We are just a nanosecond into the New Year, and the cannabis industry is seeing some monumental changes.
Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has declared a war on cannabis, and Vermont has defiantly responded by becoming the first state to legalize marijuana via the legislature as opposed to a ballot initiative. New Hampshire and New York are following closely on its heels. Cannabis stocks did take a tumble following the Sessions announcement that he would repeal the Cole Memo, but are expected to see strong gains in 2018, modeling Canadian cannabis stocks which gained an estimated 250% as a group in 2017.
Marijuana movers and shakers are making tremendous gains towards stabilizing an industry that has been on the brink for close to a decade. In fact, 2018 may very well go down in history as a cannabis coming of age.
Keep a sharp eye on the following influencers and companies who have quietly, (and tirelessly), worked to shape this burgeoning industry.
Media: The Voice of the Industry
Journalists have been reporting on the cannabis space for a long time, but few have managed to capture and hold the attention of mainstream America. These media veterans have become the go-to voices and the ones to be followed closely in 2018.
David Downs (@davidrdowns) – David Downs is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author who covers cannabis policy and legalization as the cannabis editor at the San Francisco Chronicle where he runs GreenState.com. Downs is the co-author of the new crop science book Marijuana Harvest (2017). He has guest lectured at Loyola Law School, and UC Berkeley Extension.
Andre Bourque (@SocialMktgFella) – Andre is a cannabis business growth hacker and a cannabis contributor at Entrepreneur.com. A recognizable figure on the industry scene, he was the first to present U.S. cannabis-related real estate investment opportunities to Chinese investors. He blends in-the-field reporting with an eye for storytelling. His work has been featured on the Huffington Post, ComputerWorld, Social Media Today, CIO.com, Business Insider and a half a dozen cannabis industry publications including HERB, CannabisNow!, Merry Jane, PR0HBTD, and others. He has an MBA in IT marketing and has held roles at Sun, Intel, and several startups.
Mona Zhang – Mona (@ZhangMona) is a freelance journalist and the founder of Word on the Tree, a highly respected marijuana newsletter and website. Her cannabis coverage has appeared in High Times, Vice, and Cannabis Now, among others. Before jumping on the weed beat, Mona covered media and tech for Mediabistro and served as Social Editor at Adweek. After spending nights and weekends editing Word on the Tree, she decided to devote herself to full-time cannabis industry coverage.
Amanda Chicago Lewis (@msamandalewis) – Amanda writes about marijuana and the war on drugs, with an emphasis on public safety, the influence of special interests, and the ways in which the documented racial disparities of drug law enforcement are being cemented into the details of legalization. She writes a biweekly column for Rolling Stone. Her work has also appeared in GQ, BuzzFeed News, Vice, LA Weekly, Pop Up Magazine, and the LA Review of Books.
Alex Halperin (@alexhalperin) – Alex is a freelance business reporter in L. A. where he covers the marijuana industry and writes the free and confidential newsletter WeedWeek. He is the High Time columnist at the Guardian, and his work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, Fast Company and many other publications.
PR / Marketing / Advertising: Bringing Brands to Life
The few and the brave have managed to jump corporate ship and dive into the murky waters of the marijuana industry. There are many seasoned international communications companies who are certainly dipping their toes in the pool, but these former high-tech, VC, pharmaceutical and Fortune 500 PR and Marketing gurus have embraced the cannabis industry and used their invaluable skills to elevate it to new heights.
Jennifer Price (@potntagency) – Managing some of the most recognized PR campaigns in the cannabis industry, Jen leads the charge at her newly founded Potnt Agency, offering strategic public relations, marketing and communications services for cannabis, hemp and lifestyle brands. Known for having a keen eye for recognizing up-and-comers and creating synergistic partnerships, she has brought together some of the most influential leaders in the space. Potnt was recently named one of the top cannabis PR companies of 2017 by Cannabis Industry Journal, and Jen was recognized by Civilized as one of the top cannabis PR specialists in the United States.
Cynthia Salarizadeh (@salarmediagroup) – Cynthia is the Founder and CEO of Salar Media Group, a leading cannabis and hemp focused PR firm which was recently named one of the top cannabis PR companies of 2017 by Cannabis Industry Journal. She is also the Co-founder and CSO of Green Market Report, a financial news site that boasts one of the largest open source datasets for cannabis big data in the world. While in the cannabis space, Cynthia has successfully assisted in some of the most recognized brand and event launches within the cannabis industry.
