20 People to Watch in 2018

, 20 People to Watch in 2018

A look at some North American cannabis business executives who could make waves – for one reason or another – in the year ahead

by Marijuana Business Magazine staff

The cannabis industry is poised for huge growth in 2018 thanks in part to the expected launch of several massive new marijuana markets such as California and Canada, which will generate billions of dollars in sales and create tens of thousands of business opportunities.

The changing business climate will lead to new challenges, struggles and potentially failures for companies and the individuals behind them.

As we hurtle into 2018, the editorial staff at Marijuana Business Magazine singled out 20 executives in the cannabis space who bear watching in the year ahead. To be sure, there are scores of executives who could be included on this type of list. It’s by no means comprehensive, nor is it meant to “rank” executives in any fashion.

Rather, it’s a sampling of some individuals from across the industry who we think are worth keeping an eye on for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Their company is planning or poised for significant expansion.
  • Their business is encountering fierce business or financial headwinds.
  • Their company is staking out a new path for the marijuana industry.
  • Their business is positioned to capitalize on the launch of a major new marijuana market.
  • The individual is positioned to influence key marijuana regulations and policy.

The executives are listed in alphabetic order, with their ages (if provided) as of November 2017.

No doubt you may disagree with our picks – or have ideas for others. We’d love to hear from you. Email us at editorial@mjbizdaily.com.

Steve DeAngelo

Harborside/FLRish, Executive Director
Age: 59

Backstory: Steve DeAngelo co-founded Harborside Health Center in Oakland in 2006 and built it up over the years to a patient list of more than 300,000. He brought in his brother Andrew, also in 2006, to help run the operations, and together they have transformed Harborside into one of the most well-known medical cannabis dispensaries in the nation. The brothers have since launched a new greenhouse cultivation business, FLRish.

Why to watch: DeAngelo has been a pioneer in the legal cannabis industry for more than a decade and has won multiple landmark legal cases against law enforcement authorities that have broken new ground for marijuana entrepreneurs. But can this member of the old guard maintain Harborside’s brand presence in what will likely be a saturated and fiercely competitive market, once California’s new regulated system launches? He also hopes to win a U.S. Tax Court case to exempt state-licensed MJ businesses from Section 280E of the federal tax code. If successful, the case would represent a milestone.

Biggest goal in 2018: Expanding Harborside operations across the state and winning the 280E case – which has been argued, with DeAngelo awaiting a decision.

Isaac Dietrich

MassRoots, CEO
Age: 25

Backstory: Dietrich founded MassRoots in 2013. The publicly traded Denver company shot to national prominence as a cannabis-focused social media platform, raising millions from investors. It also made a bid – albeit unsuccessful – to become the first marijuana company listed on the Nasdaq. Over the past year, however, revenue plunged, losses piled up and the company’s shares tanked. In October, the board ousted Dietrich as CEO and sued him for alleged theft and illegal drug use. In December, however, Dietrich orchestrated a return to his old position as CEO, thanks to a deal brokered with the three MassRoots board members who fired him. Those board members resigned, as did the CEO who had replaced Dietrich.

Why to watch: MassRoots had been a media darling. But the upheaval of 2017 and years of red ink have fanned speculation about whether the company can be salvaged. Dietrich is now in the hot seat. Can he raise needed capital and make MassRoots a viable business?

Biggest goal in 2018: “Delivering returns for MassRoots shareholders by being at the forefront of California recreational cannabis implementation, acquiring synergistic technology companies, and developing a cannabis industry-centric cryptocurrency,” Dietrich wrote in an email.

Kristina Garcia

Women Grow, CEO
Age: 36

Backstory: Founded in 2014, Women Grow nosedived three years later after strategic missteps and rapid U.S. and international expansion caught up with the company. At its peak, Women Grow had 44 chapters across the United States and Canada. But then dozens of chapters closed, the number of local Women Grow events shriveled, key individuals left and the company’s reputation soured in some circles. The business has reorganized and remains alive as an events and networking venture. Garcia – who recently changed her name from Neoushoff after getting married – took over as CEO of Women Grow last year. She was previously the chief operating officer, having joined the company in 2015.

