We’re proud to present our second annual list of the 100 most influential figures in the cannabis space.

The High Times 100 celebrates the 100 most influential people in the cannabis world. From entrepreneurs and activists to entertainers and cultivators, the women and men on this illustrious list are shaping the current cannabis industry. Learn more about the most influential people in marijuana in our second annual HT 100.

The High Times 100 of 2019

Sam Dorf, Esq.
Verano Holdings

A true people person and merit-based application strategist, Verano Holdings’ co-founder and chief growth officer’s strengths lie in building solid teams, creating strong alignments via funding and real-estate assets, and working with local governments to help organize strong applicants. Sam Dorf has raised over $140 million and has secured 19 licenses across eight states. To top it off, his charity supports woman’s shelters, domestic-abuse prevention, job creation and helping veterans in need.

See the complete list on High Times Website.

Sam Dorf, of Deerfield, is the co-founder of Verano Holdings, a Chicago-based marijuana company. (Courtesy of Verano Holdings)

Daniel I. DorfmanPioneer Press

Deerfield resident Sam Dorf is the co-founder and chief growth officer of Verano Holdings, a Chicago-based marijuana company that does business in multiple states.

Verano Holdings is preparing to merge with Harvest Health and Recreation later this summer. Dorf recently talked with Pioneer Press about his work in the cannabis industry as lawmakers in Springfield continue to weigh whether to legalize recreational marijuana use in Illinois.

Q: How did you become a part of the cannabis industry?

A: I was at John Marshall Law School and while I was there, one of my buddies was one of the first individuals who started a cannabis company in Colorado. I saw the medical benefits in the growing industry of the cannabis business, and I helped him raise funding and structure his company while I was in law school and watched the company expand in Colorado. I saw there was a big opportunity there to grow businesses and improve people’s lives.

Q: What kind of resistance do you still get from law enforcement or the public regarding cannabis?

A: As we go throughout the country now, as we are arguably the largest operator throughout the U.S., we get very little resistance. Any resistance that we do see is quickly overcome by education. It is a lack of education of what is a dispensary and what products are being sold and what is the security like. Once you start to educate the community that you are going into, they quickly see the benefits of not only the medical benefits of cannabis, but also the economic benefits of cannabis and the job creation. A lot of manufacturing has left the U.S. and we bring a lot of skilled jobs and skilled laborers to communities that are under-served. Once you explain what the company is, people adapt to it extremely quickly.

Q: What will your new role be in the new company?

A: It is a really a merger of the two companies and it is really going to be business as usual for us at Verano Holdings. We will help grow the public company and everything we desire.

Q: How do you see the business evolving over the next few years?

A: I think it is poised for explosive growth and I think where we stand today is where Canada stood 24 months ago as a march up to national legalization. I think this is going to be one of the largest industries in the U.S. It is full steam ahead.

Q: What do you enjoy about your work?

A: I enjoy growing a business and at the same time, helping people. If you stand at our dispensaries, you see that people are taking themselves off of opioid pills because of cannabis. There has never been an overdose death due to cannabis, and we are seeing a rapid decline in the states that allow for medical and recreational cannabis in opioid abuse and overdoses. That is the most satisfying thing for me as not only can I have a successful career, but I can help save lives at the same time.

Shout Out is a weekly feature in which we introduce our readers to their fellow community members and local visitors throughout suburban Chicago.

Daniel I. Dorfman is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

POINT ROBERTS, Wash. and DELTA, British Columbia, March 26, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Investorideas.com, a leading investor news resource covering hemp and cannabis stocks continues with our two part series on how the growing cannabis market is boosting ancillary markets, with part two focusing specifically on acquisitions in the cannabis sector.

According to a recent Forbes article, “most of the businesses growing, processing and selling cannabis across the United States are small independently-held entities. That may change in 2019 which looks like a big year for industry mergers, acquisitions and expansion. Large companies, like those in the food, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries have mostly stayed on the sidelines, held back by regulatory concerns, but are now expected to enter the market. The cannabis industry still has a mom and pop feel but that could change rapidly.”

