co-founded, built and led Men’s Wearhouse into a formidable clothing retailer. He’s long been outspoken about the injustice of pot prohibition, and he’s also one of the biggest donors to marijuana-law-reform organizations and efforts. Now, as the chairman, CEO and founder of Generation Tux and zTailors, he remains as relevant as ever in clothing and cannabis.
Dustin Johnson originally founded Monarch – Scottsdale, AZ’s first dispensary – in 2012. Two years later, he launched Omaha Farms, the Arizona-based cultivation, production and distribution company. In 2016, he co-founded Huxton USA, a high-end lifestyle cannabis brand. Huxton focuses on the experience of consuming marijuana, labeling its products based on effect. Huxton is rapidly expanding into new markets and recently launched a national cannabis lifestyle marketplace.
Elizabeth Caffrey, the owner and director of Greenwolf, one of California’s most successful (not to mention clean, convenient and efficient) medical-marijuana dispensaries, was also an original founding member of LoudPack/Kingpen. She has led her company through an era of cannabis being merely tolerated to that of today’s legal environment – and she’s excelled with that responsibility.
Christian Groh, Michael Blue & Brendan Kennedy
In 2010, entrepreneur Christian Groh and his partner Michael Blue (along with Brendan Kennedy) co-founded Privateer Holdings. Groh quit his job in venture capital and investment banking and brought with him more than a decade’s worth of strategic sales and operations experience to the team. Next, he met with growers, dispensary owners, medical-cannabis users, scientists, lawyers, activists and others to shape his private-equity firm to become a far-reaching pioneer in cannabis cultivation, research and production. Learn more about Privateer in the June 2019 issue.
Cura Cannabis Solutions/Select Oil
When a friend was afflicted with Barrett’s esophagus and couldn’t smoke cannabis to treat his condition, Cameron Forni dismantled every vaporizer he could find on the market to make sure he could develop one that didn’t use any cancer-causing components. A cotton wick was the answer, and shortly thereafter the Select cartridge brand was born. Forni, the CEO of Cura Cannabis Solutions, has seen his company featured in Oregon Business magazine, the Portland Business Journal and Marijuana Venture Magazine. Cameron also sits on the advisory board of the LA Cannabis Task Force.
Responsible for award-winning products including concentrates, flower, pre-rolls and high-end vape cartridges, Brad Melshenker’s company, 710 Labs, values quality tremendously. With 15 years of experience in the cannabis space, Melshenker emphasizes innovation as paramount to his success. 710 Labs uses pesticide-free soil and hand-crafted compost tea, hand-trims its organic plants and goes to other great lengths to offer a top-of-the-line product. Melshenker has also spent the last 20 years documenting glass-pipe art and has even co-authored a book about it, This Is a Pipe.
Named among the top 100 cannabis industry leaders of 2018 by Entrepreneur Magazine, Cresco Labs owes a major part of its success to CEO Charlie Bachtell, who led it through a series of well-received merit-based state application processes, the creation of a million-plus square feet in grow space, a handful of market acquisitions and being listed on the Canadian stock market. The future looks very bright, indeed.
Origin House/ Cannaroyalty Corp.
Origin House provides more than 50 cannabis brands to more than 400 retailers. Any company handling that many moving parts needs a good lawyer, and Afzal Hasan does not disappoint. His past experience includes working with Cassels Brock & Blackwell, the Ontario Securities Commission and the United Nations, as well as a major multinational bank in Thailand.
The chief marketing officer of Tryke Companies, Adam Laikin, is living his dream, succeeding as the cannabis marketer of six busy cannabis outlets with Tryke’s vertical, Reef Dispensaries, including the flagship location near the storied Las Vegas strip. With a business acumen he acquired as a former Las Vegas casino analyst along with a top-notch team at Tryke, he has helped the dispensary’s brand thrive.