Meghan Larson (@adistry) – Meghan is the co-Founder and CEO of Adistry, an advertising platform that offers the industry a solution for all cannabis marketing needs. It was also the very first video ad server for the cannabis industry. Adistry offers a full spectrum of services including ad design and campaign management to publishing ads across their extensive publisher networks which include events, magazines, and websites.
Kip Morrison & Associates – Headquartered in Beverly Hills and with a presence in Oregon, Kip Morrison and Associates (KMA) has over 25 years of experience in public relations. KMA has emerged as a leader in shining the spotlight on the country’s best-known cannabis products and brands securing top tier media placements through the company’s extensive connections within the cannabis-focused and cannabis-friendly media. KMA has been integral to the go-to-market strategies of cannabis brands generating recent client stories in the LA Times, Men’s Journal, Esquire, Rolling Stone, High Times, Forbes and The New York Times.
Lewis Goldberg (@kcsastrategic) – Lewis is a Managing Partner at KCSA, leading the company’s dedicated Cannabis Practice. From investor relations, to public relations, to digital and social strategies, KCSA takes a holistic approach to communicating this burgeoning industry. Lewis has amassed vast experience running cannabis-specific programs for companies across the entire supply chain of the industry. This has ranged from companies bidding for a license in NY State, to growers in Colorado, cannabis-specific real estate companies in Washington and Nevada, and the first investment bank to focus solely on the legal cannabis industry.
Legal / Compliance: Cutting through the Red Tape
Do you remember the board game, Mousetrap? Working in legal and compliance in the cannabis space is very much like navigating that complex Rube Goldberg-like maze. Trying to avoid getting the boot while grabbing up as many pieces of cheese as possible, all the while waiting for an obstacle to fall on you – that sums up this multifaceted industry. Navigation with minimal pitfalls has been made possible, however, by a handful of experts who have worked deep down in the trenches, lobbying, studying every aspect of local law and regulation, and becoming immersed in cannabis-friendly communities around the country.
Pistil + Stigma (@PistilStigma) – Founded by Rebecca Gasca, Pistil + Stigma is a consulting firm working with organizations in public, private, and nonprofit sectors on groundbreaking policy issues nationwide. Rebecca founded Pistil + Stigma to bridge the dividing gap between policy makers and the emerging cannabis industry. She was instrumental in crafting Nevada’s 2013 legislation regulating medical marijuana dispensaries and independent testing laboratories. Pistil + Stigma boasts clients in over 11 states and territories, and was instrumental in securing one of the three competitive dispensary licenses in Oahu, Hawaii in 2016.
Greenspoon Marder (@GMLaw_Tweets) – Rachel Gillette, Partner at Greenspoon Marder, focuses her practice on marijuana/cannabis business licensing and regulatory compliance, business law and transactions, contract drafting and review, tax litigation, corporate formation, and tax matters, including audit representation. She has vast experience in representation of cannabis and hemp businesses, having represented state and locally licensed marijuana and hemp businesses in Colorado since 2010.
Shaleen Title (@shaleentitle) – Shaleen Title is a 34-year-old marijuana attorney, legalization activist, and entrepreneur, who was recently appointed as a commissioner of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, the new state agency responsible for creating and regulating a legal recreational cannabis industry. Shaleen has helped draft marijuana laws and provided regulatory expertise for leading cannabis consulting firms. Shaleen has been honored with several awards for her advocacy work and efforts to bring more women and people of color into drug policy reform.
Henry Wykowski – Henry Wykowski, former federal prosecutor, is recognized as one of the most respected cannabis attorneys in the country, and widely considered the counsel of choice for the most significant challenges facing the industry. As lead attorney, Henry has orchestrated the successful defense of the industry’s most important cases, including the forfeiture actions filed by the federal government against Harborside Health Center (the nation’s largest dispensary), Berkeley Patient’s Group (the oldest operating dispensary) and Shambhala Healing Center. Henry has also distinguished himself in the representation of dispensaries in actions brought by the IRS.
Amanda Ostrowitz (@CannaRegs) – Amanda Ostrowitz, CEO and Founder of CannaRegs, is a regulatory attorney and entrepreneur specializing in marijuana regulations and banking law. CannaRegs provides enhanced access to all cannabis-related rules and regulations from state, county, municipal and federal sources, and aggregates these rules and regulations in an intuitive, easy-to-use online platform.
