The Wine & Weed Symposium is an event crafted from the views and advice of top representatives from both the wine and cannabis industries. To successfully represent the needs of both industries, we’ve obtained guidance from experts and business leaders who will share their unique experiences and outlooks to bring the most relevant and beneficial information to our attendees.
Hezekiah Allen was born at home and raised off the grid in rural Humboldt County. Blending more than a decade as a successful commercial cannabis grower with a background in Politics and Government, Hezekiah now works as the Executive Director of the California Growers Association. Cal Growers is the largest association of cannabis businesses and growers in California. As Executive Director, Allen is a lead expert helping to inform the cannabis policy making process in Sacramento. Under his leadership Cal Growers has successfully advocated for the establishment of an appellation system for cannabis, championed policies to ensure lower fees for smaller farms, sponsored legislation to establish a special license for cottage scale growers and is the state's’ leading voice for the independent farms and businesses that make California cannabis craft.
"There couldn't be more parallels between the two. Cannaculture and viticulture are very similar. From the diversity of varietals and the the “get it done culture” of growers, to the worldwide expanse of cultivation and extensive history and cultural significance, wine and cannabis are a perfect match—tempered by thousands of years of shared and intertwined history.
The earliest evidence of grape vine cultivation and winemaking dates back 7,000 years, while cannabis cultivation and consumption dates back nearly 10,000 years. Both are grown on every continent in the world (except Antarctica) and have been enjoyed by civilizations throughout history the world around.
The two have a long history of being enjoyed together or separately as companions to philosophical discussion and/or general merry-making."
"The human element. Every time I hear cannabis described as the “fastest growing industry in California” I wince for the tens of thousands of small businesses owners and hundreds of thousands of workers that currently feed their families from cannabis. Cannabis is not a growing industry; it is a stable, mature industry. California has been a global leader in this industry for generations. Our challenge is to buck the trends of modern economics—where growth and quantity are valued more quality and community and to establish a culture—similar to the wine industry—where appellations of origin, standards and connoisseur-ship create opportunity for a broad diversity of farms and businesses."
"That everyone in the industry is rich and that new businesses will make mountains of easy money. The “green rush” mentality is speculative, and feverish. It is hurting farmers, business owners, communities and natural resources alike. California needs to put community first in cannabis—otherwise this tremendous opportunity will prove to be a catastrophe for the people and places that have stewarded cannaculture in California through this dark time of prohibition."
A northern California native, after earning his BA in International Relations from UC Irvine in 2002, Brian spent years traveling, living, and working abroad tallying up 48 unique stamps in his passport and a handful of work visas. He landed back home in the bay area in 2013 and shortly thereafter, began planning his escape from the corporate machine. With a passion for cannabis culture and cannabis history, Brian launched The Cannabis Trail; a non-profit dedicated to preserving and celebrating the cannabis heritage in northern California. Emerald Country Tours came shortly thereafter, a cannabis tour company spotlighting the legalized cannabis industry and the unique bohemian cannabis culture in northern California. His latest project was establishing the California Cannabis Tourism Association in fall 2017. Education, preserving the history and sharing the unique cannabis-infused culture of his home, all drive his passion and daily work in the industry.
"Being invited to present at the California Travel Association Summit in San Diego in 2018 was a very memorable moment on my journey. It was an acheivement that signified a true quantifiable progress in the normalization and acceptance of not just cannabis as an industry, but the emerging cannabis tourism niche in the greater already established travel and tourism industry."
"A new kind of pairing comes to mind. Certain cannabis strains have the unique ability to sharpen the palate, accentuate flavors, magnify texture and simply boost the overall sensory experience. In time, I envision cannabis being paired as a precursor to an amazing farm to table dinner or wine tasting."
"The biggest misconception about cannabis tourism is the typical assumption of high THC consumption and getting extremely stoned or altered. These stereotypes are out-dated, untrue, and do NOT accurately reflect the cannabis tourism niche. Rather, cannabis tourism is drenched in health and wellness, education of plants and their therapeutic properties, compelling history, and fascinating culture."
Nicky Blaufarb (O’Callaghan) is VP at Octavia Wellness, the premiere, in-home, direct sales cannabis choice for boomers and seniors. Octavia Wellness specializes in micros dosing, curated products, and healing without the high.
After graduating from UC Santa Cruz Nicky went on to business development in several industries including food innovation, technology, the arts, and nonprofits. In 2015 she accepted a position at CannaCraft Inc., the largest cannabis manufacturer in California. After 3 years of growing a company from 25-200 and feeling the itch to try something new, she decided to join the Octavia Wellness team.
Her myriad of experience and adaptability make her uniquely suited to being a pioneer in the constantly changing cannabis and hemp industries.
"Thinking 5 years ahead in the Cannabis world is like dog years, what can be accomplished in that amount time is equivalent to what can be accomplished in decades. We have come so far in the short time Cannabis has been regulated. Perception has changed positively enough to bring Cannabis to a wide stream demographic, but we have a long way to go. As we continue to change and mold the perception of Cannabis through education, community involvement, job growth, business development, brand awareness, philanthropy, collaboration with like minded industries, and more Cannabis can and will be a large part of mainstream retail, medicinal, recreation and luxury markets.
1) We will be able to bank...Good Riddance!
2) Craft Cannabis and Craft Cannabis Products will populate the retail market.
3) 420 Tourism and Events will be mainstream: Collaboration with the wine industry in land use, event space, co-marketing in the luxury market will drive this."
"I predict some pretty complementary collaboration. The wine industry has a strong hold in Sonoma County as well as the whole Emerald Triangle. It benefits the cannabis Industry to honor the wine industry by striving to learn from and grow with it. I believe that we can, by working together, monetize land use more strategically, grow 420 tourism and cannabis friendly wine country event spaces, and create a space in the luxury market for both industries."
"“Gateway Drug.” - Thank you Ronald. Cannabis will not make you a heroin addict. Fact."
Hilary V. Bricken is a partner at Harris Bricken in its Los Angeles office. Licensed to practice law in California, Washington, and Florida, she is one of the premier cannabis business and regulatory attorneys in the United States. As chair of Harris Bricken’s Regulated Substances practice group, which includes the Canna Law Group, she helps cannabis companies of all sizes with their cannabis related legal issues.
In 2013, based on her work in the marijuana industry, The Puget Sound Business Journal named Ms. Bricken one of seven Dealmakers of the Year. From 2014 through 2017, she was named a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers Magazine. Also in 2015, the Puget Sound Business Journal named Hilary to its Top 40 Under 40 list for business and leadership, and in 2017 the American Bar Association named Hilary a Top 40 Under 40 “On the Rise” attorney in the United States. Hilary also authors a weekly column for Above the Law that features content on marijuana policy and regulation, and Hilary is a regular contributor to and editor of her firm’s Canna Law Blog.