Patients Choice Colorado
Brooke Gehring is co-founder and CEO of FGS Inc., Patients Choice Colorado and LiveGreen Cannabis, which proudly provide quality marijuana to medical patients and recreational consumers. Gehring founded LiveGreen Consulting in 2009. Additionally, she is a founding member of Women Grow, a founding board member of the Council for Responsible Cannabis Regulation and a sustaining member of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
As a founding member of Cypress Hill, Louis Mario Freese (or B-Real, as he’s better known) has been a loud and proud cannabis advocate and supporter since the group put out their highly influential self-titled debut album in 1991. He opened his first dispensary, the critically lauded Dr. Greenthumb’s, in Sylmar, CA, in 2018, and he hosts The Dr. Greenthumb Show, The Smokebox and Meditation on his hugely popular breal.tv video-streaming site.
Kris Krane’s career in cannabis began as an activist, and he served as associate director of NORML from 2000 to 2005 and executive director of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy from 2006 to 2009. In 2011, he applied his activist vision to the private sector by co-founding 4Front Advisors, where he serves as president. He oversees a consulting team that solves complicated problems in the cannabis space and has earned a reputation for success, helping his partners secure over 50 licenses and counting.
The Emerald Cup
Having owned property in Mendocino County since the 1980s, lifelong cannabis activist Tim Blake purchased an old campground north of Laytonville in 1998 and named it Area 101. Thirteen years ago, he founded the Emerald Cup in Northern California to shine a light on the sun-grown cannabis for which the region is known. Since then, the event has grown and blossomed into the world’s largest outdoor cannabis competition, and it’s on every cannabis connoisseur’s don’t-miss list.
After receiving her PhD from UC Berkeley, Amanda Reiman served as director of research and patient services at the Berkeley Patients Group and the manager of marijuana law and policy for the Drug Policy Alliance. As head of community relations for Flow Kana, she now helps small farmers in the Emerald Triangle bring their small-batch craft cannabis to market and compete with larger production facilities. Reiman’s work supports the local grow ops that create superior sun-grown flowers using traditional farming methods.
In only five short years, the founder, CEO and chairman of GTI, Ben Kovler, has grown his business into a successful cannabis cultivator, dispensary outfit and consumer packaged-goods operation with 10 manufacturing facilities and 70 licensed retail locations across the United States. He also works as chief investment officer with Kovpak II, allocating funds to an assortment of businesses. Furthermore, he also co-founded and serves as CEO for Invest for Kids, which has raised $11 million to benefit over 85,000 needy children.
Strategy is Joseph Lusardi’s focus within Curaleaf, specifically in encouraging the advancement of cannabis science among the company’s subsidiaries. With a decade of experience working
in the cannabis industry and 20 years’ experience in finance and private equity, this entrepreneur has held executive roles in the Liberty Mutual Group, Fidelity Investments and the Affiliated Managers Group. This experience helped Lusardi raise over $500 million for Curaleaf with which to invest and bloom.
Jeff Chen, MD/MBA
UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative
For his impressive and pioneering research at the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, the first-of-its-kind university program for studying cannabis, Jeff Chen has been asked to speak everywhere from the RAND Corporation to Yale. He is a recipient of both the David Geffen and Anderson fellowships, a UCLA Wolfen Entrepreneurial Award winner, a US patent holder and a Helena Group member. He graduated from Cornell University magna cum laude and has been featured by Rolling Stone, Time, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.
Don & Aaron
DNA Genetics founders Don and Aaron uprooted their operation from Los Angeles, relocated it to Amsterdam and, from there, created a genetic catalog of cannabis strains, developing a new set of standards for genetics selection, breeding and cultivation for a growing industry. The business is thriving in the United States, Canada, Europe and South America, and it boasts the most awards of all cannabis companies. Now the duo’s consulting and licensing business is helping others develop successful cannabis businesses as well.
Merida Capital Partners
One of the few female cannabis executives in finance, Daisy Mellet is partner and chief administrative officer of the Merida Capital Partners private-equity firm. Mellet oversees more capital than almost anyone else in the industry while also managing the flow of communications with over 200 shareholders in one of the fastest-growing cannabis funds. She also spearheads Merida’s licensing efforts for both medical and recreational dispensary and cultivation facilities.