Why to watch: As an ancillary business that made a name for itself by empowering women in the marijuana industry, it remains to be seen whether the company can reclaim some of the star power it achieved in 2014 and 2015. Today, Women Grow apparently wants to stick with its original vision of empowering women cannabis entrepreneurs, while making that mission a profitable one.

Biggest goal in 2018: Women Grow’s “Leadership Summit in 2018 will show what we can do when we come together to inspire one another,” Garcia wrote in an email.

Christina Gonzalez

G FarmaBrands, CEO
Age: 40

Backstory: Gonzalez became CEO of California-based G Farma in 2015, taking over for her ex-husband and founder, Ata, who remains a consultant. Under Gonzalez, G Farma has four plant-touching units that sell a range of products – flower, oil extracts and infused beverages – as well as non-plant-touching ventures that include consulting, license procurement, real estate management and media. G Farma says it distributes to more than 1,100 Southern California stores. It also has operations in Washington state. In late 2016, G Farma took a major hit when the Calaveras County Sherriff’s office raided one of its facilities and seized about 2.5 tons of plants worth about $10 million.

Why to Watch: G Farma is still bouncing back from the 2016 raid, and with California’s newly regulated marijuana program launched, Gonzalez has positioned the company to capitalize on the world’s largest MJ market. G Farma is building an Innovation Center in Desert Hot Springs, in Southern California. It will include about 64,000 square feet of greenhouse space – much of which will be leased to grower-tenants – and a 30,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. While G Farma has a reputable legacy and experienced growers, some observers have questioned the wisdom of building in Desert Hot Springs, where high temperatures can make for pricey air-conditioning bills. Last June, Gonzalez partnered with New York-based Tech Holdings to develop a fast-acting cannabis delivery system, and in October she landed a deal to distribute Julian Marley’s JuJu Royal cannabis brand to Southern California retailers.

Biggest Goal in 2018: “We will continue gaining market share by producing high-quality cannabis and cannabis products at low prices,” Gonzalez wrote in an email. “The increased consumption of our brands will be my main focus!”

Virgil Grant

Southern California Coalition, President; California Minority Alliance, Secretary; California Cannabis, CEO
Age: 50

Backstory: Grant has been a fixture in the Southern California MJ industry for two decades, first as a dispensary owner in Los Angeles and now as a political powerhouse with the Southern California Coalition and the California Minority Alliance. He’s a key industry advocate in talks with the L.A. City Council about regulations for cannabis businesses. The city is likely to become a cannabis industry juggernaut in 2018 – and one of the few municipalities to include social equity language in its regulations, aimed at giving minorities a leg up in the local MJ industry.

Why to watch: Grant is likely to be an important player in how L.A.’s regulations are rolled out, particularly when it comes to the social equity language. The city council’s proposed regulations would give special preference to business license applicants deemed to have been disadvantaged by the federal government’s war on drugs. The details are still being ironed out. Among Grant’s plans: “pushing responsible and inclusive policies … to ensure more minorities and disenfranchised communities are able to participate” in the cannabis industry, he wrote in an email.

Biggest goal in 2018: Grant wants to make his newest venture, California Cannabis, the “No. 1 brand in the country.” But that seems secondary to his target of empowering minorities to take part in the marijuana industry. Part of that, Grant said, is ensuring that disenfranchised communities have “viable sources of capital” to help minorities get started in the MJ industry.

Jim Hagedorn

Scotts Miracle-Gro, CEO
Age: 62 (approximate)

Backstory: Hagedorn unveiled audacious plans in 2016 to invest $500 million in the cannabis industry and transform his iconic lawn and garden company into an MJ powerhouse. He’s been on a spending spree since, buying ancillary cannabis companies such as Gavita, which produces grow lights, and Botanicare, a marijuana-centric nutrient business. In September, he finalized a $250 million deal to unload Scotts’ gardening business interests in seven countries. It means most of Scotts’ revenue will come from North America, which is the global powerhouse of the cannabis industry.