Canopy Growth Corp. ( NYSE: CGC ) ( TSX: WEED ) is a strong example of one such larger company making acquisitions, having recently acquired AgriNextUSA, a hemp enterprise led by CEO, Geoff Whaling, that has been at the forefront of hemp advocacy and building a vibrant hemp sector in the US. The acquisition is expected to accelerate Canopy Growth’s entry into key American jurisdictions as regulations surrounding the full use of hemp as a crop implementation.

SinglePoint ( OTC: SING ), a company with a focus on acquiring companies that will benefit from the injection of growth capital and technology integration in mobile payments, ancillary cannabis services and blockchain solutions, has been very busy making recent acquisitions in Cannabis and most recently solar, all which could benefit their cannabis division was featured in Part One of this series.

The company offers mobile Web checkout gateway services which allow mobile users to purchase goods and services directly from Web-enabled mobile phones through credit or debit cards. It also sells hemp products through SingleSeed.com, supplies hydroponic supplies and nutrients to commercial and individual farmers through retail and online stores. SinglePoint, Inc. was founded in 2007 and is based in Phoenix, Arizona.

Harvest Health and Recreation ( OTC: HRVSF ) ( CSE: HARV ) recently announced that it would buy competitor Verano Holdings for $850 million in an all-stock deal, marking the largest US cannabis deal to date. The combined company will be one of the country’s largest multi-state operators, presiding over as many as 200 facilities in 16 states.

Steve White, the co-founder and CEO of Harvest, commented on the state of the market in a recent CNBC article. “Presently, we’re in a phase that people are referring to it as a land grab,” White told CNBC’s ’Fast Money.’ “We plan on ... developing the largest retail footprint, the largest retail platform, in the United States, and with this acquisition, I think we’ve done that.”

Green Thumb Industries Inc. ( CSE: GTII ) ( OTC: GTBIF ) also recently announced the closing of the acquisition of For Success Holding Company, the Los Angeles-based creator of the lifestyle suite of Beboe branded cannabis products.

Beboe is the leader in luxury cannabis whose mission is to ‘destigmatize’ legal cannabis through heightened experience and education. Beboe is best known the thoughtful design aesthetic of its iconic rose gold vaporizing pens and edible pastilles, and each product is curated with a unique blend of socially dosed THC and CBD. Beboe is currently available in more than 125 retail locations in California and Colorado and via home delivery across California. In 2018, Beboe launched a direct-to-consumer hemp-derived CBD line of products and introduced several collaborations, including a CBD-infused drink with wellness brand Dirty Lemon.

In early 2019, Barneys New York announced an exclusive partnership with Beboe for a first-of-its-kind luxury cannabis lifestyle and wellness concept shop, “The High End.” The shop will debut at Barneys’ Beverly Hills flagship location in March, with plans to expand to additional locations in the near future. The collaboration includes exclusive, special edition packaging and a silver Beboe vaporizer pen in celebration of the project. With the acquisition by GTI, Beboe products will become available beyond California and Colorado with distribution in select markets.

This “land grab” momentum is expected to continue through 2019 as the cannabis sector expands and consolidates within its own sector and with its ancillary markets. This may mean that the companies making early acquisitions will have a much better chance of success in the market.

Part one The SunnySide of Cannabis; Cannabis Growth Boosts Solar Market; (TSX: $VFF.V) (OTC: $SING) (CSE: $HUGE.C) (CSE: $BGRD.C) https://www.investorideas.com/news/2019/renewable-energy/03211Cannabis-Solar.asp

For investors following cannabis stocks, Investor Ideas has created a stock directory of publicly traded CSE, TSX, TSXV, OTC, NASDAQ, NYSE, ASX Marijuana/Hemp Stocks

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CHICAGO and LOS ANGELES, Nov. 13, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --  Verano Holdings, LLC (Verano™) today announced it has entered a partnership with Double Barrel, LLC, makers of the world’s first, connoisseur-class dual-oil chamber vaporizing system, for exclusive distribution by Verano throughout the US, excluding California and Nevada. Double Barrel, created for the sophisticated-yet-overlooked connoisseur, has a patented, high-end design utilizing Flex Circuit Technology for precise heat ramp, giving the consumer the very best mouth feel, taste, and cannabinoid and terpene activation on the market today.