Science / Research / Medicine: The Keys to Unlocking Cannabis
Our government continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” keeping it in the company of LSD, Heroin, Ecstasy, and the like. While the United States remains deep in the throes of a deadly opioid epidemic, (the DEA defines opioids as a Schedule 2 drug even though they are responsible for 91 deaths in the U.S. each day), these renowned researchers, scientists and physicians are forging ahead both exploring and exploiting the health benefits of a poorly understood plant that has proven effective for countless medical treatments.
Samantha Miller (@PureAnalytics) – Samantha Miller is the founder, president, and chief scientist of Pure Analytics, a renowned cannabis laboratory in Santa Rosa, California. An internationally recognized biochemist, Miller has designed award-winning cannabis extracts for top California brands in addition to leading a cutting edge analytical facility breaking new ground in Cannabis analytics. Her expertise at the intersection of science, business, and cannabis therapeutics has raised the bar for a science-based approach to products innovation in a rapidly evolving industry. Miller draws on 25 years of cannabis cultivation experience and more than 17 years of analytical chemistry, product development, and business insight to create groundbreaking techniques in cannabis analytics, research, and strain isolation.
Dr. Perry Solomon (@HelloMD_com) – Dr. Perry Solomon is the Chief Medical Officer of HelloMD.com, San Francisco, CA. HelloMD is the leading digital healthcare platform for the cannabis industry. Patients use the service to connect with a doctor, get a medical cannabis recommendation over live video (Telehealth), and gain seamless entry to thousands of cannabis products, dispensaries and advice on medicinal efficacy. An entrepreneur at heart, Dr. Solomon has embarked on various efforts throughout his 30+ year career. He has a passion for sharing his knowledge about medical cannabis, its countless uses and curative qualities.
Dr. Jeff Chen – (@JeffChenMD) Dr. Chen is a self proclaimed Weed Scientist, Director of UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative, and a graduate of the specialized dual degree MD/MBA program at UCLA. He has spent the past four years working at the intersection of academia, industry, nonprofit sector and government to accelerate cannabis research. Dr. Chen was the Founder and Director of the UCLA Cannabinoid Affinity Group, comprised of over 40 multidisciplinary UCLA faculty. Dr. Chen is a David Geffen Fellow, UCLA Wolfen Entrepreneurial Award Recipient, U.S. patent holder, and a published author in cancer research.
Dr. Dustin Sulak – Dr. Dustin Sulak is an integrative medicine pioneer with a focus in osteopathy, mind-body medicine, and medical cannabis. Dr. Sulak is the founder of Integr8 Health in Falmouth and Maine Integrative Healthcare in Manchester, two integrative health practices that treat over 18,000 patients with medical cannabis. He has helped set the standard of care for the use of medical cannabis in a wide variety of conditions, including pain, spasticity, seizure disorders, PTSD, and more. Dr. Sulak lectures nationally to medical providers and patients on the appropriate use of medical cannabis, and continues to explore the therapeutic potential of this ancient yet emerging trend in medicine.
Dr. Uma Dhanabalan (@DrUmaDhanabalan) – Dr. Uma V.A. Dhanabalan, MD, MPH, FAAFP, MRO is a highly respected physician trained in Family Medicine and Occupational & Environmental Medicine. Dr. Uma is a Cannabis Therapeutics Specialist, providing Medical Marijuana authorizations. Her passion is in educating the public about cannabis and endocannabinoid system. She has an array of patients from age 18 to 96, with various medical conditions, who are using medical marijuana for treatment of their illnesses. Dr Dhanabalan states “Cannabis is Not an Entrance drug, it is an Exit drug for pharmaceuticals and narcotics.”
Companies / Leaders: Breaking the Grass Ceiling
The playing field in the marijuana marketplace is dizzying. Just walk into any of the larger cannabis trade shows and you will experience it for yourself. There are technology, software, packaging and growing solutions, dispensaries, infused edibles and topicals, concentrates – it is often difficult to distinguish between the highly-vetted brands and those that are taking a haphazard shot at hitting it big in this $10 billion plus space. Watch the following companies and their leaders as they continue to fortify the industry.
Strainz (@StrainzInc) – Strainz is a leading cannabis branding and lifestyle products company delivering a portfolio of premium grade cannabis products in multiple legal states including Colorado, Nevada, and Washington, (soon to launch in California). Brands currently include Bullet Concentrates, Honu, Strainz, and dozens more, with products ranging from concentrates, edibles, flower, topicals to various vape products.