Edward Fields, chairman and CEO of DionyMed, a cannabis marketing and distribution platform, has over 20 years’ experience working to develop educational technology and software solutions with the Learning Company, ProductFactory Inc., Agile Software Corporation and HotChalk, one of the largest online education communities in the world. Fields also serves
as a board member of Camfed, a nonprofit organization committed to educating and empowering girls and young women in Africa.
Cowen and Company
Vivien Azer is a senior research analyst at Cowen and Company and the first Wall Street analyst to cover the cannabis industry. As the go-to source for industry trends, Azer is a trusted thinker and has earned plenty of acclaim. She has been selected by Business Insider as a “Rising Star of Marijuana Investing,” and she’s made the Institutional Investor “All-America Research Team” multiple times. Serious investors seek out her analysis before making a move in the marijuana sector.
David Tran co-founded DOPE Magazine in 2011 and helped it grow into a premier media, sales and event platform with a massive global audience. “DOPE” stands for “Defending Our Plant Everywhere,” and Tran’s mission is to protect pot patients by ending the stigma attached to cannabis consumption. He’s now the VP of brand at DOPE Media, which was recently acquired by High Times, and he also hosts The DOPE Chronicles, which features his wild travels behind the scenes in the industry.
Thanks to a decade of work in the cannabis industry, which includes helping to craft the legislation to legalize marijuana in Colorado, Jake Salazar is on our list of influential people for the second consecutive year. Salazar founded the dispensary giant MMJ America in 2009 and served as its CEO until stepping down in 2017 to co-found Solari Hemp, along with Colin Gallagher and Myorr Janha. Salazar is currently Solari’s president of genetics research and business development.
An award-winning cannabis influencer and magna cum laude grad – in addition to being a member of both Women Grow and NORML – Kim Rivers is the CEO of Trulieve, Florida’s first and most profitable medical-cannabis company. Leveraging experience in corporate law and real estate, Rivers supervised all aspects of Trulieve’s advancement, including construction, marketing and even the firm’s grow, processing and distribution facilities. Cannabis-company purchases in California and Massachusetts alongside partnerships with national brands further illustrate Rivers’s prowess as a cannabis-industry visionary.
Jason Pinsky & Nick Fasano
Jason Pinsky’s colorful background spans across music, technology, food and cannabis and includes the first IMDB weed credit as cannabis producer for Viceland’s Bong Appétit. He’s also the chief cannabis evangelist at Eaze (a sort of weed Seamless) and has the tongue-in-cheek title “King of Mainstream Marijuana.” Nick Fasano started out in the cannabis industry as an investor in the California market before becoming the chief revenue officer at Eaze. He’s passionate about changing negative public perceptions about the plant.
Jordan Lams handles market expansion, operations, compliance and brand development for his extraction and genetics company, Moxie, which is a self-funded start-up that distributes products in 40-plus countries. He’s a leading manufacturing advocate in cannabis, and legislators in Pennsylvania, Michigan, California, South America and Europe work with the not-quite 30-year-old to create responsible regulations. Moxie’s products and practices have garnered over 50 awards, and the company received the first licenses to distribute and manufacture cannabis recreationally in California.
Since the late ’80s, Claudio Miranda has been a part of the cannabis world. In 2015, after nearly 30 years of honing his cultivation skills, working in the natural-products industry, mastering brand-marketing consultation and advising start-ups, he returned to the cannabis industry. He went on to lead the strategic and creative growth of award-winning concentrates producer Guild Extracts and other Guild family products.
In 2009, Dave Maggio started working in the cannabis industry during the early stages of Cheeba Chews, a popular edibles brand that has gone on to win awards and become a notable go-to product sought after by cannabis edible fans in over 800 dispensaries. His dedication to operational efficiency and a high-quality product have helped the company thrive internationally.
The competitive THC-cartridge market has become more difficult to navigate for product users and companies alike, but award-winning Brass Knuckles co-founder David Aguilar has had the opportunity to help create a top cartridge business. Brass Knuckles’ quartz oil cartridges are of the highest quality, and the company’s three-story “speakeasy” mega-booth attracts attention at events wherever it goes.
