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 $100 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 Partners Inc./Select Oil/ Select CBD
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
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 and Joe S. were both part of CCELL’s founding team. Jelly Wang has over 17 years of experience in R&D management and is a board member of Shenzhen Smoore Technology Limited, CCELL’s parent company. Joe Qi is CCELL’s marketing director. CCELL is one of the leading brands in the vaporizer technology space, known for their innovative and disruptive vaping technology. CCELL’s revolutionary ceramic heating elements are capable of providing high vaporizing efficiency, even heat distribution, steady and consistent vapor, large vapor production, pure flavor and powerful potency.
Joe S. is the Marketing Director of CCELL, and has nearly 10 years of extensive experience in the consumer electronic product industry. He is responsible for the CCELL brand definition and promotion, making it a brand from zero to being well-known in the industry. He is also in charge of defining CCELL’s new products and developing business models. With his and his team’s efforts, the CCELL brand reputation and its market share have both reached new heights.
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 loving husband and father first, Garyn Angel is the mind behind MagicalButter. The MB2e is an innovative kitchen gadget that infuses herbal essences into foods. Angel is not only a found of this company, but many others, and he’s won awards for his work in finance, investing, 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.