2023 Notables Archives - Green Market Report

StaffSeptember 29, 2023


Luna Stower

Chief Impact Officer, Ispire

Luna Stower was employee No. 1 at Ispire. Under her leadership, the company grew to an 85-person company and completed an IPO on the Nasdaq. With that move, she became the only female exec of a cannabis vape company on the American stock exchange.

Luna is active in driving and developing social justice initiatives and educational and service-oriented campaigns at Ispire. She won best activist of 2023 award for that California cannabis awards, Cannabis Culture Advocate of the year in 2022 from the California Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, and the global legalization award by CannaPortugal.



2023 Notable Leaders in Cannabis

Interviewed by Brooke Bilyj

As a cannabis executive and educator, Luna Stower has been instrumental in building and scaling dozens of cannabis brands. Raised and based in the Bay Area, Stower advocates for social justice in the industry through government relations and give-back campaigns.

Stower currently serves as Chief Impact Officer (CIO) at Ispire Technology, a vape manufacturer in Los Angeles. She also judges the Emerald Cup Cannabis Competition Awards and speaks at international cannabis expos, while advising cannabis brands on responsible growth strategies.

Why did you get involved in the cannabis industry?

I got involved after leaving the public school education space, when I realized that education was at the core of normalizing and promoting plant medicine.

My experience in the traditional cannabis market, combined with expertise in curriculum development and psychology, puts me in a unique position to build market share and revenue for cannabis companies.

What challenges do you help cannabis brands overcome?

The biggest issues facing the cannabis industry include overregulation and over-taxation of what was already a thriving, economically rich industry. Many brands experience debilitating obstacles such as costly regulations around labeling and testing, expensive and limited licensing, market overproduction, and a ‘race to the bottom’ on prices.

Lobbying and education of the general public are vital to moving the legislative needle. I urge us as an industry to do a better job of teaming together to advocate for our common interests at local, state, and national levels. If we aren’t on the same page with our strategies, we’ll continue to fuel market confusion.

Why is social justice central to your mission?

Growing up in the Bay Area, I’ve seen the decimation of my community, especially those of color and in marginalized groups, by the racist and unfair drug war.

Many people in this space are so focused on making money and surviving that they forget that this entire industry was built by activists and advocates for AIDS patients and chronically ill people. We often leave these legacy leaders behind when we make business plans without giving back.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Becoming a C-level executive at a publicly traded cannabis company (Nasdaq: ISPR) was a highlight. Also: knowing that a woman could rise the ranks in such a saturated and competitive space.

Being acknowledged by several cannabis chambers of commerce and people’s choice awards as an outstanding and inspiring activist has been another highlight of my career. Working with women’s organizations and campaigns supporting people of color and marginalized folks has brought so much meaning and satisfaction to my work.

I’ll never forget the day that a team of us helped pass the law decriminalizing the use of entheogenic plants in the city of Oakland. Watching City Hall erupt in joy—surrounded by wonderful people who hold high standards as gatekeepers for this industry—keeps me motivated and tells me I’m on the right path.

What lessons can other businesses learn from the cannabis industry?

The way we collaborate with the community and the consumers is extremely unique. There’s a very blurred line between consumers and industry insiders, which keeps the industry down-to-earth and also keeps consumers on the cutting edge of the larger global conversation.

Connect with Stower and learn more at www.LunaStower.com

Sponsored by Ispire Technology

StaffSeptember 25, 2023


Jason Wild

Executive chairman, TerrAscend

Under Jason Wild’s stewardship, TerrAscend reported a full-year revenue of $247.8 million for 2022. Jason concluded that high-interest rates (related to debt) and punitive tax rates can’t coexist if the company wanted to be cash flow positive, so they worked on lowering the debt by $80 million. In December, Canopy Growth Corp. agreed to equitize its debt at around CA$5.10 ($3.78) per share, and that put TerrAscend in a strong position. Jason spearheaded the effort to list TerrAscend on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The effort involved a great deal of restructuring internally. Jason is a champion of the SAFE Banking Act that is stalled in Congress, and he has encouraged other leaders in the cannabis space to their voices heard on this imperative matter.

StaffSeptember 25, 2023


Jeremy Unruh

Senior vice president, public & regulatory affairs, PharmaCann

Jeremy Unruh is a founding employee of PharmaCann and served as the company’s first general counsel and chief compliance officer. In his current role, Jeremy manages all lobbying efforts and is responsible for PharmaCann’s strategic external matters, including legislative policy and public affairs, as well as organized labor and coordination with state and local regulators. He was intimately involved in the passage of the Illinois and New York adult-use laws.