Jelly Wang has not one but two successful cannabis companies. He is the vice president and co-founder of Smoore, a top e-cig and vaporizer company, and the CEO of CCell, a subsidiary of Smoore. Smoore has developed disruptive and innovative technology in the cannabis industry, and CCell has employed 2,500 people, sold products in over 20 countries and boasts over 80 million vaporizers sold in North America alone.
New Amsterdam Naturals
A pioneer in business development, Tarek Tabsh has more than a decade of experience building innovative businesses throughout the cannabis industry. As co-founder of New Amsterdam Naturals, Tabsh helped bring legal cannabis to Las Vegas and has won over 30 marijuana-industry awards. He’s also co-founder of the Toronto-based cannabis beverage company Province Brands, which produces high-end marijuana-derived beer and spirits. Additionally, Tabsh co-founded Alta Flora, which distributes med-pot products throughout Europe.
A notable invention of husband and father Garyn Angel, the MagicalButter MB2e is an innovative kitchen gadget that infuses herbal essences into foods. Angel is not only a founder of this company, but many others, and he’s won awards for his work in finance, inventing and philanthropy. CNBC placed him on its “NEXT List” of business visionaries for his work in the cannabis industry, alongside noted CEOs of Apple, GM, Google, Tesla, Netflix and Twitter.
Barry Schroeder found his way into the cannabis industry through gophers. He developed patents for devices aimed at thwarting burrowing pests from destroying cannabis crops. After creating the Varmitgetter, Schroeder set his sights on trimming. As a marijuana grower, he found that the trimming machines on the market destroyed the valuable trichomes on his crop. He soon created the Ultra Trimmer and became the first person to hold a patent for a cannabis-trimming machine. Cannabis cultivators trust the Ultra Trimmer to trim their crop while preserving the plants’ trichomes.
Have a Heart Compassionate Care
Ryan Kunkel began serving the Washington State medical-cannabis community in 2011 as CEO of Have a Heart Compassion Care. Have a Heart has since embraced the recreational market and now boasts six recreational shops in the Evergreen State and is expanding into Hawaii, California and Oregon. Under Kunkel’s leadership, Have a Heart is consistently recognized as one of Washington State’s best dispensaries.
Michael Gorenstein is the chairman, president and CEO of the Cronos Group, a vertically integrated group that helps build companies in the cannabis space. It operates within Health Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations and is internationally recognized. Gorenstein is also a member of Gotham Green, a leader in the cannabis investment community. Prior to that, he was a partner at Alphabet Ventures LLC.
23 Health Investments
Chris Wagner, president of 23 Health Investments, prides himself on having a company that’s different. He has filed 17 cannabis-related patents and constructed and licensed a million-plus-square-foot cannabis-cultivation space. In doing so, he has contributed to quadrupling his company’s value. Cutting-edge cannabis science and brand-focused marketing are Wagner’s focuses and the secrets of his success.
Scott Van Rixel
A master chocolatier boasting over 25 years’ experience in the field, Scott Van Rixel is CEO and co-founder of the Bhang Corporation. His success in commercial gourmet chocolate has landed him high-end retail clients such as Whole Foods and Dean & DeLuca. He has also won eight High Times Cannabis Cups. Van Rixel is a founding member of the board of the National Cannabis Industry Association and was an early sponsor of Women Grow.
California Bureau of Cannabis Control
The former director of California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and current chief of the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, investigator Lori Ajax (called the “pot czar of California” by the Los Angeles Times) also gives speaking engagements. She was the keynote speaker at the Palm Springs Cannabis Film Festival and Summit and interacts daily with legislators, government officials and business owners to make decisions and find common ground between the legalities and commercial realities of cannabusinesses large and small.
Green House/Strain Hunters
A devout advocate of the legalization of cannabis in the Netherlands, a winner of many High Times Cannabis Cups and the head of busy retail locations in Amsterdam and Barcelona for Green House and Strain Hunters, Joa Helms brings nearly 25 years of experience in the cannabis industry to the table. He’s doing all right in the social-media game too, with a rich Instagram profile boasting nearly 165,000 followers and pictures of lots and lots of pretty flowers.