Why to Watch: Will 2018 prove to be the year Hagedorn begins to turn Scotts into a marijuana behemoth? Hagedorn’s decision to unload the company’s overseas interests leaves Scotts positioned to gobble up marijuana businesses in North America – should he choose to do so. Hagedorn’s focus has been hydroponics – through Scotts’ Hawthorne Gardening Co. subsidiary – in addition to interests in nutrients, lighting, hardware and fertilizer. One analyst speculated Hagedorn could make Scotts a controlling investor with companies throughout various MJ sectors. Both the United States and Canada are fertile grounds for acquisitions.

Biggest Goal in 2018: Hagedorn – who wasn’t available for comment – appears focused on building upon his North American cannabis assets after selling off the company’s international holdings. In terms of Scotts’ overall performance, the company projects sales growth of 4%-6% in fiscal 2018, with its Hawthorne subsidiary providing “nice tailwinds,” according to a news release.

Bob Hoban

Hoban Law Group, Managing Partner
Age: 42

Backstory: Hoban has carved out a unique niche in the cannabis industry. The Denver attorney has offices in every state where recreational marijuana is legal, plus a team of hemp specialists handling everything from securities-related work to private-equity placement. Hoban was slated to open four new offices in the European Union in late 2017 and plans to open two more in Latin America in 2018.

Why to Watch: The Hemp Industries Association is spearheading a lawsuit in California targeting the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration over its announcement in late 2016 that cannabidiol is a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Hoban is arguing this pivotal case for the hemp industry. The case – to be heard in February – could unleash the cannabidiol market and stop authorities in states like Indiana and Nebraska from banning CBD. But if Hoban loses, the CBD market will likely be limited to states where marijuana is legal.

Biggest Goal in 2018: International expansion. “We have accepted the challenge of being global cannabis industry leaders and experts … to move the industry forward across six countries,” Hoban wrote in an email.

Jesce Horton

Saints Cannabis, PV Ventures, Minority Cannabis Business Association, CEO of Saints Cannabis and PV Ventures; Chairman of MCBA
Age: 34

Backstory: In 2007, Siemens recruited Horton from Florida State University, where he studied engineering. He spent seven years with the German industrial manufacturing conglomerate, gaining valuable management and finance experience and learning about the importance of efficient business processes. In 2014, Horton founded Panacea Valley Gardens, a medical cannabis cultivation center in Portland, Oregon; and he founded a Portland dispensary, Panacea. Both are housed under PV Ventures. Horton is also co-founder and chairman of the Minority Cannabis Business Association. His newest project is Saints Cannabis, a vertically integrated cannabis campus. It will include indoor and greenhouse cultivation, processing, a recreational retail outlet, plus research and development operations – all on one Portland property.

Why to Watch: With Saints Cannabis, Horton will have to manage many moving parts. But if Horton can tap his business know-how to make Saints a success, he could help pioneer a new cannabis industry model. As a leader with the Minority Cannabis Business Association, Horton will have highly visible roles that could prove important as the marijuana industry struggles to become more inclusive.

Biggest Goal in 2018: “Gaining the funding and partnerships needed to remain competitive in the fast-growing industry,” he wrote in an email.

Pete Kadens

Green Thumb International, CEO
Age: 40

Backstory: Kadens started three companies before entering cannabis, including a solar energy business that was sold to the Fortune 500 firm Edison International. In 2016, Kadens became CEO of Chicago-based Green Thumb, a medical marijuana holding company with licenses for 19 vertically integrated MMJ businesses in five states. Kadens is among the MJ entrepreneurs who emphasize both philanthropy and profit. He’s chairman of StreetWise, a nonprofit that supports the homeless, and CEO of Purpose Investors, his own venture, which funds businesses that have a significant social impact. Kadens also has sought to woo communities through open letters in local newspapers where Green Thumb wants to enter.

Why to Watch: If Green Thumb continues to expand successfully, it won’t just become one of the more powerful multistate players. Kadens and his company would also demonstrate to industry leaders that it’s OK to be a loud and socially conscious cannabis executive.

