Cannabis Career Watch | New Hires and Promotions May 22, 2020

Benuvia, HempMeds, Canntab, NewLeaf, Kannaway, Clear Cannabis make executive changes; Flower One, Exactus, Verde Leaf, TXHIA, PharmaCielo, Meta Growth, Cannara, BetterLife make changes to board; InSpire brings on new specialist.

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Image: hxdbzxy / Shutterstock.com

Hemp processor Verde Leaf appointed Carl L Powell as chairman of the board of directors. Powell currently serves on several boards including the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, Micro Dynamics LLC, Precision Jet LLC, Turfbond LLC, Diversified BioImaging, Integral-SICAP Developments (Dakar Senegal), H2ForLife Waters, and the VII Group.

“Carl’s successful track record in capital markets and his extensive experience in private equity and strategy development will be a great addition to the Verde Leaf team as we continue to grow operations and seek new opportunities,” said Dr. Jackson Garth, president and chief executive officer at Verde Leaf.


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Benuvia Manufacturing, a developer and manufacturer of synthetic cannabinoids, named Scott Watson as its new vice president, head of commercial operations. Prior to joining the company, Watson held senior operational and sales leadership positions at Thermo Fisher Scientific, Ampac Fine Chemicals, and Durect Corporation. He currently serves as a professor and adjunct professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“We are extremely fortunate to have attracted such a seasoned executive to join our leadership team,” said Benuvia Executive Chairman Todd Davis. “Scott brings added bench strength in business development and sales and will enable us to meet the growing demand for a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that can produce a high-purity cannabinoid class of molecules. We are thrilled to have him join our Round Rock team.”


Medical Marijuana, Inc. (MMI) made several staff changes. Former vice president for HempMeds Brasil, Caroline Heinz, and former president for HempMeds Mexico and Latin America, Raul Elizalde, were named co-chief executive officers for MMI subsidiary HempMeds; MMI subsidiary Kannaway added Network Marketer Daniele Paiola Bellucci; and HempMeds President Todd Morrow was promoted to the role of chief information officer for MMI.

“It’s been a humbling experience to see the drive and dedication that both of these professionals have showcased over the years,” said MMI Chief Executive Officer Dr. Stuart Titus. “We saw our Latin American sales explode during 2018 and 2019, especially in Brazil and Mexico. We are optimistic about how Raul and Caroline are adding their leadership to the global HempMeds brand.”

“We are very excited that Mr. Paiola Bellucci has joined the Kannaway organization and welcome him to our team,” said Kannaway Chief Executive Officer Blake Schroeder. “Mr. Paiola Bellucci’s track record in the network marketing industry and entrepreneurial successes speak for themselves.”


Hemp-derived ingredient producer Exactus Inc. appointed Rokt co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Justin Viles, and former Tribune Broadcast Media President Larry Wert to its board of directors.

“It is truly a pleasure to have Larry on our board of directors,” said Exactus Chief Strategy Officer Andrew Johnson. “Larry’s forty-year career in broadcasting, where he recently served as president of Tribune Media, the nation’s largest local broadcast group, is going to be vital for us as we develop our presence and leadership in the hemp industry on a global level. Larry is established on various industry and charity boards, and we are looking forward to bringing his experience and relationships to Exactus.”

“We are very excited about the addition of Justin Viles to our board of directors,” added Chief Growth Officer Derek Du Chesne. “Justin brings over twenty years of experience developing digital strategies and partnerships for technology giants, Google/YouTube prior to founding Rokt. Justin has an incredible track record of success in helping large and small organizations around the world find new customers, grow revenue, and deliver powerful results. Justin brings tremendous knowledge and expertise in the digital marketing landscape, which will help propel the company forward.”


Canadian biopharmaceutical company Canntab Therapeutics Limited promoted Director of Quality Assurance and Quality Control Joshi Laxminarayan to the role of chief scientific officer. Laxminarayan is a pharmaceutical scientist with more than twenty-five years of experience in nano emulsion, extended release, and poorly soluble drug development.

“Joshi has played an integral part in helping Canntab strengthen its competitive position and relevance and distinguish itself in the pharmaceutical industry,” said Canntab co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Renwick. “His appointment as CSO is expected to evolve as we continue manufacturing, into a position where he can oversee not only our ongoing research and development, but also our day-to-day manufacturing and distribution operations.”


Canadian CBD company NewLeaf Brands added two former Ebbu executives to its staff: Chief Science Officer Rob Roscow and Chief Operations Officer Damon Michaels. Roscow’s genetic studies and research earned Ebbu features in Rolling Stone Magazine, Nature Magazine, and the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

“I’ve known and worked with Damon for several years in various capacities in the cannabis industry and always knew how incredibly sharp he is,” said NewLeaf Chief Executive Officer Joshua Bartch. “Whatever Damon steps into, he goes in 110 percent. Through this, Damon has seen wild success through his time at Ebbu resulting in an acquisition valued at $429MM by [Canopy Growth].”

Rob is one of those incredibly bright individuals you rarely come across in life that would resemble a modern-day Sir Isaac Newton or Nikola Tesla,” said Michaels. “He is able to take the ordinary and turn it into the extraordinary. From our time spent together at Ebbu, I was able to watch Rob uncover a new world of cannabis research and experiment with the genetic chemotype profile of the plant that nobody has ever been able to do before in history.”


Cultivator Flower One Holdings appointed Bern Whitney to its board of directors, effective June 1, 2020. Whitney currently is a partner at FLG Partners where he serves as a board advisor and chief financial officer consultant. He also serves or has served on several public, private, and nonprofit boards including Digimarc Corporation, Plumtree Software, Fonality Inc., ServiceSpace, and CSUC Business School.