StockPot Images (@StockPotImages) – StockPot Images is the first stock-photo agency to specialize exclusively in cannabis-related imagery. Featuring rights-managed and royalty-free photography, illustration, and video, selection reaches far beyond the small number of stereotypical images currently offered by major stock agencies and refocuses on aesthetic, content, and feeling. StockPot curates from a select group of up-and-coming photographers, and works directly with them to create the content that will fit the needs of the burgeoning cannabis industries.
Atlas Edibles (@AtlasEdibles) – At Atlas Edibles the team prides themselves on creating products with integrity that can be trusted and enjoyed. All of their ingredients are sourced for the best quality and with an emphasis on local relationships. Atlas offers healthy, delicious edibles made with the highest quality cannabis, and their commitment to a meticulous production process ensures a consistent product that allows customers to feel confident about their experience. As a bonus, Atlas commissions local artists in the design of their packaging. Founder, Ezra Malmuth, says, “If the biggest thing I accomplish from this business is giving my 86-year-old grandmother a product that she appreciates, and one that relieves her pain, that’s fine by me. With flavors including Blueberry Lemon & Poppyseed and Caramel Cashew & Cayenne, Atlas will be around for a long time to come.
Wonderland Nursery (@WonderlandNurseryCA) – Wonderland Nursery was founded by Kevin Jodrey, one of the most well known growers in Humboldt County and an internationally respected cannabis expert, known for improving and forwarding the modern cannabis movement. As a world renowned hunter of ganja genetics, Kevin is fascinated by the search for rare, desirable, and marketable traits. Wonderland provides genetics to the Emerald Triangle and is run on the principle that supporting the skilled growers in the region with excellent service means raising the bar even higher for anyone outside of the Emerald Triangle. Wonderland – and Jodrey – are California Proud.
Bronnor Corporation (@BronnorCorp) – Bronnor is Colorado’s premier Marijuana Infused Products (MIPs) producer and distributor of leading cannabis brands. Their state-of-the-art 25,000 square foot facility is centrally and strategically located just north of downtown Denver at I70 and Colorado Boulevard. The GMP-compliant facility is one of the largest MIPs facilities in Colorado and among the largest in the nation. The facility can accommodate wet processing for extracted oils, beverages and edibles as well as dry processing to make pills and dissolvable tablets.
Americanna (@americanna_co) – With more than a decade of combined experience in the legal cannabis industry, Americanna’s mission is to craft the most socially responsible pot gummy in the marketplace, while also setting extremely high standards for flavor, affordability, reliability and overall quality. After years of experimentation and hard work, the team offers Coloradans the finest cannabis gummie in the world.
MYNT (@MyntCannabis) – Mynt Cannabis is a leading cannabis retail dispensary company. At Mynt Cannabis Nevada locations, patients can find a broad spectrum of options available including flowers, edibles, topicals, vape oils and concentrates made from the highest quality cannabis. Less than one year old, Mynt has already been named one of the best dispensaries in Nevada.
Aunt Zelda’s (@AuntZeldas) – Aunt Zelda’s is a pioneering, data-driven developer of cannabis-based plant medicines. Their products are the result of years of research and development by founders, Mara Gordon and Stewart Smith, in consultation with knowledgeable physicians and world-renowned researchers. Utilizing ancient extraction process improved with modern technology, Aunt Zelda’s offers organic medicines of precisely measured potency and purity that empower patients to dose to the milligram and unlock the therapeutic potential of cannabis.
Will & Way Consulting (@aWillandWayUSA) – Led by Meg Sanders and Erik Williams, Will & Way has years of cannabis industry experience across America and internationally. The company has a depth of knowledge spanning every aspect of the industry from cultivation to processing, productization and dispensary operations. Will & Way works with startups, existing businesses, investors, brands, governments and building business to business relationships to help clients succeed.
Meadow (@GetMeadow) – Meadow builds dispensary software solutions for California’s cannabis industry, including Meadow Platform, a full software suite for dispensaries and delivery services; Meadow Directory, an on-demand cannabis delivery service connecting patients to local dispensaries; and MeadowMD, a telehealth service where patients can get a medical cannabis card with a licensed physician.
Convectium (@convectium) – Convectium doesn’t touch plants, it helps grow the companies that do. Convectium provides the tech infrastructure behind the best delivery systems in cannabis with its proprietary automation equipment. PC Mag rated Convectium as one of the hottest cannabis tech companies to watch in 2017-18.