Biggest Goal in 2018: Expansion. “I’d love us to have three times more patient-consumer interactions in 2018 versus 2017. In conjunction with this, we always want to increase patient-consumer retention year-over-year, a clear signal that we are improving our customer experience,” Kadens wrote in an email. “To achieve this, we need to continue to deliver on our commitment to successfully achieve on schedule and on budget construction of our grow, process and retail facilities.” GTI also hopes to expand into Ohio and Arkansas, but that depends on whether it can win licenses there.

Tim Keogh

AmeriCann, CEO
Age: 38

Backstory: It’s ironic that a guy who first earned a living managing marinas and yacht clubs would seek his fortune with a land-based pursuit: marijuana cultivation. In 2014, Tim Keogh became CEO of AmeriCann, which buys real estate and develops it with state-of-the-art greenhouses and processing facilities and then leases space to growers. Among other projects, AmeriCann is developing a massive 2.26-million-square-foot site in Massachusetts that previously belonged to the Boston Beer Co. The Massachusetts Medical Cannabis Center is slated to be AmeriCann’s crown jewel.

Why to Watch: AmeriCann is not the only real estate firm trying to break into cannabis through leasing and not touching the plant. But it is among the biggest. How the firm fares, particularly with its Massachusetts facility, will shed light on whether the leased-growing-space model can succeed.

Biggest Goal in 2018: “Our goal is to establish the Massachusetts Medical Cannabis Center as the new standard for cultivation and processing cannabis and expand the system to new markets,” Keogh wrote in an email. Those markets include California, New Jersey and Michigan. “The legacy model for cultivation and processing, in an indoor environment, is not efficient from a construction standpoint nor is it sustainable to operate at scale.”

Chris Leavy

MedMen, Co-Chairman and Partner
Age: 46

Backstory: Leavy spent 20 years in asset management, including senior roles with heavy hitters like Morgan Stanley, Oppenheimer Funds and BlackRock, where he oversaw $115 billion in equity funds. Barron’s named him a “Top 100 Fund Manager.” Leavy retired in his early forties – but cut short his retirement to join Los Angeles-based MedMen in the spring of 2017. Since then, Leavy has led the company’s investment and acquisition efforts, applying the same strategies – buying undervalued assets in high-barrier markets – that earned him Wall Street kudos. Last year saw MedMen’s acquisition of Bloomfield Industries – a financially strapped New York MMJ business – and the closing of a $60 million fund to new investors. To round out a busy year, MedMen set the daunting goal of raising $250 million for a new investment fund, a record sum for the cannabis industry.

Why to Watch: Because of Leavy’s pedigree, MedMen’s sometimes-brash style and the firm having to close its first fund before it hit its $100 million target, Leavy and MedMen are on industry observers’ radars. That means people will be paying close attention to whether Bloomfield succeeds, and whether MedMen can actually raise $250 million. And if MedMen does hit its target, how will it spend the money?

Biggest Goal in 2018: “My priority is finding and securing for our investors great assets at undervalued prices. … We are in a buyers’ market right now and will be as long as the traditional private equity world remains on the sidelines,” he wrote in an email. “That means we have to remain disciplined and turn down deals that would be attractive in an environment where the buyers are many. By turning down these deals, we can deploy our capital in the most promising areas and maximize the return prospects for our investors.”

Bruce Linton

Canopy Growth, CEO
Age: Not available

Backstory: Linton co-founded Canopy (formerly Tweed) with entrepreneur Chuck Rifici in 2014. Linton – the CEO of a string of tech companies before his current gig – helped take Canopy public in April 2014. Linton has since transformed Canopy into Canada’s undisputed cannabis industry leader. The company’s fiscal year 2017 revenue totaled $31 million (CA$39.9 million), making it Canada’s largest MMJ company – although it has not turned a profit. Canopy also is the largest marijuana company by market capitalization, totaling $2.9 billion (CA$3.7 billion) as of late November.

Why to Watch: Canada is preparing to legalize recreational marijuana in mid-2018. As the industry leader, Linton and Canopy have the most to gain if legalization succeeds – and the most to lose if it stumbles. In October, Linton secured the cannabis industry’s first major investment from an alcohol company, with U.S. beverage giant Constellation Brands buying a 9.9% stake in Canopy for $190 million (CA$245 million). The move positions both companies to capitalize on the infused-drinks market. Canopy also is positioned to buy smaller rivals.

