Cannabis Career Watch | New Hires and Promotions July 3, 2020

Cresco, Indus, CURE, High Falls, Harvest, Vireo make executive changes; Leaf411, MCOA, OCA make changes to board; and Aurora reduces workforce.

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Co-founders Steve Dobler and Terry Booth retired from their roles as president and director, respectively, at Aurora Cannabis. As part of its recent restructuring, the Canadian company also reduced its non-production workforce by 25 percent and plans to reduce its production staff by 30 percent over the next two quarters.

“On behalf of our board of directors and management team, I would like to thank Steve for all his contributions to Aurora and for his tenure as a director on our board,” said Michael Singer, executive chairman and interim chief executive officer for Aurora. “His keen business insight and unparalleled passion for the company will be greatly missed. Steve’s decision to retire and help streamline our leadership team further supports the objectives of our business transformation plan as we remain focused on driving Aurora to become a profitable and robust global cannabis company.

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“I would like to thank Terry for his leadership over the years and for his tenure as a director,” continued Singer. “As one of the original cannabis visionaries, Terry leaves an enviable legacy in the form of Aurora Cannabis.”


The Oregon Cannabis Association (OCA) elected thirteen new members to its board of directors: Scientia Labs Chief Executive Officer Molly Conroy, Moss Crossing Dispensary Chief Executive Officer Heidi Fikstad, Oso Verde Farms and MENDI CBD Co-founder Kendra Freeman, Nu Leaf Project Co-founder Jesce Horton, East Fork Cultivars Co-founder Nathan Howard, SugarTop Buddery Chief Executive Officer Anna Kaplan, Miller Nash attorney Doug Morris, Sweet Relief Co-founder Oscar Nelson, Oregrown Co-owner Hunter Neubauer, Mantis Growth Investments Chief Executive Officer Jesse Peters, Nectar Founder Jeremy Pratt, Self Made Cannabis Company Co-owner Catherine Leathers Self, and Siren Cannabis Co-owner Meghan Walstatter.


Indus Holdings promoted Vice President of Commercialization Jenny Montenegro to the role of chief operating officer. In her new position, she will oversee the cultivation, distribution, manufacturing, and sales departments.

“Jenny is extremely disciplined and has a great mind for numbers,” said Indus Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Ainsworth. “She takes the time to understand the nuances of each department and helps implement solutions. Her experience, drive, and passion to understand each business unit gives her the ability to hold her team accountable in order to achieve our collective goals and I cannot think of anyone better suited for the position. I look forward to seeing Indus and its brands continue to grow and stay on track to profitability under Jenny Montenegro’s leadership.”


Drug delivery and development company CURE Pharmaceutical, named Jonathan Berlent to the newly created position of chief business officer. Among his previous roles, Berlent served as managing director at Red Team Associates, chief operating officer at Tagleaf, and interim chief executive officer at Trulee Health. He has also held senior positions at Interpharm Holdings, Granules USA, and Tris Pharma.

“Jonathan’s extensive healthcare experience and industry insights are a welcome addition to CURE’s leadership team,” said CURE Pharmaceutical Chief Executive Officer Rob Davidson. “In particular, his experience developing growth strategies will be critically important as we continue to expand our pipeline and strategic initiatives through business development.”


Marijuana Company of America appointed Marco Guerrero to its board of directors where he will serve as board member and liaison for Brazil.

“I am very excited to become part of the MCOA family and to be able to exchange knowledge with such qualified and competent colleagues,” said Guerrero. “I am a true believer in the CBD industry, which sooner rather than later will be present in all four corners of the globe. I take this new chapter of my professional career with great honor and will do my best to contribute to the growth of the HempSmart business and to represent the company’s legitimate interests.”

“We are really excited about the addition of Marco to our board,” said MCOA Chief Executive Officer Jesus Quintero. “He will be a substantial asset and gives our company a unique perspective in approaching the Latin American markets. He is not only very qualified but also strategically positioned to help us launch our presence in Brazil and implement our strategic plan successfully.”


CBD brand High Falls Hemp NY promotedChief Revenue Officer Barney Stacher to the position of chief operating officer. He brings more than 20 years of leadership and marketing experience to his new role as COO. Stacher served as executive sales director for Azuca’s CBD division before joining High Falls.

“We are tremendously excited to have Barney as our COO,” said Tricia Weissman, co-founder of High Falls. “His profound leadership as chief revenue officer has contributed to our success as a trusted source for hemp-derived CBD. With Barney’s strength of character and experience in driving revenue for impactful brands, we are confident that High Falls will continue improving upon the lives of our people through the nurturing power of CBD.”


