In Oregon, weed is power.
Well, money is power. And weed is money.
An estimated $250 million industry has sprung into being in just a single year. In part, the market already existed in the shadows—but never before has it been on the balance sheets, the tax rolls, and especially the legislative agenda in Oregon the way it is today.
In August, when Hillary Clinton came through town for a $2,700-a-head fundraiser, she expressed sympathy for the banking challenges facing the average marijuana farmer.
It was a shrewd gesture on her part. At least six of the people in Portland who had donated the maximum $2,700 to Clinton were marijuana entrepreneurs and activists.
The recreational cannabis industry in Oregon is being born at near-impossible speed, and the people who have a hand in shaping its future aren't just important to those with chronic pain, or who like to feel a little dizzy. They will have a hand in building what could prove to be one of this state's most vital industries.
The group we've assembled are the Portland-area people we believe will determine what recreational cannabis looks like in Oregon over the next few years.
From entrepreneurs to scientists to bureaucrats to growers, these are the influencers in Oregon—and some could eventually be among the most important individuals in cannabis nationally—people who are poised to become household names as marijuana moves out of leaky Ziploc bags and into the mainstream of American life. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
William Simpson: The Businessman
What does he do?
Founder and head grower, Chalice Farms; member, Oregon Liquor Control Commission rules advisory committee and Oregon Cannabis PAC.
Why does he matter?
If you met Chalice Farms owner William Simpson at church, you wouldn't assume he's one of the most ambitious marijuana growers in the state. But the broad-shouldered and clean-cut West Linn resident—who grew up in a Merchant Marine family learning jujitsu, judo and mixed martial arts—already owns three grows and four dispensaries in Dundee, Tigard and Portland. His newest project is a 24,000-square-foot grow site, office, processing center, dispensary and tourist destination. With his jock looks and garrulous affability, he's a poster boy for an industry he thinks needs to break free of old-school hippie-activist stigma. He's been courting not only regulators and state representatives in Oregon and Washington, but also investors. The former venture capitalist, ad agency owner and real-estate lender—"I'm a bit of a serial entrepreneur," he says—secured a $10 million seed investment from a private angel investor that he intends to use to expand to 10 dispensaries by the end of 2016. Simpson's always-on-blast energy level is enough to wear a listener out. "I'm a little OCD," he says. "When I start something, I go all in." Starting from his early days learning about the chemical properties of cannabis in after-hours horticultural labs, to his days spent optimizing charcoal and HEPA filtration systems, hospital-grade microbial control and groundwater-remediation methods, he applies the same obsessive nature to his premium-weed cultivation. It took him 2½ years of seeding, testing and cloning to find a single White Widow plant to put out under his Chalice brand. One leaves Simpson's office surprised he hasn't bought, sold and smoked you yet. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
"He's a good example of someone who has real-world, applicable business experience. He is very aboveboard. He's more than compliant—he goes above and beyond."
"Chalice is a million miles ahead, with grows that are everything you want in a place. They look beautiful, attractive, well-run—they're the nicest I've ever seen in years of going to grow sites."
Favorite strain: Mango Kush
"This is an easy one…Mango Kush. It's a strain we crossed ourselves. It's old-school Mango crossed with Hindu Kush. It has a very high myrcene content (a terpene that is extremely high in anti-inflammatory qualities). This strain is very euphoric and diminishes any anxiety one may have. It's an extremely fruity-smelling flower with a very sweet taste as well."
(Mango Kush also won the People's Choice award at the Dope Cup.)
Sara Batterby: Woman Growing
What does she do?
CEO of HiFi Farms; founding chairwoman of the Portland chapter of Women Grow.
Why does she matter?
Tall and stylish in low-stacked ankle boots, Batterby is applying her tech-management and venture-capital experience to the cannabis industry after 20 years of experience in London and Silicon Valley. "I come from a world where $1 million isn't a lot of money," she says in a crisp British accent. With HiFi Farms, Batterby is placing her bets on high-quality, low-toxicity marijuana with a low carbon footprint. She's already invested in expensive LED lights to save energy, and has plans to buy property to move her grow out of its current home into a larger space. Her model for growing cannabis is one that might be familiar to Portlanders: "I shop at New Seasons and farmers markets," says Batterby's grower, Cristian Koch, "and the same standards I apply to my food are the ones I apply to my weed." With the Portland chapter of Women Grow, Batterby is also attempting to make sure that women are involved in the industry from the ground up. "These women are ready to take their place at the table," she says. "They don't have to take down a bunch of legacy systems to do it." ADRIENNE SO.