In this role, Nick provides clients a full spectrum of regulatory and legislative services, including: state and federal legislative efforts; land-use planning; state and local government relations; compliance; and regulatory affairs.
Nick has worked in public policy for over fifteen years, including serving in the office of former Assemblywoman and State Senator Noreen Evans. During his tenure in the public sector, Nick developed an expertise in California environmental and land-use policy. He has worked on sustainability campaigns focusing on land-use, transportation, and working families from the State Capitol and throughout California. In addition, Nick has had extensive experience in California’s political sphere, garnering awards for his political consulting efforts. Each week, Nick Co-Hosts the "CannaBiz" radio segment on The Drive with Steve Jackson, streaming at KSRO.com on Mondays at 4:20pm.
Nick is a Co-Chair of the California Democratic Party’s Resolution Committee. Previously, Nick served as the Vice-Chair of the City of Santa Rosa, CA Planning Commission, Vice-Chair of the California Democratic Party Environmental Caucus and was a member of the California Community College Trustees Board of Directors.
George Christie settled in Sonoma County in 1991 where he quickly realized that the wine industry was where he wanted to concentrate his efforts. Since that time, he has been involved in nearly every aspect of the wine industry, from vineyard operations and grower relations to distributor realignments and national marketing campaigns.
In 2006 Christie launched his own marketing company, leveraging his years of industry experience assisting wineries to use both traditional and cutting edge marketing techniques to establish a voice in the sea of winery and wine promotion. An early advocate of video marketing and production, Christie has produced more than 100 marketing videos for wineries such as Domaine Carneros, Wattle Creek and Rodney Strong. Always an active member in the wine community, Christie has also held board positions with the Russian River Wine Road, Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley and the Sonoma County Vintners.
In 2009, along with Elizabeth 'E' Slater, George launched the Wine Industry Network, the Wine Industry's leading business and news resource.
Chris Coulombe is the CEO of Pacific Expeditors, an award-winning state-wide cannabis distribution company that specializes in logistics and fulfillment operations as well as government relations and business consulting. He has over 16-years of operational planning experience and is responsible for developing and leading one of the largest cannabis distribution operations in the state of California.
Chris works closely with regulators and lawmakers on cannabis distribution in the State of California. He has met with several California legislators, the Governor's office, and the CHP leadership in an effort to improve and better understand the regulatory environment for cannabis distributors.
He is also a founding member of the Cannabis Distribution Association, an industry trade group of over 30 distribution companies in the US dedicated to providing education and a voice to decision makers on behalf of distributors nationally.
Before entering the cannabis space, Chris served in the military for 16-years and has led teams of four to organizations over two hundred. He has been hand-picked to lead specialized teams and institutional development schools. As well, he has planned for and facilitated the support of operations for organizations of over 1,100 members.
Chris holds a B.A. in Politics from the University of San Francisco and an M.A. in Corporate Diplomacy from the oldest private military university in the US, Norwich University.
He also served in his former Boy Scout Council as the Council President of 1000 Scouting youth and 2000 adult volunteers in 2017-2018; if Chris has a cause it is building the future through our decisions and actions and preparing our youth to be ready to make their future better than we could for them.
Zack Crafton grew up on the east coast, just outside Washington DC. After a few years as a national security consultant (including stints in the Pentagon and Whitehouse), he moved to Atlanta GA where he ran operations for McMaster-Carr. While in Atlanta, Zack earned his MBA and began his journey as an entrepreneur founding a variety of for-profit and non-profit companies. After 6 years of great barbecue and fun accents, he left the south to join his brother in wine country – Napa CA. Zack consulted for a few high-profile wineries before joining a little-known wine startup, NakedWines. For 3 years Zack ran the operations for NakedWines serving as Global Operations Director and ultimately Vice President of Operations. He left in mid-2017 to apply his direct to consumer and luxury agriculture skill set to the cannabis industry. He now serves as CEO and Founder of BigMoonSky.com along with two other former NakedWines execs. When not sitting in meetings, he sips a cold beer while on the advisory board of Bay Area beer startup Hopsy. When not drinking beer, Zack checks on his private wine venture – a California Tannat.
Sean Donahoe owns and operates Operative Campaigns LLC, which provides Strategic Guidance, Business Development, and Governmental Relations services to private clients and the general public. After a career in international relations and political campaigns, in 2012 he turned his skills to organizing in the cannabis industry, beginning with labor and patients rights projects and then moving on to help guide cannabis industry trade associations. After co-founding the California Cannabis Industry Association, he moved on in 2014 to form a consulting firm where he currently uses his background in political consulting and issue advocacy to assist clients in their navigation of state and local politics. Sean has also contributed his time as a Local Politics Adviser to the California Growers Association, as Vice Chair of the Brownie Mary Democrats of California, as a commissioner to the City of Oakland’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, and as a mentor at the Gateway startup accelerator in Oakland. He received a BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz and a MSc in Government from the London School of Economics.
Born and raised on the Sonoma Coast, Sam Edwards can think of no place he would rather be living and working. A former ski instructor and avid backpacker, Sam has experienced the offerings of all corners of California and remains passionate about his roots in beautiful Sonoma County, and leads his companies in sharing that passion with the world by bringing quality products to market for others to enjoy.
In 2010, He graduated from Purdue University with a degree in engineering and returned home to work as a project manager in a civil engineering firm in the heart of wine country. While working alongside the wine industry he learned the legal ins and outs of use permitting as well as appellations. Sam has been organically cultivating in several appellations of Sonoma County and passionately extracting cannabis from those areas since 2011.
Sam chose to pursue his passion full time in 2014 and jumped headfirst into the cannabis industry with a focus on intellectual property and brand management. In 2015, He founded the Sonoma Cannabis Company alongside Affinity Brand Management.
Recently Sam formed Cultura Crop Management based on the vineyard management business model in order to ensure proper supply chain management of quality pesticide free cannabis that meets the stringent regulations coming in 2018.
"The timeline of the wine industry moving from grape growers and wineries to estate wineries to experience driven direct to consumer business models that took approximately 70 years in the wine industry will most likely take 10 years in the cannabis industry. This is due to consumers in both markets being experience driven more than product driven when exercising their purchasing power."
"There will be much more collaboration than most anticipate, especially specific to Sonoma County as cannabis will be added to an already robust tourism based economy."
"This is a new era for cannabis and the old stereotypes of stoners and drug dealers is antiquated. The new age cannabis business owner is your typical white collar professional and casual cannabis use, similar to a glass of red wine in the evening, doesn't suddenly make you grow dread locks and be late for work. Cannabis businesses don't suddenly bring crime into your home town, this has been proven by statistics in other states. If any it helps build a more robust economy of fulfilling careers for engineers, accountants, attorneys etc."