Rico Tarver is the California market manager for Baker Technologies, the cannabis industry’s largest software company, which helps over 1,000 dispensaries generate increased revenue and has raised nearly $12 million in capital. Tarver has also co-produced successful cannabis-based peer events using the Baker platform in conjunction with his own outfit, the Suave Life, in addition to CannaGather and the CBD Sundays health-and-wellness series, along with a video podcast partner-ship-in-progress with MJ.com and Hits Blunt Live.
Staten Island native Richard Yost is the founder and CEO of Airo Brands, the company behind the development and distribution of “the finest vaporizer on the market.” Yost was selected by New York State to operate one of only five original medical-marijuana outfits in New York City, Bloomfield Industries, a 235,000-square-foot facility which was later acquired by MedMen. He strategically advised Colorado’s cannabis market and managed a business which created cleaner soil for farming.
A fierce advocate for cannabis and extracts free of solvents, Vincent D’Accolti is the co-founder and “creator of opportunities” of SHO Products, a product group with 5,000-plus worldwide wholesale partnerships. With locations in New York, Los Angeles, Europe and South America, SHO Products helped start a solvent-free extract movement with Rosin Tech Products. D’Accolti’s brand, Dab Nation, aims to further raise cannabis’s social stock by connecting cannabis, art and culture worldwide.
Green Organic Dutchman Holdings Ltd.
With a 25-year background working in finance roles spanning eight countries with Procter & Gamble, Brian Athaide was the CFO of a multibillion-dollar business in Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia before his time as CEO with Green Organic Dutchman Holdings Ltd. His strengths include developing corporate strategy, managing foreign-exchange devaluations, and handling economic, political and banking crises, including high market volatility, among others.
Canopy Growth Corporation
Having raised $6 billion in capital, Bruce Linton founded Canopy Growth Corporation and co-founded Tweed Marijuana Inc. CGC was the first cannabis business to be listed on a major stock exchange – both the TSX and NYSE. Business strategy is Linton’s main focus, partnering with the Fortune 500 beverage company Constellation Brands and creating a coherent path into cannabis-based medicines and consumer products.
14th Round Inc.
Trent Overholt, the CEO-meets-product-engineer of 14th Round Inc., has a background that includes design, manufacturing and the distribution of consumer goods. His vast knowledge of the cannabis industry has helped him blaze trails for the growing design and technology company, which focuses on integrated product development and packaging and design, and has built countless cannabis brands.
In just five years since becoming VP of finance for Starbuds Consulting, Sher Joudeh grew a local business into a retail chain of international dispensaries. With her background in account management, she helped the company expand from Colorado into Maryland, and the company’s consulting throughout the industry guides clients through the state-specific regulations. Joudeh’s expertise is featured on the MSNBC show Pot Barons.
A prolific cannabis entrepreneur and businessman, Will Senn builds cannabis businesses, and the company that he founded, Urbn Leaf, is one of the most successful cannabis retail brands in the Golden State. Senn has also helped create many cannabis trade associations, such as the United Medical Marijuana Coalition, the Patient Care Association of California, the Alliance for Responsible Medicinal Access and Citizens for Patient’s Rights.
Green R. Fieldz
A co-creator of the beloved Zkittlez brand, Green R. Fieldz is also a co-founder of the busy cannabis breeding company Terp Hogz and the high-end extract business Field/FieldZ. With over 20 awards from his 10-year tenure in the cannabis world, Fieldz is a pioneer of smart marketing and branding for cannabis-related products and services who’s also well known for his work in music, which is evidenced by a healthy social-media following.
A master cannabis cultivator, Mario Sherbinski oversees a high-end lifestyle, eponymous weed brand that saw business explode after its impressive Gelato strain won countless fans across the country. Its cousins Bacio, Acaiberry, Mochi and Gello further cemented a demand for the Sherbinskis product line. Celebrity musicians including John Mayer and Wiz Khalifa love Sherbinski’s products, Entrepreneur magazine awarded his company “Top in Flower” in 2018, and his business’s brand growth includes a new accessories and apparel line and a Los Angeles-based dispensary in progress.