"Sara has done great work leading the women growers' chapter, giving women a great forum to be educated on the industry and to network."
Favorite strain: MediHaze
"It has 1:1 cannabidiol (CBD) to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which calms you
down as it gets you high. Great for anxiety, PTSD or inflammation."
Jeremy Plumb: The Mad Scientist
What does he do?
Co-founder, Farma dispensary, Farma Botanicals, Newcleus Nurseries and Newcleus Labs; board member, Cannabis Genetics Preservation Society and Open Cannabis Project; member, OLCC rules advisory committee; electronic music producer as Plumblyne.
Why does he matter?
Asking Jeremy Plumb about cannabis is like drinking from a firehose. If there's something to know about cannabis, he either already knows it or he's in line to talk to the person who does. Known as one of the people behind the popular Cinex strain, he's one of the few people in the cannabis industry about whom the conventional wisdom is unequivocal: He's the smartest guy in the room, with degrees in cultural ecology and psychology, a well-regarded electronic musical project called Plumblyne, and time as a People's Food Co-op board president and mental health counselor before he joined the cannabis industry. Business partners say Plumb has a hard time saying no to any project, and this year has been especially flush: He educated policymakers on Capitol Hill alongside Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), tended his own vermicomposted and biodynamic garden, and just returned from Israel, where he connected cutting-edge cannabis research to the experienced growers of Oregon. He's at the forefront of agricultural sustainability and of codifying the complicated chemistry of cannabis' uses in medicine and therapy. "I want cannabis to be contextualized in wellness. As medicine," Plumb says. "We already know cannabis treats cancer and epilepsy and glaucoma. That's the beginning. Whether you're using this to be a better partner or parent, or play music or relax…those are all therapeutic uses." Whether it's legislators, the OLCC, weed farmers or cannabis scientists—when Jeremy Plumb talks, everyone seems to listen. WM. WILLARD GREENE.
"No one is more impassioned or committed to revolutionary change in cannabis. He has the type of dynamism you want in any industry, and he just happens to be here."
"He breaks the plant down to a level that I don't know if it has ever been broken down to before."
"Plumb is one of the most intellectual people in cannabis I've ever met; the only person in this industry I could talk to about cannabis, and it's like he's speaking Cantonese."
Plumb pays attention to "chemotypes" instead, marking what chemical effects are desired from the many possible compounds present in cannabis. "We can make blends and use different flowers with different compounds at different times," he says. "That's when we get into truly effective medicine."
Anthony Johnson: The Lifelong Advocate
What does he do?
Chief petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, which legalized the use and sale of cannabis in Oregon; member, OLCC rules advisory committee; editor, marijuanapolitics.com.
Why does he matter?
Anthony Johnson was not just crucial to legalizing recreational marijuana in our state—he was the most visible face of the campaign. This has given the former Lexington, Mo., high-school class president and football star near-infinite credit to burn in the cannabis and regulatory communities. His position on the OLCC's rules advisory committee gives him a lot of access to the people shaping rules for Oregon's emerging cannabis industry. So what's he pushing for? Something like the craft-beer industry, he says. Although he declares himself unopposed to out-of-state investment, Johnson also insists Oregonians will favor local mom-and-pop growers and sellers, and is pushing what he calls a libertarian agenda of low barriers of entry to the marijuana industry. Which is to say, he wants low fees and very little government regulation of growers. He is less libertarian, however, when it comes to preserving the existing medical-marijuana program: He'd like to put money from the recreational industry into a program for low-income cannabis patients. Johnson's picture hangs on the wall of a lot of dispensaries as a hero, but his old-school activist style and frequent political alliances with Southern Oregon growers have chafed some of the new crop of business-oriented growers and retailers. ANTHONY MACUK.
"He's a champion of the industry. He's done a great deal to open up the market for everyone."
"I think he's very connected to the medical [cannabis] community and that's where he feels the most comfortable. The medical community lets him be a hero."
Favorite strain: Blue City Diesel
"Because I love the smell of it so much."
Amy Margolis: The Consigliere
What does she do?