Jamie Evans is the founder of The Herb Somm, a cannabis blog and lifestyle brand that is focused on the gourmet side of the industry. She is an educator, host, and writer specializing in cannabis, CBD, food, recipes, wine, and the canna-culinary world. As a well-known CBD and cannabis personality, Jamie has been contributing to POPSUGAR, MARY Magazine, and The Clever Root magazine specializing in cannabis and CBD lifestyle features for the modern consumer. In addition, Jamie is the co-editor of GoldLeaf's acclaimed Cooking Journal and is working on a book to be published by Fair Winds Press of Quarto Publishing Group scheduled to release next spring 2020.
As an industry leader, Jamie was also recently named as one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers in 2018 and as a 2018 Innovator by SevenFifty Daily, both recognizing her efforts in the cannabis industry. Alongside her work in the cannabis space, Jamie has over eleven years of wine industry experience and is a Certified Specialist of Wine.
"Having spent ten years in the wine industry, I've had the opportunity to host and plan a variety of events throughout my career. From planning 300+ person gatherings for the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, to hosting 50+ consumer events for JAX Vineyards, to organizing wine dinners for high-end international brands such as Ornellaia and Frescobaldi, my attention to detail and drive for excellence has dramatically impacted the experiences that I currently host for The Herb Somm. Hospitality is always a key focus. From the minute a guest arrives, to the moment they leave, it is my goal for each attendee to feel like a VIP. Hosting a successful event also means a lot of planning and organization. I owe this skillset to the many years that I worked in the wine industry and the wonderful people who taught me how to host incredible events along the way."
"I am a firm believer that cannabis, wine, and food belong together. Not only does cannabis enhance the dining experience, but it also opens the door to many new and exciting aroma, flavor, and ingredient pairings. From a culinary and hospitality perspective, I think there are a lot of opportunities for collaboration between the two industries. We need to continue to educate lawmakers, so they can see that there is a way to safely and responsibly use both in a gourmet setting. I am looking forward to the day that we finally see a cannabis-infused restaurant with an award-winning wine list!"
"There are many parallels that exist between wine and cannabis. From an agricultural standpoint, a few of my favorite similarities include terroir, growing regions, aromas, and flavors. Like a grapevine, cannabis is a plant that is climate and soil-driven. While the concept of terroir has been romanticized in the wine industry for years, the same principles apply to cannabis. To a cannabis grower, terroir is more than just weather and soil. As a farmer, you are a part of the terroir, and every growing method you use plays a critical role in the plant’s well being. The same stands true for winemakers and viticulturists. There is so much passion in both industries."
Liz Gehl is the Founder and CEO of Gehl Search Partners, an executive search firm that focuses on cannabis and adult beverage recruitment. GSP provides consulting services to companies within these highly regulated industries to help make smart hiring decisions that promote strategic growth and increase market share. GSP is responsible for creating high performing executive teams in both the wine and cannabis industries within start-up environments, as well as during restructuring and reorganization periods. As a lifelong Sonoma County resident, and a 20-year medicinal cannabis consumer and Human Resources professional, Liz has been thrilled to be able to combine her three passions - Recruiting, the Wine/Beer/Spirits industry, and the Cannabis Industry.
Erin Gore is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Garden Society, a cannabis confection company started in early 2016. Originally from Wisconsin, Erin made Sonoma County her home in 2011.
After completing her degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2006, Erin began a decade-long career with Henkel, where she managed a global adhesive business valued at nearly $100 million. Her time at Henkel provided a solid foundation in leadership, development, and achieving exceptional financial results.
In 2016, Erin left her corporate career to run Gore Family Vineyards, a boutique winery nestled in Healdsburg, Sonoma County. In addition to producing wine, Erin and her husband Tom have expanded the estate’s products to include olive oil, honey and more than 70 varietals of fruits and vegetables that are sold to restaurants and locals in the community.
Erin’s most-recent enterprise, Garden Society, developed out of her own need to explore non-traditional ways of managing the pain and stress of multiple hip surgeries. She quickly realized the holistic benefits of cannabis as a means of providing a better quality of life without prescription drugs, and in doing so found an opportunity to fill a void in the market with low dose edibles that highlight the renowned food culture of Sonoma County. In 2016, after much of her own research and experimentation, Erin joined with prominent Chef, Kolin Vazzoler, with the goal of creating artisanal confections made with low doses of cannabis that would enrich and help balance women’s lives.
Erin was awarded a Top Business of the Year honor in 2016 and was also given the Most Disruptive Innovation Award in 2014. Currently, she serves on the Board of the Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County as well as the Healdsburg District Hospital Board of Directors. She is also a member of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance and belongs to the Circular Board, The Collaborative Accelerator for Women Entrepreneurs.
"1. A central mission of ours at Garden Society is to foster the social acceptance of cannabis, both medicinally and recreationally. We believe that the stigma has already started to change, and – in partnership with like-minded companies and industry leadership – it will continue to grow through education, positive exposure, and medical research over the next five years.
2. Legalization, along with regulation, will continue its momentum across the country and world.
3. The cannabis market will steady out after a few tumultuous but high growth years through price adjustments, regulation improvements, product innovations, and brand acquisitions."
"I believe the cannabis industry is going to follow the wine industry in the level of differentiation between brands, varietals, innovations, and businesses. There will be products for all types of consumers; from low cost, commoditized products to boutique, appellated products. You will also see consumers become more educated about cannabis, searching for products that help for specific tailored medicinal needs, use certain farming practices, and have high flavor expectations. The cannabis industry will also follow the alcohol industry with the high regulator overhead and taxation model."
"When I set out to build Garden Society, I took a lot of time to learn the intricacies of the industry; finding mentors both in the cannabis industry and in business in general, reading about local and state regulations, and networking with “those who came before me” so to speak. That said, I think the most important piece of advice that I can provide is to make sure you spend time learning the risks, educating yourself on local and state laws, and really understanding the financial difficulties (including Tax laws and banking prohibition). People see high profit margins, but reality is very different due to all the complexities and challenges in the market to operate a legal cannabis business."
Pamela Hadfield is a tech entrepreneur and co-founder of HelloMD, the largest online community of health and wellness cannabis consumers. After treating her debilitating migraines with cannabis successfully, Pamela launched HelloMD, initially as a telehealth service designed to connect medical cannabis patients with doctors from the privacy of their own homes. After finding immediate success in the market, HelloMD expanded to include community, educational content as well as product sales. As a leading female executive and spokesperson for one the fastest growing industries in the world, Pamela has been featured in publications including Forbes, The New York Times, Elle, Rolling Stone, ADR, Cannabis Now, Harper’s Bazaar, LA Weekly, Marie Claire, and TechCrunch.