Multistate cannabis company Harvest Health & Recreation promoted Vice President of Finance and Tax Deborah Keeley to the role of chief financial officer. She replaces resigning CFO Leo Jaschke. Prior to joining Harvest, Keeley served as senior vice president finance and operations for Cultural Experiences Abroad and senior vice president and chief accounting officer at Mobile Mini.

“We are excited to have Deborah Keeley assume the role of CFO and we look forward to continuing to execute on our plan to return to profitability with Deborah as a key member of our executive team,” said Harvest Chief Executive Officer Steve White. “Deborah has considerable experience and a proven track record of success at high growth companies.”


Chief Financial Officer Ken Amann is retiring from Cresco Labs and will be replaced by Dennis Olis. Olis joins Cresco from Allscripts Healthcare Solutions where he served as chief financial officer. Amann will remain in an advisory role through the remainder of 2020.

“Ken was an early investor in Cresco, and one of the first employees, joining as CFO shortly after Cresco won the initial licenses in Illinois,” said Cresco co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Charlie Bachtell. “I know I speak for the entire management team and board of directors when I thank Ken for his significant contribution in growing Cresco to this point. This is bittersweet for me and the Cresco family—it is sad to see Ken go but we wish Ken and his wife, Lisa, nothing but the best in this new phase of their lives. They will always be a part of this Cresco family.

“After a thorough search, I’m thrilled to welcome Dennis Olis as our new CFO,” Bachtell added. “Dennis has an impeccable reputation and brings extensive financial, operational, and strategic management experience. His track record of superior capital allocation and experience managing billions of dollars in annual sales as the SVP of Operations and Strategic Initiatives and as CFO makes him the perfect fit as Cresco enters the next phase of growth.”


Multistate cannabis company Vireo Health International appointed John Heller to the role of chief financial officer, replacing Shaun Nugent. Heller joins the company from Lift Brands where he served as chief financial officer since 2016.

“John’s proven record of raising and deploying capital across a diverse set of companies, including start-ups, venture-backed enterprise, and public companies is extremely impressive and bodes well for Vireo’s future,” said Vireo Chief Executive Officer Kyle Kingsley. “We are confident that John will help us drive our financial performance as we increase scale within our core markets and improve the efficiency of our operations.

“We’d also like to thank Shaun for his valuable contributions during his tenure at Vireo and wish him well,” added Kingsley.


Cannabis technology company Vertosa promoted Vice President of Products and Innovation Austin Stevenson to the role of chief innovation officer. Prior to joining Vertosa, Stevenson helped build the regulatory Hemp/CBD testing program for Eurofins Scientific, advised start-ups, built businesses, and launched hundreds of new products in the finance, technology, and cannabis consumer packaged goods industries. He also is a founding board member and elected treasurer for the Cannabis Beverage Association.

“Austin is an invaluable, natural born leader who embodies our core values and is everything we want a Vertosa team member to be,” said Vertosa Chief Executive Officer Ben Larson. “He has been absolutely instrumental in our business development and I’m eternally grateful to work alongside him every day. His new title is more than fitting since he has long enabled our clients and customers to understand how Vertosa’s infusion technology elevates the cannabis space, and he is a true business partner deserving of the officer title.”


Colorado dispensary Lightshade’s Vice President of Compliance and Auditing Charisse Harris joined the advisory board at nonprofit Leaf411. Harris joined Lightshade in June 2016 as director of compliance and was promoted to her current role in January 2020. Prior to Lightshade, she worked as a business licensing inspector with the city and county of Denver.

“Because compliance plays such a key role in our ability to grow, it was a no-brainer to bring someone onto our board who understood all of the regulatory intricacies,” said Leaf411 co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Axcell. “Charisse has been on both sides of cannabis compliance in Colorado, first for the city and county of Denver and now for a licensee. She is unique in her insights and knowledge. Leaf411 is lucky to have Charisse’s skill set represented on our board now as well. She is a valuable asset to our continued success and growth.”


Enterprise software solutions company Akerna promoted David McCullough to the role of chief technology officer. McCullough has been with Akerna for more than five years, most recently serving as executive vice president of product and engineering. He replaces Alex Shah, who will serve as president at Akerna’s solo sciences where he will focus on the implementation and increasing adoption of the solo* platform.

“At Akerna, we pride ourselves on building and growing talent. Being able to promote David to CTO demonstrates the strength of our bench and our commitment to team member development,” said Akerna Chief Executive Officer Jessica Billingsley. “We appreciated having Alex in this role and the depth of expertise he brought to the position. However, in looking at our business strategy, it became clear we need his full attention on solo*.”


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