Lawyer and partner at Emerge Law Group, which specializes in cannabis; executive director, Oregon Cannabis Association and Oregon Cannabis PAC; member, OLCC regulation and compliance advisory subcommittee.
Why does she matter?
If the face of marijuana legalization is Anthony Johnson, the most prominent face of Oregon marijuana regulation is Amy Margolis, a Seattle-raised criminal defense and administrative law attorney who has a tattoo of a mandala on each shoulder and the ear of every cannabis regulator in the state. For years, Margolis had defended people placed in legal jeopardy for marijuana offenses. But as founder of the Oregon Cannabis PAC—a committee formed in February 2014 to help medical growers figure out a licensing system—Margolis now presides over a 50-strong biweekly meeting of some of the most active growers, dispensary owners and processors in the industry. The PAC's business-forward stances in favor of allowing out-of-state-investment and imposing more stringent quality-control regulation have placed the PAC—and often Margolis—at odds with a longer-standing marijuana activist community leery of venture-capital money and government regulation. "Sometimes I ask myself why I do it," says Margolis. "I think it's because it's fun." MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
"She was really just battling away quietly on people's behalf back when there was no industry. Amy has done a really amazing thing—she built a law firm, put together the PAC."
"She represents a lot of big-money interests, and the policies she promotes favor the industry over patients and consumers."
"Amy has been one of the best influences on cannabis in the state of Oregon so far—there's no bullshit with her. She's black and white. She's realistic."
Favorite strain: Blueberry Kush or Cannatonic
"Honestly, anything that helps me sleep. Like a Blueberry Kush or Cannatonic. I really came to cannabis for personal use as a way to beat a crazy period of insomnia five years ago."
Jesce Horton: The Minority Advocate
What does he do?
National chairman, Minority Cannabis Business Association; co-owner, Panacea Valley Gardens farm and Panacea dispensary.
Why does he matter?
Jesce Horton, newly elected chairman of the MCBA, is one of the very few strong minority voices in an industry that has, until recently, heavily favored white men comfortable with working off the books. He's a cannabis stakeholder who intends to lower barriers of entry for minority entrepreneurs, noting that anything making it harder to enter the market will disproportionately affect minorities who may have lower access to funds and social capital. A Florida State-trained engineer and energy-efficiency expert, Horton began growing cannabis privately in 2012 for Portland patients, then put his previous career to use with family farm Panacea Valley Gardens—experimenting with computer-controlled temperature control, venting and lighting to help lower the carbon footprint of cannabis grows. His new MCBA has not been very visible yet—mostly just fundraisers and organizational meetings—but Horton has already had the ear of multiple OLCC rules advisory committee members. He has also been tapped to speak on energy efficiency at the Marijuana Business Conference in Las Vegas. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
"I see him as a trailblazer in particular in the African-American community, taking ownership in a business that will soon be lucrative. People of color have been discriminated against in the legal trade of drugs and alcohol. When I see someone going the legal route, and removing barriers and stigmatization, I find it remarkable. I'm hoping he helps open doors for people of color to participate."
Favorite strain: Goji OG
"It's really a joy to grow. Some strains can be more difficult or less pleasurable. It's one of my favorites to grow and to consume. It gives you a sativa-based high that's motivational."
Noah Stokes: The Security Guy
What does he do?
CEO and president of Lake Oswego cannabis-security firm CannaGuard Security and home-security firm OmniGuard.
Why does he matter?
CannaGuard owner Noah Stokes is clean-cut with a linebacker's frame—the sort of guy who looks like he might own a security company. But he's more politically savvy than his role might immediately suggest. The security consultant has done fundraising for state Rep. Ann Lininger (D-Lake Oswego), co-chairwoman of the marijuana committee in the Oregon Legislature, and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). Stokes is on the committee advising the OLCC on cannabis security standards, and is a voting member of the Oregon Cannabis PAC. He wants the state to tighten security requirements for cannabis—in part to protect employees and customers from robberies in a business that remains cash-heavy because traditional banking is still off-limits to the industry. Stokes' company provides much of the security for Oregon cannabis businesses, from growers to dispensaries, with sophisticated sensor and camera systems that allow monitoring by business owners as well as regulatory authorities and law enforcement. Stokes is also lobbying to allow normal banking services and the use of the federal standard tax deduction for cannabis businesses. He believes if venture capital is allowed into the market, Oregon's cannabis industry could surpass Washington's within a year. WALKER MACMURDO.