Biggest Goal in 2018: In a regulatory filing, Linton said Canopy’s “objective is to win and retain significant future market share,” adding “we remain focused on the expansion of our cultivation capacity, extraction platform and finished branded products programs.”

Asha Oroskar

Orochem Technologies, CEO
Age: Not available

Backstory: A molecular biologist, Oroskar might seem an unlikely revolutionary. But her Naperville, Illinois, company might well change the entire cannabis industry. Orochem invented a new way to extract CBD from the hemp plant and then sued the Colorado cannabis company it was working with, Whole Hemp. The dispute centers on technology that Orochem used to extract CBD from industrial hemp.

Why to Watch: The Orochem-Whole Hemp dispute needs to be on every cannabis company’s radar. Orochem wants to become the first company to get federal trade-secret protection for a cannabis invention. Orochem alleges that Whole Hemp officials pretended to be interested in producing CBD for Orochem when the company’s true intent was to discover proprietary extraction techniques. Orochem is suing in U.S. District Court in Illinois, not state court. As more marijuana companies work across state lines and build partnerships, the Orochem case could set an important precedent.

Biggest Goal in 2018: Oroskar declined to discuss the lawsuit. But the suit would indicate she’s interested in the cannabis market. “Orochem’s trade secrets provide it with significant advantages in the production of THC-free CBD,” according to the complaint.

Amy Poinsett

MJ Freeway, CEO
Age: 50

Backstory: Poinsett helped pioneer seed-to-sale software in the marijuana market. More than a thousand dispensaries and recreational shops nationwide use MJ Freeway’s Tracker point-of-sale software, and several states have signed contracts with the company to use its Leaf Data Systems seed-to-sale traceability program. But multiple outages in 2016 and 2017 saw retailers losing important data, leading to significant losses in revenue and a loss of customer confidence in the Denver company.

Why to Watch: Can Poinsett rebound from the string of outages? The company’s reputation has taken a major hit. And while Poinsett says MJ Freeways is on the upswing, speculation swirls over the company’s future. Despite the thin ice, MJ Freeway is poised to make significant gains on both the point-of-sale and state seed-to-sale traceability fronts. Last year, the company landed traceability contracts in Washington state and Pennsylvania. Looking ahead, Poinsett is pinning her hopes on the rollout of the company’s second-generation MJ Platform software, which she says will solve the outage issues.

Biggest Goal in 2018: Poinsett wrote in an email that she would like to increase MJ Freeway’s market reach to 60% of all businesses using its second-generation platform in regulated cannabis markets.

Kim Rivers

Trulieve, CEO
Age: 39 (approximate)

Backstory: As the head of Florida’s largest medical marijuana business, Rivers has overseen rapid growth in her state’s potentially monster market. Her company claims to have been the first to market when Florida transitioned from a CBD-only program to full-strength MMJ. Rivers also claims Trulieve was the first in the state to make an MMJ home delivery, perform an in-store sale and open a dispensary. As of late November, the company listed 13 dispensaries across Florida.

Why to Watch: Under Rivers’ leadership, Trulieve serves around a sixth of the state’s MMJ patients – a sizable chunk of revenue considering dispensary sales are forecast to be $600 million-$800 million in the next three to five years in the Sunshine State, according to the 2017 Marijuana Business Factbook. Can Rivers – who was unavailable for comment – continue Trulieve’s breakneck pace of expansion and remain the dominant player in this massive market?

Biggest Goal in 2018: Trulieve has laid out plans to have 25 dispensaries – the maximum allowed in Florida – open by the end of 2018.

Rob Sands

Constellation Brands, CEO
Age: 59

Backstory: Sands is a lawyer who rose to lead Constellation Brands, an alcoholic beverage giant that distributes popular beers, wines and liquors – from Corona beer and Robert Mondavi wine to Svedka vodka. This past year he become a pioneering figure in the marijuana industry after Constellation bought a 9.9% stake in Ontario-based Canopy Growth, with the option to raise that stake to just under 20%.