Marc Hauser co-vice chair of the Cannabis Law Team at Reed Smith LLP, a global law firm with over 1700 lawyers. He has over two decades of experience advising clients and colleagues on billions of dollars of business transactions, including 15 years as in-house deal counsel to Chicago-based investor Sam Zell. Hauser represents business and investors throughout the cannabis and hemp industries, where he does most of his legal work advising on transactions and risk, including public and private companies, MSOs and startups, as well as advising companies in other industries and disciplines working in Cannabis and industrial hemp. He has extensive relationships in the United States and Canada with industry players, capital sources, and service providers. Hauser’s legal practice includes deal structuring, acquisitions and dispositions, private equity and venture financing, capital markets financing, strategy and risk management, corporate governance, real estate transactions, and complex tax structuring.
Reed Smith’s Cannabis Practice Team includes over 40 lawyers internationally, advising on all aspects of the Cannabis business, including tax, regulatory, M&A, capital markets and investments, insurance, real estate, advertising, and intellectual property.
"Money. Capital is pouring into the cannabis industry from investors because it’s new, it’s sexy, and it’s (relatively) cheap. Valuations in the wine industry are so high that only giant players with a low cost of capital, or people who don’t care about returns, are willing to invest. On the other hand, cannabis has private equity money pouring in and capital markets in the US are starting to pay attention (Canada is well ahead of the US on that front), because cannabis offers the risk/return profile necessary for institutional capital that the wine industry can’t really offer at current valuations."
"Wine is a contemplative pastime. Wine is a reason to come together. Wine is a sort of philosophy. Certainly, the wine industry markets it that way, and for good reason. There’s no reason the cannabis industry can’t capitalize on its own elusive qualities as a way to define the product.
Also, wine has an intangible quality as an asset class, something that makes it attractive and sexy to investors. High net worth individuals and private equity love to invest in wineries for the sake of owning a winery, even if the pricing doesn’t project decent returns. Cannabis offers that same quality for investors and their capital, with the return potential to boot."
"Opportunity is the right word for it. Rather than burying their heads in the sand, or worse, fighting it like the record companies did with online music, the wine industry has the chance to embrace the legalization of cannabis and see it as an opportunity to further connect with its loyal customers and grow its own market.
The in-person experience is a natural fit for wine and cannabis to collaborate and cross-market. As DTC and wine tourism moves further towards providing an experience, not just pouring wine, cannabis is a way for wineries to enhance that experience. Instead of a cheese board at a sit-down tasting, why not an edible with an invitation to join the cannabis producers club?
One of a winery’s most valuable assets is the wine club mailing list. It’s also an asset that can be leveraged. Wine clubs thrive on hospitality and loyalty, and the connection to the winemaker, so the winery could offer winery-branded cannabis to its list, curated by the winemaker, or pair products with a special wine club shipment. Another way to bring the member back to their experience when they visited the winery on vacation."
Bill Kerr is a strategic design consultant and design entrepreneur with an emphasis on investments in the wine, beauty and cannabis categories.
With over 15 years of experience working with brands of all sizes, from startups to the Fortune 500, Bill’s passion is helping clients reach their customers in new and engaging ways. He led creative teams at agencies such as Primo Angeli: Fitch and CB’a Brand Engine, but has been independent for the past 7 years, working with his team under the Vertical moniker in downtown Santa Rosa to bring world-class brand innovation to both startups and established companies looking to effectively target key markets through strategic thinking and design.
Bill has a unique perspective on the parallels between the strategic positioning of cannabis and wine brands, as he both consults and has investments within each space. Additionally, he is working with his team to launch a sustainable child-resistant packaging solution that is aiming to set new standards for sustainability, aesthetics and cost.
Bill’s past clients include: HP, Motorola, Nestle, Purina, Bel Brands, Nyko, Avery Dennison, Otis Spunkmeyer, Freybe, Infusion Brands, Plum Organics, Mommy’s Bliss, Discovery Foods, CVS, Nuance by Salma Hayek, GO SMiLE, Clorox, Duraflame, Levi’s, Pizza Hut, GlaxoSmithKline, Lynmar Estate, Rally Point Wines, Ammunition Wines, Cline Family Cellars, Folio Fine Wine Partners, Terra de Promissio, Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery, Quivira, E. & J. Gallo Winery, Rally Point Wines, BioRepublic Skincare, Lucky Rock Wine Co., Price Family Vineyards, Barrett Farms, Chemistry, and Midnight Farms.
Allison Fraser Kosta is the Chief Operating Officer of TSO Sonoma, a luxury lifestyle and cannabis brand with a focus on health and wellness, as well as the CEO of SAKA, an infused non-alcoholic luxury wine company launching this fall.
Allison is an entrepreneur with a deep roots in the wine industry, as an accomplished owner of Kosta Browne Winery and Co-founder of her own boutique wine brand AldenAlli.
As an experienced owner in the wine industry and accomplished event planner, Allison has more than 25 years of refined, reputable experience operating within the San Francisco Bay Area food and wine industries. She has mastered many areas within the hospitality and viticulture spaces. Taking culmination her experiences and translating that wine country lifestyle into the cannabis space by producing high end events with an emphasis on the best that Sonoma County has to offer; food, wine and now cannabis.
Through her work with TSO Sonoma, Allison co-founded the TSO Elevated Events series, which are curated events, experiences and environments with a strong emphasis on education and overall wellness . Taking her love of good food and wine, organic farming, event planning and inherent passion for all things health and wellness she brings these things together through a sensory experience and pairings not to soon be forgotten.
Encompassing a passion for all things wellness, Allison has devoted the last two decades to servicing this industry as a health coach and massage therapist to further enhance education and application in a developed understanding of these practices.
Her idea to promote a healthy lifestyle starts with her and expands through all the work she accomplishes. Allison was born and raised in Northern California, has been a resident of Sonoma County for the last 15 years, and is the proud parent of three children.
Laura Lasseter's roots have existed in Southern Humboldt since the late 70's on her family land in Whitethorn.A graduate of San Francisco State University, Laura jumped in to the corporate world right out of college. The corporate world lead Laura to the great state of Texas. Building her career in Texas and raising her two daughters all the while still maintaining her family land in Southern Humboldt.
Laura's land is one of the first participants of Southern Humboldt' s local non profit, Sanctuary Forest Water Forbearance/Restoration Programs on the Mattole River watershed.
Full time back in Humboldt County, presently she is the Director of Operations and Founding Board member of the Southern Humboldt Business and Visitors Bureau-The SHBVB. The SHBVB is helping lead the path of tourism marketing, economic and destination development for Southern Humboldt. In addition, she serves as the marketing representative for the Southern Humboldt Lodging Alliance.
Laura is on the Eureka, Humboldt County Visitors Bureau Board Of Directors, a current Board Member of The Humboldt County Cannabis Chamber of Commerce and the Garberville Rotary Club Board of Directors, President Elect.