"He's active in politics, he's on the subcommittees, and he's crushing the security competition. Nobody's in a league with him."
"His security systems far exceed anybody else's."
Favorite strain: None
Stokes doesn't have a favorite, but says he's tried a couple, including a homemade edible. That last one apparently didn't go so well.
Jeremy Pratt: Mary Jane's Fred Meyer
What does he do?
Owner of Nectar, the largest dispensary chain in Portland.
Why does he matter?
On his own dime, Jeremy Pratt has managed to build the largest retail marijuana chain in Portland city limits. He's been growing medical marijuana in Oregon for 14 years after moving from Colorado. Before that, he worked in restaurants and as a traveling salesman in Nebraska. But Pratt moved to Oregon so he could grow medical cannabis legally—he needed it in part as a palliative for old football injuries. Over the past year, he's expanded his dispensary operations to four locations. In our guide to Portland-area dispensaries, our reviewer said that with its "one-stop-shop theme, quality wares and convenient locations, Nectar is fast becoming the Freddy's of cannabis." And it will soon rival the grocery chain in numbers, with plans to expand to 10 or more locations, and two more in the process of building out. But despite his stores' ready accessibility to first-time buyers, Pratt says he also wants to maintain a physician-supported regimen of medical products, and hopes medical and recreational labels will be allowed to combine. He's also quick to say his team isn't all that big, while then mentioning meetings with Nectar store managers, purchasing managers and a human resources department. Pratt may be modest, but his business soon won't be. TYLER HURST.
"The guys from Nectar are way ahead. Four dispensaries, grows from Southern Oregon all the way to Portland. They're smart guys who've done a nice job with their branding."
Favorite strain: Harlequin
Pratt says its anti-inflammatory properties are great for aches and pains, "with an uppity head lift."
Madeline Martinez: The Cultural Ambassador
What does she do?
Owner, World Famous Cannabis Cafe; founder, NORML Women's Alliance.
Why does she matter?
Madeline Martinez became "accidentally" famous—a status denoted on the sign of her World Famous Cannabis Cafe on Southeast Foster Road—by opening the world's first medical-marijuana smoking lounge in 2009. Now that anyone over the age of 21 can consume marijuana legally at the cafe, she has fallen into another position: ambassador to Oregon's cannabis tourists, bridging the gap between new retail customers and the longtime marijuana community with a public-private smoking lounge offering the Amsterdam experience. Consider the cafe a template for weed tourism in a state that still outlaws public smoking indoors. A $10 daily "club membership fee" allows entry to what's booked as a private party. For now, it's the only credible lounge of its type, and Martinez's cafe is heavily propped up by her long-standing reputation in the cannabis community: Ever since smoking her first joint in 1967, she has been a passionate activist fighting marijuana prohibition, and she was the first Latina on the NORML board of directors. She tells WW: "I'm just looking forward to a time when my grandkids will look up at me and ask, 'Marijuana was illegal?'" LAUREN TERRY.
"Madeline is one of the most respected longtime activists in Oregon. She has dedicated most of her life to this moment, and I give her the utmost respect for her drive and persistence."
"She is fearless, ageless and a lot of fun to be around."
Favorite strain: Medicine Woman
"I'm more of an indica girl. I'm too hyper for sativas! Medicine Woman, maybe. I like the full-on indicas for euphoria without the stress. It helps me with anxiety and depressive tendencies."
Ashley Preece-Sackett (Age 36) and Jeremy Sackett (Age 33): The Test Cases
What do they do?
Co-owners of Cascadia Labs, one of the state's largest and most respected laboratories for testing marijuana potency and pesticides. Jeremy serves on the state committee creating rules for such labs.
Why do they matter?
Cannabis legalization revealed an almost comical lack of standards for testing the strength of marijuana, and whether it contains dangerous levels of mold or pesticides. As WW reported earlier this year, growers were required by the state to get their flowers tested—but the labs themselves were completely unregulated. (Many of the more than 20 locations across the state resemble one-hour photo shops more than research centers.) The Sacketts have combined their scientific creds—he's a chemist, she's a horticulturalist—to change that. "The worst thing that could happen for this industry is a mislabeled product," Jeremy says. "Our service is defensible data." Cascadia Labs, founded in Bend, is seeking to become the first testing laboratory given an official thumbs-up from the Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program, and it's opening a new lab in Southwest Portland. Expect the Sacketts to remain at the forefront of debate over how labs measure potency—they are pressing hard for cannabis producers to label products differently depending on whether they're inhaled, eaten or applied. AARON MESH.