A founding board member of the California Cannabis Manufacturers Association and Oakland Citizens for Equity and Prosperity, Ron Gershoni co-founded Jetty Extracts and directed its growth into a major extract company with products carried in hundreds of California outposts. Jetty’s collaborations have led to intriguing innovations, like cannabis-derived terpene-infused beers, Mind Tricks artisanal medicated toffee, a trademarked (and very strong) Dablicator doser pen and the Shelter Project, which provides free cannabis oil to cancer patients.
Denver Relief Consulting
A cannabis industry veteran and seasoned Denver-based entrepreneur, Ean Seeb is a founding partner of Denver Relief Consulting. Since it launched in 2011, Denver Relief Consulting has partnered with top brands including Silver Sage Wellness, Standard Wellness, Cresco Labs and Silver State Relief. Seeb is the former co-owner of the Denver Relief dispensary – one of Colorado’s best-known medical-cannabis companies – which he sold to Willie Nelson in 2016. In addition to his work with Denver Relief Consulting, Seeb is also a board member of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
United Cannabis Corporation/Blue River
Chief technology officer Tony Verzura, who has won nearly 80 cannabis awards, oversees the manufacturing, quality assurance, product creation, staffing and brand identity of UCANN, including developing phytotherapeutic medicine for countless patients. He has been featured on CNBC’s Money Talk and in the Washington Post, Vice, DOPE Magazine and more, and is a weekly guest on the popular cannabis-oriented educational YouTube show Hash Church, hosted by Bubbleman (for whose company Verzura is also the US brand ambassador).
In 2017, Canndescent was responsible for selling the most cannabis flower in the state of California, and leading the luxury cannabis brand was CEO Adrian Sedlin. The company’s calling card is to drop strain names in exchange for descriptives, such as “Calm,” “Cruise,” “Create,” “Connect” and “Charge.” Additionally, Sedlin has had a hand in both the Coachella Valley Cannabis Alliance Network and the Policy Council of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
Organigram, a publicly traded and licensed company, owes some accolades for its position as a leading producer of cannabis in Canada to CEO Greg Engel. With his 30-plus years of experience in the biotechnological, consumer packaged goods and pharmaceutical industries, Engel is an innovative influencer in the cannabis realm. He prides himself on being wholly committed to the quality of the organically grown medical cannabis his company produces.
National Cannabis Industry Association
Denver-based Aaron Smith set himself apart in the cannabis sector with his work as a public advocate for marijuana-policy reform, both with Safe Access Now as early as 2005 and then later via the Marijuana Policy Project. In 2010, he founded the NCIA. He has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times for his work and can be seen commentating on cannabis-related themes on national TV.
Dennis Hunter, a self-taught agriculturist in the cannabis sector and the creative and innovative founder of CannaCraft Inc., has spent the last 25-plus years developing his skills, creating his cannabis manufacturing and distribution business, and advocating for legal cannabis. His hard work has led to stellar success in creating one of the largest companies of its kind today, which produces more than 200 products including edibles, beverages and vape pens.
The award-winning chief marketing officer of Greenlane, Sasha Kadey, works with luxury brands in the cannabis arena to provide quality products at competitive prices, with a strong emphasis on customer service and a knack for disruptive innovation. Greenlane has over 235 employees and operates in eight cities across the United States and Canada. His past achievements in working with the wine and spirits and luxury cosmetics fields were highlighted by InStyle, Ad Age, Tech Times and more.
As founder and CEO of Wana Brands, Nancy Whiteman has blazed a unique path to success in the cannabis space. A Cornell graduate in her 60s, Whiteman is touted as the “Queen of Legal Weed” and the “Martha Stewart of Edibles.” Wana Brands holds the top position for sales revenues in the US edibles game per BDS Analytics, thanks in part to its best-selling Wana Sour Gummies and WanaCapsXR, in addition to Whiteman’s direction of her company’s partnership development, licensing and growth.