“We are very pleased to welcome Bern Whitney to our board of directors and to serve as the chair of our audit committee,” said Flower One President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Villazor. “Bern will be a significant asset to our team as we continue to strengthen our leadership position within the cannabis industry. His wealth of experience in capital raising, audit, and financial reporting brings enormous value to Flower One as we further enhance our corporate governance and financial control practices.”


Texas Hemp Industries Association (TXHIA) appointed three new members to its board of directors: VeriLeaf co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Justin Fischer, Crown Grow Texas’ Vice President of Genetics and Agronomy Justin Pinkus, and Ionization Labs President and Chief Operations Officer Cree Crawford. The additions bring the board’s total membership to seven seats.

“We are excited to welcome Justin Pinkus, Justin Fischer, and Cree Crawford as new members to the TXHIA board of directors,” said TXHIA President Coleman Hemphill. “They bring decades of leadership in key areas of the hemp industry, such as farming, banking, testing, and technology. These areas are vital to our future operations, strategy, and the development of best practices for the industry.”


PharmaCielo Ltd. appointed Dr. Claudia Jiménez Ph.D. to its board of directors effective June 1, 2020. She also will serve on the company’s audit, nominating, and corporate governance committees. Jiménez is a Colombia-based lawyer and general manager at Jiménez & Asociados S.A.S. consultancy firm. She currently serves on the board of directors at ISA InterColombia and is executive director of Columbia’s Dialogue Group of Mining.

“We are pleased to have Dr. Jiménez joining the board of PharmaCielo where she will bring her extensive multidisciplinary and external Canadian board experience to bolster the company’s capabilities and support our business growth both in Colombia and into international markets,” said PharmaCielo Chairman of the Board Simon Langelier. “Over the past couple of years Dr. Jiménez has proven herself an astute advisor serving on the PharmaCielo Colombia SAS board of directors, and she will be a tremendous asset serving on the global board.”


Canadian retailer Meta Growth Corp. added Independent Director Andrea Elliott to its board. She replaces resigning board member, Felipe Campusano. Elliott currently serves as executive vice president, direct to consumer at Moose Knuckles. Previously she was vice president and general manager at PVH Canada Retail, executive vice president at PwC, chief operating officer at Karabus Management, and director of Canada operations for Williams-Sonoma Inc.

“We are delighted to have Andrea join our board as we expand into the Ontario market,” said Mark Goliger, chief executive officer for Meta Growth. “As we grow our national footprint of recreational cannabis retail stores, Andrea’s extensive retail background will be invaluable as we continue to evaluate and implement strategic initiatives to differentiate Meta from other cannabis retailers.”

Elliott’s appointment follows the recent appointment of Independent Director Christopher Brawn.


Canadian cultivator Cannara Biotech announced the departure of Barry Laxer and the appointment of Mary Durocher to its board of directors. Durocher is president and chief consultant for Fox D Consulting where her team has assisted fifty-two licensed producers in attaining their Health Canada credentials.

“Mary is broadly recognized across Canada as a leading regulatory and compliance authority in the cannabis sector and we are delighted that she is bringing her energy and integrity to Cannara,” said Zohar Krivorot, president and chief executive officer for Cannara. “Her knowledge and insights regarding the industry will be important as we accelerate our cultivation capabilities and quickly transition to commercial sales.”


InSpire Transpiration Solutions, an HVAC products and services provider, announced the addition of Cannabis Business Specialist Jesse Porter. Porter was the founder of Oakland Garden Supply and previously operated a consulting company, assisting clients with cultivation management, business planning and development, compliance and regulatory issues, and branding and marketing.

“InSpire is growing quickly and we are looking for highly qualified, passionate individuals that can help us make an impact on this fast-paced, dynamic industry,” said InSpire Chief Executive Officer Adrian Giovenco. “Jesse’s breadth of experience in the cannabis space and familiarity with all the complex processes involved in indoor cultivation facility design make him a great addition to our team. We look forward to his contributions and ability to nurture and further InSpire’s industry relationships, solve problems for our clients, and ultimately help cultivators understand the ins and outs of this business, while maximizing ROI.”


Distributor Clear Cannabis Inc. (CCI) transitioned Interim Chief Executive Officer Tom Brooksher to permanent CEO. Prior to accepting the interim role in February 2020, Brooksher served as chief learning officer at the Cannabis Industry Institute.

“Since bringing on Tom Brooksher as our interim CEO, Mr. Brooksher has shown an impeccable ability to lead our team thoroughly, while improving overall productivity,” said CCI Chairman and President Richard Batenburg Jr. “That is why we are excited to announce Mr. Brooksher as full-time CEO, as we’re fully confident in his ability to lead this company as we embark on a new age for the growth of our organization.”


BetterLife Pharma appointed Dr. Eleanor Fish to its scientific advisory board. Dr. Fish is a professor in the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto, an associate chair in international initiatives and collaborations at the University of Toronto, and emerita scientist at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute. She recently published a paper in Frontiers of Immunology titled “Interferon-α2b Treatment for COVID-19”.

“We are excited to have Dr. Eleanor Fish on our scientific advisory board,” said BetterLife Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Doroudian. “She brings valuable, up to date, and the most relevant scientific and clinical experience in the study of interferon activity against COVID-19. Her group’s most recent exploratory study of seventy-seven patients conducted in Wuhan, China clearly indicated the potential effectiveness of Interferon-α2b in treatment of patients with early signs of COVID-19.”

“Based on the results of our preliminary study in Wuhan, China, and emerging data from around the globe, I would argue that the two leading candidates for the treatment of mild moderate COVID-19 are IFN-alpha2b and remdesivir. I have joined the scientific advisory board of BLife Therapeutics to advise them on the proposed upcoming randomized clinical trials planned to start in July.”


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