"There are a number of labs that truly have public safety in mind. Jeremy and Ashley have taken it even farther. They've developed a level of trust in the industry that maybe some of the other labs haven't."
Jeremy likes Sour Diesel, and Ashley prefers Casey Jones—but mostly as vaporized oil. "I'm not really a flower person," she says.
Travis (Age 40) and Leah Maurer (Age 37): The Social Engineers
What do they do?
Travis is a cannabis consultant, longtime grower and co-founder of marijuana legalization group New Approach Oregon and its Missouri counterpart, New Approach Missouri. Leah is co-chairwoman of the Portland chapter of Women Grow, an organization devoted to bringing women into the cannabis industry. Both are co-owners of the Weed Blog, one of the largest websites covering the cannabis industry.
Why do they matter?
Travis and Leah Maurer are credited for leveraging social connections to make big things happen. Travis is considered one of the key players of Oregon's successful marijuana legalization effort—he convinced Measure 91's out-of-state funders that a 2014 bid was possible. During the campaign, he ceded the spotlight to college friend Anthony Johnson, in part because of a March 2013 weed bust in Missouri that targeted Travis for a small, unsanctioned medical grow. Leah, a former schoolteacher, is the organizational force behind the nation's largest and fastest-growing chapter of Women Grow. For Women Grow's most recent event, she secured Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) as a speaker. Travis' current project for Oregon politics? He wants to eliminate restrictions on out-of state investment in the cannabis industry, calling them bad for business. He has, of course, already had success wooing out-of-state investors. "The activists will be the most successful businesspeople," he says. ZACH MIDDLETON.
"[Leah is] amazing. She's done incredible work, she's an amazing community organizer. She's done a really great job cracking open stereotypes around cannabis. She really knew a lot of the people in the industry and in the activist movement, so she was able to bring that kind of cannabis legitimacy."
"The work Travis Maurer did to organize around Measure 91—he was very much the grassroots piece of that bill being passed into law."
Travis prefers a sativa-dominant strain of his own devising he calls "Maurer-juana" ("the strain that ended prohibition in Oregon"), while Leah kicks it easy with Blue Dream.
Erika Yoshida Watson (Age 34) and Sam Watson (Age 31): The Power Couple
What do they do?
Erika runs Expanse Commercial Real Estate, a realty company specializing in the cannabis industry; Sam runs GreenSky Collective, a marijuana dispensary on North Interstate Avenue.
Why do they matter?
There are three keys to success in business, the old saying goes—and all of them are real estate. In cannabis, Erika Yoshida Watson is the woman with the key chain. "We searched for over a year before we found this place," says Sam Watson from the backroom of the quaintly owl-logoed GreenSky Collective, the couple's slick dispensary whose service Sam says he modeled on the white-glove treatment at Morton's steakhouse. But he had the luxury of waiting for the perfect location on North Interstate Avenue: parking, a busy thoroughfare with MAX transit, plenty of homes nearby, and no dispensaries or schools anywhere near. That's because the realtor was his wife, Erika. Erika is the daughter of sauce tycoon Junki Yoshida, and although her father doesn't invest directly in cannabis, her real-estate company, Expanse, is backed by the Yoshida Group. It's the first real-estate company in Oregon to specialize in weed properties, fielding daily calls from potential cannabis investors and bringing in money from out-of-state investors in Colorado, Florida and Chicago. The couple's ambition is also evidenced by their nearly 8,000-attendee, heavily sponsored Whiskeytown-USA festival and their recent move into growing to vertically integrate their dispensary, whose property they own. The Watsons are waiting to expand until the regulatory environment settles. But while they're in no hurry to expose themselves to risk, a lot of the bets being placed in this new industry are being laid down on a board drawn by Erika. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
"They're entrepreneurs in an exciting mix of commercial real estate and cannabis. Obviously Erika comes from a line of strong entrepreneurial stuff, and she's carrying on that tradition. They're a team, and with Whiskeytown as well they've done a great job covering the vices."