Ms. Lencho is co-founder of Supernova Women, an organization for women of color in the cannabis industry that has been affecting change by providing free education and training programs to communities of color throughout the nation regarding national, state, and local policies and business opportunities in the legal cannabis industry. A graduate of Stanford Law School and Stanford University (J.D. and B.A., respectively), Ms. Lencho provides regulatory, compliance and intellectual property guidance to California's cannabis industry. She is formerly the Mayor's appointee to the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission. Ms. Lencho currently serves on the board of the California Growers Association. Ms. Lencho is a frequent editorial contributor to coverage of the industry by Black Enterprise, The Establishment, Vice, and Politico. Her forays into making marijuana law and policy accessible to the masses can be read on multimedia platform The KindLand.
"I think the parallel that I'm excited to see develop as we move to regulate is the focus on the small batch cultivator and their capacity to transition to a statewide regulated market (and eventually an international market). The development of regulations (and exceptions to the 3-tier regime) parallels some of the lessons learned from small batch winemakers in California and elsewhere who fought and advocated for exceptions to the traditional 3-tier system to allow consumers access to wine that would otherwise never make it to market given economies of scale and margins."
"I started studying the cannabis industry as a law student in a class taught by the now general counsel of the Wine Institute. My first gig in cannabis was working on license applications for the state of Maryland's medical cannabis process as a lead writer and client liaison for an Oakland-based consulting firm."
"Local licensing and the fees associated with that process will make or break folks' businesses. Some jurisdictions see the industry as a boon, while others are passing bans in places that have always had a medical industry cultivating or manufacturing. I believe regulators on the state and local level will have to strike a balance between meeting their obligations to provide protections for the public while at the same time incentivizing transition from the illicit market."
As a California native, Tawnie has been active in organic and sustainable agriculture including cannabis farming for over 15 years. Her commitment to the environment and to providing cannabis operators pathways to success in a regulated market inspired the founding of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance in 2015 representing the business and policy needs of the entire cannabis supply chain.
A large part of Tawnie's contribution to the industry is realized in the work she has committed to as an active advocate for sensible policy. This work includes her roles as the board chair for the California Growers Association, board chair of SCGA, advisory board member of the Sonoma County Cannabis Advisory Group, and an advisory board member of the Wine and Weed Symposium.
Tawnie has dedicated the past three years to support local and state regulators in developing effective policy through industry education and advocacy. She is an active presenter across a wide array of conferences and industry groups from cannabis conferences, chambers of commerce, Sustainable North Bay to the Farm Bureau, National Appraisal Institute, city and county agencies and many more.
Today her primary work is focused on advancing the professional landscape of successful cannabis businesses as a managing partner in Canna Code Compliance. In California, through collaborative efforts with local, regional and statewide organizations, from economic development to preserving natural resources, Tawnie's commitment to responsible holistic growth is representative of the principal values at the core of this burgeoning industry.
"The craft farmer will still be producing the highest quality product on the market.
There will be an outcry for exportation options over state lines by 2019 to provide economic viability for the thousands of licensed producers.
Dispensary models as we know them today will be mostly obsolete by 2022."
"The groundswell of industries and individuals whose imaginations have been sparked by the cannabis industry. It seems like everyone has an angle on how they can participate in this newly regulated industry. Some days (especially at events) it makes my head spin a little to see the vast impact cannabis has on local to national economies."
"For over 50 years there has been a well-funded prohibition campaign that successfully drilled fear propaganda into multiple generations.
There are negative side effects with over consumption or abuse of any substance from cannabis to sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. However, the physical side effects of over-consumption in the latter are much higher and even deadly.
The biggest misconception I see today is the lingering fear that cannabis is this gateway drug that impacts lives similar to heroine. This is simply not true, in fact, more people are reclaiming their lives from addictions to doctor prescribed opioids by discovering the natural pain reducing effects of cannabis."
Prior to joining BDS Analytics and the wild world of cannabis data, Jessica Lukas spent ~10 years working with top global CPG and Beverage Alcohol companies at Nielsen Innovation (BASES) and at Dr Pepper Snapple Group. After taking a short break to develop and launch an app with a business partner, Jessica returned to data analytics—but this time for weed. BDS Analytics is now her home, and she leads client engagement. BDS Analytics is headquartered in Boulder, CO and is the leader in data, market research, analytics, and consumer insights for the cannabis industry. She helps clients (inside and outside the industry) understand the evolution of the cannabis market and Consumer in order to assess the opportunity and/or threat and drive strategic decisions. AND given her many years spent working within Beverage Alcohol, the interaction, overlap, substitutability, pairing of Cannabis + Alcohol is a particular focus and passion.
Claudio Miranda is a seasoned entrepreneur and C-level executive with 20 years of experience in marketing, consumer branding, multi-channel retailing, and sustainable enterprise. He was formerly the co-founder and CMO of two industry-leading natural product brands – Organic Bouquet and Organic Style – and later became a marketing consultant for the cannabis, gourmet foods and wine industries. He currently oversees the Guild family of cannabis brands, which includes a vertically-integrated dispensary in San Jose; a 3-acre cannabis nursery in Monterey County; and an award-winning concentrates brand that specializes in high potency, terpene-rich extracts. Claudio is a graduate of UC Berkeley; has served as Professor of Marketing at the Dominican University Green MBA Program; and currently serves as a startup advisor at Gateway—California’s first venture-backed cannabis incubator.
"Wine and cannabis have a lot of similarities when it comes to the culture of enthusiasts and connoisseurship. Both can be studied and appreciated on numerous parallel levels — provenance, varietals, terroir, farming & production practices, producers, sensory analysis, etc. And as cannabis becomes more widely legalized and mainstream we’re seeing the emergence of tourism, hospitality, and the marriage with gastronomy (in terms of multi-course pairings with food — and wine!). This is a key intersection point where the industry can leverage its established wine appreciation framework to educate their customers on how to develop a more profound understanding and appreciation of cannabis — one that transcends the common stereotypes of weed being useful solely to get high. Wine professionals have a unique opportunity in this regard given that they already possess the educational tools and marketing approach to unlock the rich dimensions that cannabis connoisseurship has to offer. "
"Don’t fall prey to the allure of big bucks. As cannabis becomes increasingly regulated and commodified the profit margins will become very thin and hard to sustain at small scale. Moreover, the market is quickly getting saturated with 1000s of emerging brands. The fight for shelf space is well underway and unsuspecting entrepreneurs are learning the hard way that you either have to out compete through "race to the bottom" pricing — which is only sustainable at large scale — or through marketing and brand/product differentiation. The days of “grow it and they will come” are quickly coming to an end in cannabis. So the best advice is to make an amazing product that your customers will love. Don’t do it for the money or market opportunity; do it out of passion, hard work, dedication, and respect for the plant. This in the end is what makes a great wine, and the same holds true for cannabis."