Brite Labs (@BriteLabs) – Brite Labs works with the whole cannabis plant to capture its rich therapeutic benefits and the best tasting oil – natural and pure, never cut or diluted. Made with sungrown, pesticide-free cannabis sourced from small-farm cultivators across Northern California, product is created in their Oakland workshop through a unique CO2 extraction process. This method allows for capturing a complex array of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids safely and cleanly for the consumer and the environment.
Grasslands (@grasslandsaf) – Grasslands is a journalism-minded content agency, helping cannabis and hemp clients with informed public relations, thoughtful content marketing, contextual social media and top-notch thought leadership work. And we also know cannabis inside and out, having covered the legal industry for a collective 10-plus years at respected outlets including The Daily Beast, The Cannabist, the Chicago Sun-Times and The Denver Post.
Key Conferences and Trade Shows: Be There or Be Square
World Medical Cannabis Conference and Expo – Pittsburgh, PA, April 12-14 – The 2018 World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo serves the growing national cannabis market. Hosted by Compassionate Certification Centers, a leader in medical marijuana healthcare, the large-scale event is designed to bring together thought leaders from all industry sectors.
Cannabis Science Conference – Portland, OR, August 27-29 – Cannabis Science Conference dubs itself as “the world’s largest cannabis science expo”. The conference pulls together cannabis industry experts, instrument manufacturers, testing labs, research scientists, medical practitioners, policy makers and interested novices. This annual event is aimed at improving cannabis science.
New West Summit – Oakland, CA, October 11-13 – Going into its fourth year, New West Summit is the first conference to focus exclusively on the game-changing, disruptive developments in technology, investment and media within the cannabis space. Keep an eye out for information on the Summit’s inaugural New East Summit coming to Boston in August 2018.
CannMed – UCLA, October 22-24 – CannMed 2018 is a gathering of the greatest minds in medical cannabis, where they will further the convergence of medical cannabis research, treatment, and product development. New for 2018, CannMed will include an expanded exhibit hall, 54 Thought Leaders and Presenters, 1,500 Scientists, Clinicians, and Business Leaders and Pre-Conference CME Courses.
Marijuana Business Conference and Expo – Las Vegas, NV, November 14-16 – MJBizCon is the largest cannabis industry business conference in the world. With over 18,000 cannabis business leaders and investors, 110+ speakers and close to 700 exhibitors in over 300K sq ft of Expo Hall space, mark your calendar now.
Events: Not to be Missed in 2018
420 Games – The 420 Games were established by marketing and entrepreneurial guru, Jim McAlpine, to show that cannabis users are NOT lazy, unmotivated or “stoners” and to de-stigmatize the millions who use cannabis in a healthy and responsible lifestyle. All of the events are designed to accommodate beginning to advanced level athletes. 2018 Events are currently scheduled for Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Denver and San Francisco.
Emerald Cup – (December 2018) The Emerald Cup is Northern California’s premier destination for medicinal marijuana, while advancing the concept of sustainable, outdoor farming. Its reputation is firmly solidified as the largest, most respected, organic, outdoor, medicinal cannabis competition in the world. As a group, The Emerald Cup prides itself in bringing together experts and educators in the cannabis field to our fellow farmers, patients, and patrons each year. It is a community celebration that has grown to become a global movement honoring the year’s finest, organic, sun-grown, medicinal cannabis harvest.
Sensi Nights – Currently hosted by Sensi Magazine on a monthly basis in and around Denver, CO, Sensi Night is a free event that offers attendees a great opportunity to mingle with local like-minded cannabis thought leaders. Events are held in a relaxed, comfortable environment, where guests can expand their network and create new friends and opportunities. All events are listed through Facebook where guests can RSVP and receive additional information.
Weed & Wine Symposium (May 10 – San Luis Obispo, CA and August 2, Santa Rosa, CA) – There is truly something for everyone at these events. The Weed & Wine Symposium brings together the top minds in the wine and cannabis spaces to share their experience and knowledge, and together explore the opportunities and issues that the legalization of cannabis presents to the California Wine Industry.
The Oakland Cannabis PRIDE Parade (late July 2018) – This parade will be the first of its kind in the nation. In homage to the Gay PRIDE Parade movement and the fact the Gay community is what fostered legalization a “Coming Out Green” theme will be the theme fostering people to come out of the proverbial cannabis closet. The Parade will take place in downtown Oakland where they will shut down the streets and have a proper parade that will end at Lake Merritt. The event will take place in late July in downtown Oakland.