Favorite strain: Super Silver Haze
"I'd have to say my very favorite of all time is Super Silver Haze," Sam says. "I love the high, I love how heady it is, I love that I can still go about my day. I'm a big sativa buff—what you'd call an ADD stoner."
John Bayes: The Master Grower
What does he do?
Grower, Green Bodhi farm; owner, Calyxes dispensary.
Why does he matter?
John Bayes has an almost mystical reputation for growing some of the best marijuana flower in Oregon. His reputation is enhanced in part by his demeanor—he's the tribal-tattooed guy who traveled the world on a surfboard and came back Buddhist, and his Instagram shows him offering CBD tincture to the Dalai Lama's entourage. But it's also backed up by 15 years of experience, not only growing his own indoor flower but also teaching others. The California native—he once worked in a chemical plant, along with bartending and construction work—is now a private cannabis consultant fostering organic-based standards in clients across Oregon. He is the first grower in the state to adopt Clean Green Certified standards, a nationally recognized program that mirrors USDA organic standards but applies them to cannabis, and he's been working to bring other farms in compliance with organic farming standards. TYLER HURST.
"It's good to see someone working to make this part of the agricultural industry safe for consumption, and really going beyond what is required by the state. He seems like a good guy who will be setting the tone for what 'organic' will mean."
"His cannabis is phenomenal. But he truly believes in everything being organic. I don't think that's realistic. I think of it more like a grocery store: Some of the tomatoes are organic and they're really expensive. Some of them aren't."
Favorite strain: Hazy Kush
An uplifting and euphoric high, bred in-house and parent of the Kush strains at Calyxes dispensary.
More People to Watch in Portland Cannabis
U.S. Rep.Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)
Earl Blumenauer has been pushing for marijuana legali
zation for years, endorsing Measure 91 during its campaign. Now he's a favored guest speaker at every cannabis-industry event and one of the most prominent advocates for national legalization, going as far as to predict that pot would be removed federally as a Schedule 1 drug as early as 2020.
State Rep. Ann Lininger (D-Lake Oswego)
Yalie Ann Lininger has long been one of the medical-marijuana industry's champions—and is now a recreational-industry booster on the state floor in her role as co-chairwoman of the legislative committee on marijuana legalization. Most recently, she's been talking up the Southern Oregon jobs boom she expects to help the economy in her native Ashland.
State Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland)
Ginny Burdick, Lininger's fellow co-chairwoman on the state marijuana committee, has emphasized pot-tax revenues. That places her at odds with Lininger and many in the industry when she pushed a bill through the Senate (SB 964) in May that would require tighter regulation of what she called "black market" medical grows. The bill is currently tied up in House committee.
Steve Marks, Oregon Liquor Control Commission executive director
Marijuana regulation has so far suffered from a power vacuum at the state agencies: Oregon Health Authority marijuana regulator Steve Wagner is stepping down, and OLCC weed czar Tom Burns was fired in March. Marks, who fired Burns after he allegedly leaked information and then covered his tracks, has stepped into the role of top weed regulator as the OLCC draws up the rules that dispensaries will have to follow beginning in 2017.
Chris Lyons, OLCC Recreational Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee chairwoman
Chris Lyons is an insider's outsider. A former director of both the OLCC and Oregon Lottery (she resigned in 2002 after questions surfaced about improper spending), Lyons is now in a pivotal position. As chairwoman of the OLCC's Recreational Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee, she is in charge of guiding and communicating industry input to the OLCC's policymaking arm. Multiple industry members, however, have privately expressed misgivings about her perceived tightness with the OLCC.
Mowgli Holmes, Phylos Bioscience co-founder and chief scientific officer
Mowgli Holmes, a Columbia-trained scientist, is at the forefront of mapping the weed genome and is also active politically, serving on the OLCC's rules advisory committee and sitting on the board of the Cannabis Safety Institute, a group of scientists who advise governments on how to regulate cannabis.
Christopher Malott, Phyre and Highly Distributed owner
Former software engineer Christopher Malott is among a new breed of multifaceted entrepreneurs joining the cannabis industry. Under the name Phyre, his company grows cannabis, produces extracts, creates software and offers consulting for new cannabis businesses. And like Brad Zusman of Canna-Daddy's, Malott has branched out into distribution, with a network of more than 100 dispensaries offering goods from his network of growers and makers of edibles and extracts.