"The most common misconception is one that has been perpetuated by our government since the early 1900s — that cannabis has no positive social benefit or medical utility and must be prohibited and criminalized, thereby creating the cultural misconception that cannabis is for social deviants. This negative social stigma and institutional bias has created a black market subculture that has insulated and suppressed the industry. We’re now at a unique moment in history when cannabis is being normalized and publicly accepted by millions of people from all walks life, which is the direct result of legal reform and breakthroughs in medical research. This presents a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs to capitalize on the transition from a black market lifestyle niche to mainstream usage. And this again is where wine professionals possess the marketing tools and expertise to help usher in a new age of cannabis."
Amanda Ostrowitz, Esq. is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of CannaRegs. She is an attorney and entrepreneur specializing in cannabis regulations and has developed a comprehensive database of federal, state, and local cannabis laws. Prior to conceiving and co-founding CannaRegs, Amanda worked as a bank examiner at the Denver Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, where her practice focused on regulatory compliance in the consumer lending and banking industries. Amanda is an east coast native who moved to Colorado in 2004 to attend Colorado College where she earned a B.A. in Economics. She later received her Juris Doctor from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. In September of 2014 Amanda conceived Cannaregs which launched in June of 2015. CannaRegs now has over 150 companies subscribed to their platform which consist of marijuana businesses, law firms, consulting companies, local governments, lobbyists, real estate professionals, and ancillary service providers.
Amanda Reiman is the Head of Community Relations for Flow Kana, a branded cannabis distribution company that works with small farmers in the Emerald Triangle and the Secretary of the International Cannabis Farmer’s Association, a non-profit that advocates for research and policies that favor sun grown cannabis cultivation through traditional farming methods.
After receiving her PhD from UC Berkeley, Dr. Reiman was the Director of Research and Patient Services at Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest dispensaries in the country, and the Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national non-profit that was engaged in the drafting and campaigns of legalization initiatives across the country and abroad. She also taught courses on substance abuse treatment and drug policy at UC Berkeley for 10 years.
Dr. Reiman is an internationally recognized cannabis expert and public health researcher. Dubbed “The Brain” by Elle.com, she is a leader the field of cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs and has presented her research all over the world. Also an expert in cannabis policy on the local, national and international level, Dr. Reiman was the first Chairwoman of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission and also sat on the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
"Cannabis and wine are both about the enjoyment of a plant and a connection to nature. Consumers are eager for information about growing techniques and value both wine making and cannabis farming as a craft. Anyone can make wine/grow cannabis, but only a select few can call it their craft."
"Definitely coming into compliance with all of the new local and state regulations. This industry has always existed, but since it was underground, participants developed of culture of not keeping records and staying in the shadows. Being a business owner in CA in ANY industry requires a level of transparency that the cannabis industry has been conditioned to stay away from. Add on top of that a lack of access to banking and business loans, and its like pushing a person who is just learning to swim off the boat with one hand tied behind their back. But if years of heavy handed law enforcement couldn't sink the industry, neither can complicated regulations. We will rise to the occasion."
"Collaboration. The similarities in the consumer and the experience they seek with the product holds great promise for cross promotion. While the regulations will keep the products and company ownership separate, the messaging about mindful consumption and consideration for where the product comes from is very much in line. Research on cannabis cultivation environments will lead to appellation designation and perhaps this opportunity could be extended to the wine industry as well."
Tom Rodrigues has been an artist since his childhood. He started at 14 working in Stained Glass in his hometown of Los Gatos California at Hogan Studios. He soon branched off on his own and moved to Marin County in the early 70’s to continue his art glass at Rodrigues Studio in San Rafael. He was hired as the designer and production Manager at Skywalker Ranch creating the stained glass that adorns the buildings there. Along with over 4 decades working in Stained Glass, Tom began his fine art expressions in acrylic and oil paintings where he showed his work from New York to San Francisco. Tom has one of his paintings from The Legends at The Stick series in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York. He also has created some of the most iconic wine labels from Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley and Mendocino Counties wineries. Far Niente, Nickel and Nickel, Dolce, En Route, Bella Union, Hamel Family, Gemstone, Manzanita Creek, Artevino, and Maple Creek just to name a few. Tom moved to Mendocino County in 2001 and purchased a ranch and small production winery in Yorkville of the Anderson Valley. He teamed up with Kerry Damsky to teach him winemaking chemistry. Maple Creek Winery / Artevino Wines produce award winning Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Merlot and Bordeaux blends. Tom sits on two boards in Mendocino County MWI (Mendocino Winegrowers Inc) and the MCIA (Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association) representing the two most popular agricultural products here in Mendocino County.
"Three things I can predict might happen in the cannabis industry in the next 5 years are similar to what happened in the wine industry when "Two Buck Chuck" hit the market. The bulk industry hit bottom, wine prices lowered, inventory went up. Then after a couple of years, folks came to miss the quality they once enjoyed and started seeking out quality wines and visiting the tasting rooms of wineries they were not familiar with, and the bulk market built back up again."
"My advice is to focus on the medicine in cannabis, I truly believe it is the future of this industry for world wide appreciation and growth in healthy alternatives in medicine."
"Being on the wine board in Mendocino County (MWI) there are still many wineries who do not want to touch this. Although there are a number of us who enjoy cannabis and are making infused wines with cannabis for personal use. If the FEDs can move cannabis off schedule 1 then the future is wide open for collaboration, I don’t really see a competition other than a Cannabis and Wine competition."
Alicia founded HerbaBuena in 2015 to help define a new standard for the cannabis industry, and a trusted product source for consumers looking for the same purity, quality and sophistication in their cannabis products as they’ve come to expect in their organic food and fine wine. HerbaBuena is a culmination of all that’s come before including her upbringing on an organic farm, her master’s degree in Environmental Science, and a 15-year career in Napa Valley’s wine industry, during which time she consulted with dozens of ultra-premium wine brands and a handful of 100-point winemakers.
"I founded HerbaBuena to help redefine and elevate the dialog and culture around cannabis, and to help establish a new standard for quality - as defined by purity - and the consumer experience.
Just one example of how we’ve done this is releasing the state’s first-ever Demeter-certified cannabis. Demeter is a trusted agricultural designation that ensures purity and quality, and is especially important for cannabis given that as an industry we’re unable to use the federal USDA organic designation.
As an industry I believe we now have both an opportunity and a duty to do better than those which have come before us. Cannabis has the power to heal, and help us realign our values and expectations around medicine and nourishment as a whole.
As a company we’re growing a trusted consumer brand defined by purity, quality and therapeutic benefit – to promote health for people and the planet."