Why to Watch: Will New York-based Constellation up its stake in Canopy – or make other strategic investments in cannabis? And is the Canopy deal a warmup for Constellation to eventually become a big cannabis player in the United States? It would appear so. Sands told the Wall Street Journal his company is essentially gambling that it can learn enough in Canada to give it an edge in the “highly likely” event the United States legalizes marijuana.

Biggest Goal in 2018: Sands and Constellation haven’t said what they expect from the Canopy investment, and Sands declined interview requests. If Sands’ interviews with other media outlets are any guide, he has no plans to take his eyes off the alcohol market. He told CNBC last summer that Constellation plans to focus on acquiring shelf space for Constellation brands in stores. Will he apply that strategy to marijuana?

Sundie Seefried

Colorado Credit Union, CEO; Safe Harbor Private Banking, Chairwoman
Age: 56

Backstory: Seefried’s credit union handles about $80 million in monthly legal marijuana business deposits. How did she accomplish that? Seefried passed up retirement to see how her credit union could solve what she saw as a local community problem: marijuana businesses being forced to rely on cash, leaving them vulnerable to theft. Consulting with bankers, lawyers and cannabis business owners, Seefried developed a marijuana banking program – dubbed “Safe Harbor Private Banking” – based on rigorous compliance with the Obama-era Cole Memo. In 2017, she took her “Safe Harbor Private Banking” program and transformed it into a company with the same name. Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Arkansas have all been testing the new company’s program.

Why to Watch: Seefried hopes her Safe Harbor company will serve banks in about 20 states in 2018. How well the new company’s approach works or doesn’t work – and whether banking regulators will allow it to exist – will start to become clear.

Biggest Goal in 2018: “In addition to maintaining the safety and soundness of the credit union,” she wrote in an email, “we will be focused on bringing education and cannabis banking options to other financial institutions, allowing them to bank the industry and keep their communities safe, as we’ve done here in Colorado.”

Michael Steinmetz

Flow Kana, CEO
Age: 34

Backstory: Flow Kana, a San Francisco distributor that specializes in craft-grown marijuana, looks different than when Steinmetz launched it in 2015. Then, Steinmetz used technology and delivery drivers to bring cannabis grown by small farmers directly to consumers, spearheading a marijuana farm-to-table movement. Since then, Flow Kana has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in early 2017 it bought an 80-acre property in Northern California that was the former home of Fetzer Wines. Steinmetz plans to transform the property into a campus serving small growers.

Why to Watch: The January launch of California’s newly regulated marijuana market has fanned fears that small farmers will be forced out by “big marijuana.” Steinmetz aims to ensure that doesn’t happen by giving small growers a place where they can bring their crops for drying, curing and trimming – a process he said accounts for about 60% of growers’ costs. Steinmetz hopes to use this cooperative model to prove that small cannabis farmers can compete and be profitable.

Biggest Goal in 2018: “As California transitions into the adult-use recreational market in 2018, Flow Kana’s top priority is to help small cannabis farmers survive this evolution of the industry,” Steinmetz wrote in an email. “What we’ve seen in other states is the default vertical integration; but we are building a model that builds a healthy supply chain, while also supporting and serving the small farmers and the legacy that they have been cultivating for decades.”

Noah Stokes

The Cannabis Distribution Co. and CannaGuard, CEO
Age: 34

Backstory: Stokes is among those breaking new ground in the cannabis industry by fashioning a company that offers a wide range of services, from security and IT solutions to trimming and distribution. He initially founded Oregon-based CannaGuard Security in 2014 to offer compliance, armed guard and transport services. He and his team next built The Cannabis Distribution Company, which manages cannabis drying, trimming, storage and distribution for multiple Oregon MJ growers. (See story on page 82.) TCD Co., as the new business is called, is housed along with CannaGuard’s other companies under a new parent: OmniTek Holdings. The parent company has approximately 180 employees and offers customers a range of services, including security, curing, transport and storage.

Why to Watch: It remains to be seen whether Stokes can pull off his ambitious plans. Could this be too many irons in the fire? Or will other companies follow suit, spurred by his success?