Jeremy serves on the board of directors for the Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois, the Pennsylvania Cannabis Commission, and the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association. In addition, he volunteered for three years as director of the Chicago Division Board for the March of Dimes.

StaffSeptember 25, 2023


Paul Yau

CEO, Union Square Travel Agency: A Cannabis Store

Paul Yau is the co-founder and CEO of Union Square Travel Agency, New York City’s first public-private partnership to develop, own, and operate an adult-use dispensary. Paul was responsible for developing the partnership with The Doe Fund, a leading not-for-profit that is the licensee behind USQTA. As the private sector partner, Paul was the driving force behind winning one of the state’s first dispensary licenses, assembling the management team, locating and negotiating real estate, capital raising, and ultimately opening the dispensary.

Paul is also a member of the New York Chapter of Asian-Americans in Cannabis and a supporter of Shatterproof, a nonprofit helping eradicate the stigma of addiction.

StaffSeptember 25, 2023


Christina Ulman

Co-founder & president, Chamber of Cannabis

Christina Ulman co-founded Nevada’s largest cannabis industry-trade organization and grew membership to more than 60 business members and 200 individual members, representing all facets of the legal cannabis industry in the state. Tina also launched The Grow-up Co-op, a cooperative representing intentional brands and assisting to design and implement winning sales and marketing strategies. She helped pass legislation to bring consumption venues to Nevada and serves as a liaison between operators and their regulators and legislator.

In addition to Tina’s work at the Chamber, which is a volunteer-based organization, she was appointed to serve as commissioner for the Diversity, Social Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee for Nevada’s Cannabis Control Board.

StaffSeptember 25, 2023


Nancy Whiteman

Co-founder & CEO, Wana Brands

Nancy Whiteman co-founded Wana Brands to enhance lives and, as its CEO, has remained steadfast in her mission. In the past year, she expanded Wana into six new states, making Wana’s footprint 15 US states, Puerto Rico, and nine Canadian provinces. She also launched innovative new products, including Wana Optimals Quick Calm, which addresses anxious feelings in 15 minutes through a low-dose formulation. Nancy also inspired Wana’s annual campaign, 4ward20, to fight food insecurity by donating $35,000 across seven states where Wana is sold. In 2021, Nancy completed a $297.5 million transaction with Canopy Growth, giving Canopy 100% membership interest once a triggering event such as federal legalization occurs. Whiteman used $50 million of the proceeds to establish the Wana Brands Foundation.

StaffSeptember 25, 2023


Jason Vegotsky

Co-founder & CEO, Petalfast

As an entrepreneur with an extensive background in sales and business development, Jason Vegotsky has led Petalfast with a team of more than 50 professionals in sales, marketing, and brand management to revolutionize the go-to-market strategy for cannabis brands across California, Arizona, and Massachusetts. Petalfast’s expansion is a representation of the increased need for a national distribution partner, as many cannabis brands shift from a one-state to a multistate approach. Since its 2020 founding, Petalfast has built a diverse portfolio of high-profile cannabis brands to highlight the most creative product offerings and help both emerging and growing brands sell into and through retail channels in competitive markets.

StaffSeptember 25, 2023


John Sullivan

Executive vice president government affairs, Cresco Labs

For a person to influence legislative and regulatory change in cannabis, they must have a seat at the table and a voice in key meetings with politicians. In doing so, John Sullivan helped draft SAFE Banking Act language in the U.S. Senate and an Illinois proposal that allowed cannabis businesses to deduct ordinary business expenses from their income for state tax purposes. He also helped introduce the first bipartisan adult-use legislation in Pennsylvania, He is the current executive board member and chair of the Illinois Cannabis Association.

StaffSeptember 25, 2023


Shayda Torabi

Co-founder & CEO, RESTART

Shayda Torabi was one of the first licensees in Texas to open a retail operation and is one of the longest standing – no small feat in the state’s challenging environment. Shayda is a very public facing figure, helping to educate not only consumers but the community. She has also been recognized as a top cannabis influencer and educator by the Texas Hemp Awards. Shayda lobbied in Washington, D.C. last year on behalf of the national hemp industry and currently is involved in Texas’ 88th legislative session. Shayda is the president and an executive board member of the Texas Hemp Coalition, and she also sits on the board of Lake Superior State University, helping advise on their cannabis curriculum.

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