Jesse Peters, Eco Firma Farms owner-grower
Jesse Peters has been growing pot for over 20 years—he's attempting to bring his West Linn farm to total carbon neutrality—and is one of the first names mentioned when you ask who is growing the best cannabis in Oregon. He's attentive enough to small variances in his product that he's considering marking vintages, just like wine: 2014 Super Silver Haze. Peters' prowess has given him clout in the industry, and he's been acting as a growers' advocate with city and state governments. He is a founding member of the Oregon Cannabis PAC.
Brad Zusman, Canna-Daddy's owner
Dispensary owner Brad Zusman has been a divisive figure for some—brazen in a new industry that's not far from its activist roots. But his version of vertical integration may prove powerful for recreational marijuana. In addition to running Canna-Daddy's, Zusman makes a slickly marketed Blaze Bars line of cannabis-infused chocolates, and operates a distribution company, Busy Bee, that connects farms to a network of 125 dispensaries across the state. He's waiting for the saturated industry to shake out before expanding, but he plans to build a chain after taking over the sites of failed dispensaries.
Aaron Mitchell, La Mota owner
Aaron Mitchell, a Florida-raised real estate and skate-shop entrepreneur—as well as a former pro skateboarder in California—has been aggressively expanding his Portland-based La Mota chain of dispensaries. He's already opened four locations (two in Portland, and one apiece in the small Oregon towns of Roseburg and Rockaway Beach) with at least seven more in the planning stages. They decided to open their coastal location after discovering that medical-cannabis patients at their Portland dispensaries were driving all the way from Tillamook, says Rockaway manager Connie Mitchell, who is also Aaron's mother. With their next spot in tiny Shady Cove, near Crater Lake, La Mota will continue their focus on expanding to areas with little or no access to dispensaries.
Correction: In the print version of this story, we misidentified the father of La Mota owner Aaron Mitchell, due to a coincidence in naming. Mitchell's father was Robert Mitchell, of Florida and Ohio. We are aware of no connection between La Mota and the late Artie Mitchell of California. Willamette Week regrets the error.
Pure Green co-owners
Meghan and Matt Walstatter are founding members of the Oregon Cannabis PAC and longtime growers who have helped bring in interested parties to the cannabis industry. The couple are very vocal politically and at business conferences, with a combined 40 years of growing experience. Pure Green, on Northeast Sandy Boulevard, is one of the city's most prominent dispensaries.
Don Morse, Human Collective II owner and Oregon Cannabis Business Council founder
Don Morse owned one of the first dispensaries in Oregon—he moved it to Portland in 2012 after his Tigard business was raided by Washington County drug investigators. He began the Oregon Cannabis Business Council to lobby for a tightly regulated dispensary market. If there's a public meeting about marijuana, chances are Morse will be speaking at it.
Michael Lindars, Lucid Design owner
Michael Lindars' company Lucid Design is not the first to do ads and marketing for cannabis—you've probably seen those weird-beard NORML spots on late-night TV—but it's by far the slickest and hippest design, marketing and ad company to jump feet-first into the industry. "Before we got into this, there were a lot of Rambos and clowns and colorful unicorns," Lindars says. Lucid Design will probably have a hand in determining what the pot industry will look like in Portland. Alongside clients like BMW and Pioneer Courthouse Square, Lucid is doing branding for Left Coast Connection and Canna-Daddy's dispensaries, and it designed those distinctive pyramidal boxes by leading extracts company Golden XTRX.
Matt Maletis, Maletis Holdings owner
Matt Maletis is not in the cannabis industry. But he's a person to watch in the future. His family's business, Maletis Beverage, is one of Oregon's largest players in beer distribution, going back to 1935. Matt Maletis is not part of that company, but he plans to use some of his family's distribution knowledge (and capital) to invest in the cannabis industry once the rules have been established. "There's a huge need for the middle of the industry," Maletis says. "Some of the best growers and retailers are getting figured out. In terms of supply chain and services, there are things we need to bring to this industry, inclusive of wholesale distribution, processing and testing." Maletis served on the OLCC advisory committee for wholesaling, and expects to continue in an advisory capacity with the OLCC.
CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Cascadia Labs has been certified by the Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program. In fact, Cascadia is in the process of seeking that certification. WW regrets the error.