KushCo Holdings Inc.
At the helm of KushCo Holdings Inc. is Nick Kovacevich. Founded in 2010, the business oversees many aspects of the cannabis industry via its assorted companies, including divisions that manage creative design for cannabis brands, research and development, sales and distribution of vaporizers, packaging and accessories, and even distribution of hydrocarbon gases and solvents. Kovacevich led the company of nearly 250 employees to sell over a billion products and set it on track to reach $115 million in annual revenue.
Ruben Cross is the entrepreneur behind Kushy Punch, an award-winning, highly identifiable cannabis brand taking users from “Happy to blissful in under 60 minutes” via its line of edibles, vapes and CBD products. Cross helped create new (higher) compliance and consistency standards for a still-in-flux industry. Locally sourced low-sugar, low-calorie and non-GMO ingredients helped Kushy Punch’s success, but the company’s spirit of charity to the needy, animals and veterans sure doesn’t hurt.
Canna Paid, a kind of PayPal for cannabis businesses, is the brainchild of Keith Allen, who serves as president of the company, bringing with him experience as an entertainment exec, an accomplished business owner and a valued leader who thrives in fast-paced environments. The company’s major sponsorship of the first annual Budtender Awards in Las Vegas in 2019 shows a sampling of Canna Paid’s enthusiasm for the people who put their hearts and souls into the cannabis industry every day.
Louie the XIII
Louie Cazarin is the inventor of the eponymous proprietary Louie the XIII strain, an indica-dominant flower known for its rich flavor and strong potency. His famous hand-rolled doobies sport glass tips and have been enjoyed by celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Buffet. He boasts hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and uses the hashtag #HuntForLouie, part of a scavenger hunt in which he rains down free weed on lucky followers every week, like a cannabis Johnny Appleseed.
Aurora Cannabis Inc.
Terry Booth is a founder and CEO of Canada’s Aurora Cannabis Inc., one of the largest and fastest-growing cannabis companies in the world. Utilizing over 25 years of entrepreneurial experience, Booth led Aurora through ever-changing legal, licensing and acquisition issues to grow it into an industry juggernaut that trades among the highest cannabis stocks on the NYSE. Aurora Cannabis produces over 500,000 kilograms of marijuana per year, and with Booth at the helm it’s sure to keep on growing.
The Los Angeles–based breeders Jungle Boys have been providing their incredible genetics for cannabis connoisseurs for over a decade, primarily out of the TLC Collective dispensary. Ivan, one of Southern California’s most respected cultivators and seed breeders, made a name for himself through painstaking pheno-hunting. The Jungle Boys are known for the time and attention they put into their strains, and the resulting cuts – like Purple Punch and Orange Cookies – are sought after the world over.
Harvest Health & Recreation Inc.
CEO Steve White provides strategic leadership for Harvest Health & Recreation Inc., a company he also founded. In school, White won a national athletic championship, spent time as a law-journal editor and graduated early, summa cum laude. Later, he started a highly rated boutique law practice with a focus on business litigation and regulatory law. His Harvesting Hope nonprofit supports children with seizure disorders, and his companies have donated over $1 million to people in need.
Vertical Wellness Inc.
As CEO and president of Vertical Wellness, Smoke Wallin, an award-winning entrepreneur, thought leader, speaker, board member, father and husband, has nearly three decades of success in the consumer product, alcohol beverage and technology worlds. He has worked with start-ups in branding and marketing, distribution and sales, and business growth, as well as in regulated industries at the local, federal and state levels. He’s raised hundreds of millions of dollars and has been featured in countless publications.
Nevada State Legislator
As a county commissioner in Las Vegas, Tick Segerblom served in the Nevada Legislature for 12 years, representing the fourth generation of his family to do so. Before that, he served in the White House under President Carter and was the state chair of the Nevada Democratic Party from 1990 to 1994. He gets his nickname, “the Godfather of Marijuana,” for his work promoting Nevada’s marijuana industry, authoring Nevada’s medical-marijuana law and by pushing for public-use lounges, among his other important roles in Nevada’s cannabis-reform scene.