“Verano is synonymous with luxury, finest quality organic cannabis that is serviced with the utmost personal care by highly trained professionals in our Zen Leaf dispensaries. What better way to extend the Verano high-touch, high quality experience than through an exclusive partnership with Double Barrel to deliver the smoothest, most customizable and unique vaping experience available,” stated Sam Dorf, Verano Chief Strategy Officer. “Verano’s multi-state footprint reaches some of the most discerning customers who value our luxury, organic brands and who desire accessories with the panache and the same superior level of quality – which Double Barrel delivers with both barrels.”

“We’ve applied the most advanced vaping technology and manufacturing techniques to the Double Barrel which allow for a precision, controlled smooth pull from combining multiple suppliers’ premium strains without the concern of double dosing,” stated Double Barrel’s Chief Brand Officer Ann Skalski. “Verano and Double Barrel share a passion for superior quality, exquisite taste and operational excellence taken to a whole new level, making Verano the ideal partner for sharing our Double Barrel products with the world.”

Double Barrel vaporizers initially will be distributed by Verano’s Zen Leaf dispensaries and other affiliated dispensaries in Illinois by mid -December – just in time to treat yourself for the holidays.  Verano will quickly expand distribution to Maryland, Nevada, and Florida in first quarter 2019, with additional states to follow in 2019.

Double Barrel achieved notoriety for partnering with L.A. jeweler Gerard Alexander of Saint Jewels to create the Double Barrel Diamond, the world's first $100,000 vaporizer. Clocking in at 180 grams of solid white gold and studded with over 3,000 21-carat diamonds, each device is made to order.

“While we would be happy to facilitate custom orders for bejeweled Double Barrel vaporizers, we’re thrilled to offer every customer who purchases any Double Barrel vaporizer the equally smooth premium mouth feel, taste, with cannabinoid and terpene activation that one would get in the $100,000 diamond-crusted Double Barrel,” noted Anthony Marsico, Verano Chief Retail Operating Officer. “Verano’s premium oils, combined with the Double Barrel vaporizer, promises to deliver the brightest vaporizing experience anywhere.”

Verano, a newly-minted Chicago-based marijuana company, raised $120 million in private funding that will be used to bankroll expansion in Illinois and beyond.

After consolidating several existing cannabis operations and acquiring another, Verano now controls four cultivation centers and six dispensaries in Illinois, Florida, Maryland and Nevada, according to a statement from the company. Ataraxia, which operates a cultivation facility in Albion and three dispensaries across the state, is among the consolidated companies.

“This transformative investment will fast-track our long-term goal to dominate the most important growth industry in the United States,” said George Archos, CEO of both Verano and Ataraxia. “Even with our accelerated growth, we will remain focused on our core values of operational excellence with an unwavering commitment to produce safe, quality cannabis products for a consistent experience.”

The Verano deal also consolidates the ownership or management of more than 35 provisional or pre-operational licenses for cannabis facilities in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and Puerto Rico, the statement said.

“We have quietly applied our operating expertise and exceptional customer service to build a trustworthy brand that is scalable across multiple states and has attracted serious interest from the investment community,” Archos said. “With our operating concepts and business strategies proven through solid revenue growth, market penetration, and profitability across all of our facilities, we are now replicating our approach throughout the U.S. and beyond.”

Verano’s launch is the latest headline-grabbing move by a Chicago area pot company.

This summer, River North-based Green Thumb Industries — which operates cultivation and dispensary facilities in multiple states — went public in Canada this summer through a reverse takeover of an existing company, raising $67 million in the process. Cresco Labs, another River North-based cannabis company with facilities in multiple states, followed suit earlier this month after raising $100 million is Series D funding.