"I’m blessed to have a foot planted firmly in both wine and cannabis, and am incredibly excited about the opportunities for collaboration between the two. Both wine and cannabis are highly prized and highly regulated agricultural products which, in their highest form, have the ability to elevate the human experience. The opportunities for collaboration, in everything from the consumer experience, to shared expertise from things as far reaching as compliance and cultivation, are significant."
"The biggest misconception is the idea that cannabis (and hemp for that matter), should never have been made illegal. The fact that we’ve pushed this extraordinary therapeutic healing plant into the shadows, and that the federal government has mislabeled it has a harmful drug, is the reason we face every misconception about this plant and the positive impact it can have in nearly every segment of our modern life."
Eric Sklar is an entrepreneur, Napa Valley vineyard owner and public official. He and his family have been growing grapes in Napa Valley for 40 years and he has recently planted his first licensed cannabis garden.
Eric is CEO of Napa Valley Fume, LLC, a cannabis management/branding company based in St. Helena, CA. He is also the co-founder of the Napa Valley Cannabis Association. He is currently a member of the Policy Committee of the California Growers Association and Board Member of Bay Ecotarium (Bay.Org).
Eric was appointed to the California Fish and Game Commission in June of 2015 by Governor Jerry Brown and confirmed by the Senate in 2016. He was elected President in 2016 and was re-appointed by Governor Brown to a full six-year term in January 2017.
In 2005, Eric founded Alpha Omega Winery in Rutherford, California and was Managing Partner from 2005-2013. From 2003-2010 Eric served on the St. Helena City Council – the last two years as Vice-Mayor. In 2010 He was elected to the Board of the Napa Valley Vintners where he served as Treasurer and Vice-Chair, and from 2009-2011 he served as chair of the Napa Valley Vintners’ Community and Industry Issues Committee.
Eric was Chairman and CEO of Burrito Brothers, Inc, a restaurant chain he founded in 1989 based in Washington, DC and sold in 1999. He was also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Business where he taught courses in entrepreneurship, business strategy and marketing.
Starting his professional career in 1984 as the Assistant Press Secretary to Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, Eric held several political positions. Those include Press Advance for Dukakis/Bentsen in 1988; Director and Founder of the American Small Business Alliance; and Director and Secretary of The Coalition to Defend Working Families.
Eric received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley in 1984, a Diploma in Business Studies at the London School of Economics in 1986, and a Master of Business Administration at Georgetown University in Washington, DC in 1997.
He is a retired volunteer for the St. Helena Fire Department. He has also served on the boards of various organizations including the Napa Valley Transportation Agency, Business for Social Responsibility, the Metropolitan DC Restaurant Association, Center for Policy Alternatives, Arca Foundation and many others.
Eric is a sailor, scuba diver and loves backpacking the trails of California. He and his wife Erica live in St. Helena, CA and have two adult daughters.
Rebecca Stamey-White is a legal advocate, advisor and strategist focusing her practice on the laws related to the sale, distribution and marketing of alcoholic beverages and medical cannabis. She is a partner with Hinman & Carmichael LLP, a nationally-recognized boutique law firm representing the alcoholic beverage, hospitality and medical cannabis industries and their service providers. Rebecca provides licensing, distribution, compliance and trade practice business advice for regulated industries and defends clients in state agency protest and accusation hearings and federal alcohol investigations. She has a special interest in crafting legally-compliant advertising, social media, promotions and events and advising unlicensed third party providers serving regulated industries.
Rebecca is a frequent speaker at industry conferences, law schools and continuing legal education programs on the latest legal issues in the alcoholic beverage and cannabis industries. She is an active member of many of the alcohol beverage industry organizations, including the Wine Institute, the Rhone Rangers, the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, the California Music & Culture Association, the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators and the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA). In the cannabis space, Rebecca is an active member of Women Grow, a professional network of female cannabis entrepreneurs, and the National Cannabis Bar Association. During ski season, she volunteers as a national ski patroller at Northstar California Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe.
Prior to Hinman & Carmichael, Rebecca was an associate in the San Francisco litigation group of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where she worked on post-Granholm litigation involving constitutional challenges to state alcohol regulatory statutes and provided regulatory advice to California wine industry businesses. Rebecca received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History & International Studies from Northwestern University and her juris doctor from Northwestern University School of Law.
"I'll focus on the California market, since the industry at large is at various stages of development in different states and California is the biggest and most established market, with the biggest power to affect the industry at large. First, I think the players are going to change dramatically in California. As the new laws and regulations are written, there are huge opportunities for companies that are well-capitalized, with the capacity to handle the increasing costs of compliance. The laws have also largely done away with some of the residency requirements (although many local communities still have them), meaning that players from other states may have an easier time setting up shop in California than previously anticipated and could have a huge advantage if they've been successful elsewhere. But that means many of the local mom and pop cannabis collectives that have made up this industry for so many years may lose their business advantages and be forced out of the market unless they collaborate and pool resources with others in the market and really brand their local California roots.
Second, I expect delivery models to take on the traditional dispensary models. The combination of the California laws permitting dispensaries to operate without having a storefront open to the public, California being home to the tech industry, and consumers moving more to home delivery over shopping at brick and mortar retailers means we will likely see a lot more delivery-only dispensaries, and other mobile-based customer acquisition models.
Third, I hope the next phase of legislation will follow the Colorado example to start opening up social use consumption of cannabis so that we will see more clubs, restaurants and social spaces able to be licensed (even if it means businesses may choose cannabis licensing instead of alcohol licensing if the two can't be combined), which will help with cannabis tourism and give consumers the ability to learn about new products and try them."
"The wine industry has always had great stories to tell, and so does the cannabis industry. Both are agricultural products that have terroir and varietals/strains, each with unique properties and flavors. There are compelling stories to share with consumers about the cultivation of grapes and cannabis flower. There's also, therefore, a huge benefit for both industries to bring consumers to the winery or the grow to be able to build brand loyalty by seeing the production process and the lifestyle up close and selling through direct to consumer models."
"It's hard to know where to start because there are so many challenges, more so than the alcohol industry dealt with at the end of Prohibition, because there had been a system in place before to improve on. Really, the biggest challenge is education and awareness about the new system, so that the industry members understand how regulation works and the regulators figure out how to encourage buy-in from the industry to make it a successful transition from the black market. The problem with the "regulate it like alcohol" campaigns is that very few in the cannabis industry understand how regulated alcohol actually is, so there's a certain shock value upon discovering how many regulatory hoops alcohol licensees must jump through. The wine industry in California has done a great job balancing the need of regulation to protect the public, to create confidence in the product integrity and to collect taxes and fees to support the system, while also permitting business models for smaller players. The cannabis regulators are attempting to do all these things, but have the advantage of using technology in the regulations, i.e. track and trace, advanced product testing and even an online licensing portal (all things that could benefit the alcohol industry as well)."