Before he was the CEO of CannTrust, Peter Aceto was a founding member, president and CEO of Tangerine (formerly ING Direct). Aceto helped orchestrate the $3.1 billion acquisition of ING Direct by Scotiabank, and he spent time as the US chief risk officer, chief of staff and chief lending officer at ING Direct over the course of his eight years with the company. He is a respected business leader, board member, mentor and adviser to financial start-ups, and a speaker, a writer and the author of Weology, a Globe and Mail best-selling book.
The popular Swiss-born founder of Beezle Extracts, Dorian Schraner, is a highly respected member of the cannabis culture who hobnobs with an A-list crew of cannabis-industry professionals. Raised in Northern California, Schraner has a passion for cannabis that has driven and directed his business’s success as a top provider of premium cannabis concentrates including live resin (budder, batter, shatter and sugar), distillates and sauce. Schraner takes pride in providing responsibly sourced ingredients and working with local farmers.
Kevin P. Murphy
Acreage Holdings Inc.
Holy Cross alum Kevin P. Murphy is the CEO of Acreage Holdings Inc. (formerly High Street Capital Partners), whose website boasts they’ve “been doing this a long time,” this being managing the largest collection of rights to grow, process and sell cannabis across 14 states and counting. Murphy works with legislators, doctors and researchers to raise the bar for standards in the cannabis industry. His history of raising capital, his impressive business acumen and his ace team of retail, food and beverage, and finance veterans show he’s thinking sky-high.
CannAmerica Brands, a branding, licensing and intellectual-property business, owes its success
to co-founder, CEO and former marine Dan Anglin, who has been a notable presence in the regulated cannabis world and is an expert in policy reform. He serves on rulemaking working groups for the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division and founded the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit advocacy group. He graduated magna cum laude, served in both Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and speaks fluent Navajo.
Tidal Royalty Corp.
Constitutional lawyer and serial entrepreneur Paul Rosen founded the Cronos Group (formerly PharmaCan Capital), the first NASDAQ-listed cannabis business. Cronos’s Canada-based medical marijuana companies comprise 126 acres. Rosen also founded BreakWater Venture Capital, which boasts a portfolio of over 150 investments. Rosen is currently director of the Hill Street Beverage Company and sits on the boards of many cannabis businesses, including iAnthus Capital Holdings. His leadership has been paramount in developing several start-up ventures.
As VP of cultivation at Charlotte’s Web, a company that specializes in the production of hemp- based CBD health and wellness solutions, Jared Stanley has developed proprietary genetics, which became the foundation for the company’s line of non-intoxicating health products. Jared is a pioneer in the hemp industry, efficiently cultivating high-quality hemp at low cost for Charlotte’s Web’s full-spectrum plant compounds that offer relief to patients around the world.
Ryan G. Smith
With a background creating B2B firms, Ryan Smith was the first cannabusiness CEO featured on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list, and his business, LeafLink, the first cannabusiness ever placed on the Fast Company “Top 10 Most Innovative Companies” list. Known for excellent customer service, LeafLink is an industry-standard platform for ordering, management and product sales. It’s raised over $14 million in capital, and over 2,500 retail shops use it to order more than 800 products across America.
Sam Dorf, Esq.
A true people person and merit-based application strategist, Verano Holdings’ co-founder and chief growth officer’s strengths lie in building solid teams, creating strong alignments via funding and real-estate assets, and working with local governments to help organize strong applicants. Sam Dorf has raised over $140 million and has secured 19 licenses across eight states. To top it off, his charity supports woman’s shelters, domestic-abuse prevention, job creation and helping veterans in need.
Connected Cannabis Company
A 10-year veteran of the legal marijuana industry, Luke Coleman founded the Connected Cannabis Company with Caleb Counts in 2013. Coleman is known for the creation and cultivation of some of the most exclusive genetics in the cannabis world. He is currently helping Connected expand its already impressive retail and cultivation facilities, which provide high-quality recreational and medical-marijuana products throughout California.
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