MedMen, one of the most touted American pot brands, also recently acquired Oak Park-based medical marijuana company PharmaCann in a $682 million deal that’s considered the largest in the history of the budding cannabis industry.

Alex Oleinic, Benzinga Staff Writer  

A new company has joined the ranks of enterprises in the cannabis space.

Chicago-based Verano has received financing totaling $120 million and will be led by co-founders George Archos as CEO and Sam Dorf as chief strategy officer.

Verano Aims To Be A Leading US Cannabis Company

Verano is a vertically integrated cannabis company and said it aims to become one of the largest and most profitable in the country as soon as next year. The company is consolidating the ownership and management of the companies Ataraxia, Verano, 3 Boys Farms and other cannabis licenses, operations, management and assets that comprise 45-plus facilities and licenses in six states and Puerto Rico, according to Verano.

The acquisition of 3 Boys Farms follows millions that Verano has spent over the past five years to develop and operate facilities, acquire licenses and create new products. It currently has one cultivation facility each in Maryland, Florida, Illinois and Nevada. Verano operates three dispensaries in Illinois, two in Maryland and one in Nevada.

Verano said it is in process of obtaining more than 35 additional provisional licenses in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and Puerto Rico.

"Verano, having cultivation, production and dispensary licenses across a number of states, has created multiple revenue streams, offering tremendous upside while simultaneously protecting the business from issues related to singular points of sale and markets," CEO Archos told Benzinga.

Under Verano's business plan, its cultivation and production facilities will operate under the newly launched Verano master brand.  Verano's portfolio of brands also includes GoldLeaf, Menta, Sweet Sins, Encore Company and Avexia.

"The medical cannabis industry is consolidating around operators that can scale seed-to-sale operations across multiple states while delivering unparalleled innovative products and service, which are the underpinnings for future success," Archos said.

 

With the DEA signaling a willingness to join the FDA in approving certain cannabis-derived drugs for sale, the industry looks ahead to more tidal shifts.

This week, the Drug Enforcement Administration placed Epidiolex, a drug that includes cannabis-derived compounds—specifically, cannabidiol (CBD)—in Schedule V, a far less restrictive oversight category than CBD’s Schedule I classification. Following the drug’s recent approval from the Food and Drug Administration, this news allows Epidiolex to be sold to the public. Manufacturer GW Pharma expects it to be available “within six weeks.”

The DEA move takes a broad look at how the FDA is conducting its business, placing “certain drug products that have been approved by the [FDA] and which contain [CBD] in schedule V of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA),” according to the DEA order. So far, Epidiolex is the only drug that meets those two criteria.

The news comes at a pivotal time in the cannabis industry: More states are poised to legalize adult-use and medical markets, and the 2018 Farm Bill is on the verge of becoming law and opening the door to industrial hemp cultivation. The hemp-derived CBD market is expected to hit $22 billion by 2022, according to the Brightfield Group.

So, where does the Epidiolex scheduling news fit into the broader industry?

First off: The DEA’s stance does not reschedule CBD.

Under the administration’s 2016 Final Rule, “marijuana extracts,” including CBD, remain in Schedule I. This is regardless of whether the CBD is derived from marijuana (in which case the final product would contain, legally, more than 0.03-percent THC) or hemp (in which case it would contain less than 0.03-percent THC). Whether the DEA changes its stance in the wake of the 2018 Farm Bill vote (and whether that bill passes in the first place) is the subject of much debate.

In fact, the DEA signaled a restrictive outlook in its Epidiolex scheduling announcement: Those FDA-approved drugs that contain CBD must contain less than 0.01-percent THC. (GW Pharma is currently developing Sativex, which contains a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC, and it’s unclear how the FDA or DEA will approach that drug, if it ever comes across their desks.)

Across the cannabis business, the DEA news this week was met with mixed reactions, defined mostly by cautious optimism about expanded medical access to cannabis.