Biggest Goal in 2018: Stokes plans to expand from Oregon and Washington state into the massive California market. He aims to establish a place where retailers and wholesalers alike can shop from a supply as large and consistent as possible.

Nancy Whiteman

Wana Brands, Co-owner
Age: 59

Backstory: Whiteman founded Boulder, Colorado-based Wana in 2010 “when the barriers for entry in Colorado were very low,” by her own account. Since then, she’s given Wana a multistate presence. In 2017, the company’s edibles were available in Colorado, Nevada and Oregon – with more states planned in 2018. Meanwhile, Wana has gone from five employees working in a 300-square-foot production facility to 100 workers laboring in a 17,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.

Why to watch: Wana is one of a few edibles brands that is positioned to become a truly national – if not international – infused products company. And 2018 could be the year it hits that milestone. “We’re currently in discussions (with potential business partners) in almost every territory where cannabis is legal or on the path to being legal,” Whiteman noted in an email. If her plans work out, Wana will have a business presence in the largest state cannabis markets come 2019.

Biggest goal in 2018: Expand. By early 2018, Wana should have product on shelves in Arizona. It also plans to have a footprint in Illinois and Florida in the first quarter of 2018. By the end of the year, Wana expects to have moved into California, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

8 Government Movers and Shakers to Watch

Government leaders will help shape the North American cannabis industry this year – for better or for worse. The following eight movers and shakers, listed in alphabetical order, are among those worth keeping tabs on in 2018.

Patrick Brown:

With current Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne facing possible election defeat this spring, it could fall on Opposition Leader Brown to roll out the legalization plan for Canada’s largest province. Will the pro-business Progressive Conservative allow private retailers? Good question. Brown is keeping his cards close to his chest.

Phil Murphy:

The incoming governor of New Jersey famously pledged to legalize recreational marijuana in his state within his first 100 days in office. It’s now on him and the Democratically controlled legislature to deliver on that promise. If successful, New Jersey could become a billion-dollar marijuana market within a few years of its launch.

Gavin Newsom:

Newsom is arguably the frontrunner in the California governor’s race – which will be decided in November. As lieutenant governor, he was a vocal supporter of recreational marijuana legalization in 2016. Taken together, Newsom could be in a major position of power to influence cannabis policy in the world’s largest marijuana market – assuming he wins, of course.

Dana Rohrabacher:

As a longstanding congressional Republican – and an ally of President Donald Trump – Rohrabacher has been the tip of the spear in the U.S. House of Representatives in protecting cannabis businesses with the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment. He’s also one of the co-founders of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and if anyone in Congress will be able to bend the ears of congressional leadership or even the White House on marijuana policy, it’s probably Rohrabacher.

Enrique Peña Nieto:

The president of Mexico signed off on medical marijuana legalization in his country in June 2017. And while he may have done so reluctantly, given his previously anti-marijuana public stances, his change of heart may signal that Mexico – and Latin America in general – could be much more open to marijuana reforms and legalization moves in the near future. In particular, cannabis advocates would prefer to see the nation’s MMJ program allow full-strength cannabis instead of only low-potency products, and that’s an arena in which Peña Nieto could have significant influence.

Jeff Sessions:

Donald Trump’s attorney general hasn’t clarified what he intends to do, or not do, about federal marijuana policy. That means 2018 could be another year of the status quo – with marijuana remaining illegal at the federal level but the Department of Justice simply choosing not to enforce federal law – or it could see the start of a real court fight between states that have legalized and the Trump administration.

Justin Trudeau:

In November, Canada’s House of Commons approved the government’s bill to legalize recreational marijuana. But significant hurdles remain in the Senate and there is opposition from some provinces. Whether the federal government hits its July implementation deadline depends largely on how Prime Minister Trudeau handles those challenges.

Donald Trump:

More than a year after winning the presidency, the U.S. commander in chief has still not spelled out a marijuana policy. While Trump said on the campaign trail he believed marijuana legalization or prohibition should be left to the states, he also hasn’t closed the door on federal enforcement by Attorney General Sessions.

Matt Lamers, Kristen Nichols, Omar Sacirbey, Bart Schaneman, John Schroyer and Roger Fillion contributed to this report.