Jessica Strange never met a microphone she didn’t like. This long time Sonoma County resident has hosted numerous events as an Emcee including Santa Rosa’s Handcar Regatta, Petaluma’s Rivertown Revival, and various private events that you simply had to see for yourself.
With a strong background in operations management, Jessica cut her teeth in Portland, Oregon’s cannabis industry, specifically retail and distribution management, and honed her experience in compliance serving Oregon, Colorado and Nevada. She is thrilled to bring her knowledge back home and prove to her high school teachers that yes, what they caught her doing 20 plus years ago is finally paying off.
Aaron Smith is co-founder and executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, the largest trade association representing legal cannabis businesses in the U.S and the only one working to advance the industry on a national level.
Prior to launching NCIA, Aaron distinguished himself as a public advocate for marijuana policy reform — first under the auspices of a California-based medical cannabis advocacy group, Safe Access Now in 2005, and then as the California state policy director for the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project until founding NCIA in 2010. Aaron has successfully built coalitions with elected officials on both sides of the aisle in order to advance marijuana law reform legislation. Aaron’s opinion pieces have appeared in major newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times, and he has been a frequent commentator on national television news networks. Originally from California, Aaron is currently based in Denver.
"The parallels are numerous, to be honest, and they have a lot of potential to help the cannabis industry chart its future.
Both wine and cannabis are agricultural products at their core, with a tremendous amount depending on the ways they are grown and the environments they are grown in. This means there are abundant opportunities and challenges related to resource efficiency, production consistency, and sustainability. Innovation in one industry could very likely benefit the other, so it’s great to open these channels of communication between the two.
Wine and cannabis are also both products with potential audiences that span the spectrum from price-sensitive budget buyer to extremely sophisticated connoisseur. There’s room in the cannabis industry for large-scale producers and boutique players, just as there is in the wine industry. The key is for companies in each industry to identify the audiences they are most suited to serve and design their businesses, products, and marketing accordingly. "
"First, discard any notion that working in this industry is a license to print money. Despite what many people think, succeeding in the cannabis industry is far from an easy prospect. Aside from all the challenges any entrepreneur or small business owner faces, cannabis professionals deal with extraordinary additional hurdles in the forms of complicated and ever-changing regulations, banking and financial barriers due to marijuana’s federal legal status, and excessive federal taxation, just to name a few. (As an aside, NCIA is working diligently to resolve the banking and tax issues at the federal level, and ultimately we will succeed. But until then, they are a reality that cannabis professionals must face.)
Second, know why you want to be in the industry. If you think you want to cultivate cannabis, you’d better be sure you like commercial agriculture. If you think you want to run a dispensary, you need to be sure you enjoy the retail environment. Just because your job is related to marijuana doesn’t mean the day-to-day work is so different from other industries. (And if you’re in it for the money, there are a lot easier ways to go about that, as I already mentioned.) The best cannabis entrepreneurs are the ones with a true passion for the plant and for the ways that plant can make people’s lives better. Combine that passion with a willingness to work harder than other people and commit yourself to the small details, and you’ll be on the right track."
"Despite all the incredible progress the cannabis industry and the cannabis advocacy movement have made in the last several years, so many old cliches and stereotypes remain. People are still shocked that cannabis business events aren’t full of “long hairs” in tie-dye, or that cannabis professionals are smart, driven, and ambitious. Compared to the U.S. Attorney General’s absurd claim that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” some of these generalizations are relatively harmless. But it still all adds up to the idea that the industry is not to be taken seriously.
Another frustrating misconception is that our customers are just “stoners.” The reality is that a huge and growing segment of our market is made up of people who use cannabis as a therapeutic product. Some of them are patients who reap significant benefits from marijuana’s medical properties. Others are not explicitly medical consumers, but are using cannabis products to relieve stress, get better sleep, or ease chronic pain without resorting to prescription drugs.
Finally, it’s disappointing to see stories and messages about the cannabis industry that focus exclusively on how much money is at stake. There’s nothing wrong with turning a profit, and obviously we want the industry to thrive economically. But the true story of the cannabis industry is one built on a foundation of advocacy, compassion, and social responsibility. As a brand new industry, we have the opportunity to build something we can be proud of for a long time to come. So many of our current industry leaders have made that commitment to social justice and activism. It’s our job to pass those ethics and values on to the many newcomers in the industry so that we don’t lose that unique spirit as we grow."
Jim Sweeney has extensive experience driving sales success in the Wines & Spirits industry through both the three-tier distribution as well as Direct-to-Consumer. He has successfully managed the National Sales teams for several beverage alcohol industry leaders including Constellation, Huneeus Vintners, Vintage Wine Estates, was the General Sales Manager for two distributors in Texas, and brings both production and direct-to-consumer experience as the General Manager for Quixote Winery in Napa Valley. Jim brings an in-depth understanding of pricing and programming to deliver successful distribution and sales through three-tier distribution structures.
Currently as the Sales & Marketing Director for Humboldt Distillery in Humboldt California, Jim is helping to build a craft spirit from the ‘the heart’ of likely the largest cannabis growing area in the Country. Additionally, Humboldt Distillery produces and distributes ‘Humboldt’s Finest’, a cannabis-infused vodka. Jim now uses his extensive sales & marketing experience, is building a brand distilled and bottled in Humboldt County with a product that is cannabis-infused.
Jim is a graduate of the University of Texas, holds a MBA from National University, and resides in St. Helena, California with his wife.
Karli began her career in the wine industry at a boutique PR agency in Napa, learning the ropes of pitching and building media relationships while also expanding her wine education. Building her repertoire in food and wine, both professionally and personally, she quickly began exploring other aspects brand and event marketing in those fields. As her career progressed she moved to Constellation Brands, the world’s leading wine company, where she learned firsthand the importance of partnerships and cross-brand collaboration to become a top-tier marketer. Through thoughtful storytelling, pitching and partnerships, Karli landed media coverage for brands on the Today Show, and in national publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Wine Spectator and Food & Wine magazine.
During her time at Constellation, Karli helped launch a wine brand that, at the time, she didn’t know would eventually shift her career from wine to cannabis – which is where her Garden Society story begins. A former wine industry peer, Erin Gore founded Garden Society, a cannabis company focused on women’s wellness, in 2016 and shortly thereafter asked Karli to join the team to lead their marketing and communication efforts. Together and with their third partner, Matthew Bartlett, they have quickly built a well-recognized luxury cannabis brand that has garnered the interest of the Today Show, CNBC, Marie Claire, Los Angeles Times, Forbes and many more.
As she loved telling the story of wine - from vine to glass – she is even more so passionate and personally touched in telling the Garden Society story, from seed to delectable confection. As a working mom and wife to a cancer survivor, she knows the positive wellness impact low-dose edible cannabis can have on the mind, body and soul.