"There are thousands of years of history documenting the medicinal benefits of cannabis, and it is widely recognized that CBD holds enormous promise for treating diseases and improving health," George Archos tells Cannabis Business Times. "For years, medical science has been clamoring to do cannabis/hemp clinical trials and research under FDA guidelines, but it has been handcuffed by the federal government—until the government allowed this one product through. Continuing to limit it so severely puts U.S. companies at a significant disadvantage against international competitors who are already sharing cannabis’ benefits. We hope this small change will be the catalyst for the federal government to allow widespread FDA-sanctioned cannabis clinical trials and research, so the entire industry can truly understand and harness its full potential for improving human health and wellness."

The news advances the normalization of cannabis in the U.S., but it also sets up a complicated relationship between the nascent, fragmented cannabis industry and the federal government.

According to the BrightFocus Foundation, which supports research for Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration and glaucoma, it can cost upwards of $1 billion to take a new drug through development and into the various research stages and clinical trials required to gain FDA approval. With the DEA and the FDA greenlighting Epidiolex, the precedent is established: Only the most well-capitalized businesses will have a shot at bringing cannabis-derived pharmaceutical drugs to market. (GW Pharma, which trades on the Nasdaq, saw its stock hitting all-time highs following the Sept. 27 announcement.)

That leaves the rest of the cannabis industry, a wide swath of small and medium-sized businesses, wondering how things will shake out. The legality and regulatory context surrounding hemp-derived CBD oil production and retail are common topics of debate and concern.

In Ohio, for instance, the state’s Board of Pharmacy issued a policy memo last month that insists that CBD products of any kind are illegal to sell or possess—unless done so in the confines of a licensed dispensary—and it’s not the only state to dabble in that sort of crackdown. In California, the state’s Department of Public Health recently announced that “any CBD products derived from cannabis” would not be allowed in food.

“Industrial-hemp CBD products have proliferated at a rapid pace for the past two years in California,” Joanna Hossack, an attorney at Clark Neubert LLP, told Cannabis Business Times when the California policy was clarified in July. “This could be due to the development of Farm Bill Pilot Programs to cultivate industrial hemp, sparse and sporadic enforcement, and the widespread interpretation that CBD, as it is not psychoactive, is essentially legal. There has been a tremendous misunderstanding that CBD is legal in all 50 states and can be sold without limitation. The industrial-hemp and CBD issue is in constant flux.”

Still, plenty of businesses around the U.S. continue to sell hemp-derived CBD products online and in retail stores, including in both licensed cannabis dispensaries and in your typical grocery store around the corner. The CBD marketplace is almost impossibly fragmented; until the 2018 Farm Bill (and its licensing scheme for hemp farmers) is signed into law, it’s not totally clear who is regulating and enforcing the laws around CBD production and sales in this country.

Apart from this narrow interpretation of FDA-approved drugs, the industry must return to the DEA’s 2016 Final Rule, in which the administration went to lengths to assert that cannabinoids as individual, extracted compounds remain in Schedule I. (The DEA language plainly defines marijuana extracts: "Meaning an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis, other than the separated resin (whether crude or purified) obtained from the plant.")

“The reclassification of CBD in Epidiolex was good news for GW Pharmaceuticals and their products," Robert Fireman, CEO of MariMed Inc., tells CBT. "We are disappointed that the DEA did not reclassify CBD for all in the cannabis or hemp industries without the stipulation of FDA approval. If the positive data about CBD led the DEA to do this, then it should have been for everyone. Perhaps the DEA will make further changes with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill by the US Congress, which appears to be imminent in the coming weeks.”

Absent an industrial hemp program or a licensed cannabis retail structure, the industry is left without any other guidance on CBD products.

And yet: Following the judicial ruling that deferred to that DEA Final Rule, the national hemp industry pushed back. “Contrary to some early reports, this ruling does NOT classify hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) as a controlled substance, nor does it signify that the popular hemp product is federally illegal,” according to a statement by the U.S. Hemp Roundtable. “Indeed, the ruling has no legal or practical impact on hemp or hemp products.”

Whether state regulators in cannabis markets the U.S. agree with that interpretation or the DEA’s rule is what cannabis business should be watching.

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