Second Annual 40 under 40


The Family that Grows Together …

Danny Sloat is banking on the theory that bigger isn’t always better.

As the owner and head grower of AlpinStash, a recreational cannabis producer in Louisville, Colorado, Sloat makes the most out of a small team and a small indoor production facility. By taking an artisanal, craft approach to cannabis, the company is able to focus on quality and consistency, without worrying about the highest yields (click here to read full story).

Colleen Keahey

Age: 33

Organization: Hemp Industries Association

Position: Executive Director

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

As the Hemp Industries Association’s new national director, Colleen Keahey hopes to continue to educate farmers, legislators and the public on the versatility of marijuana’s sister crop.

“All cannabis plants have value for humanity,” she says.

To help educate people about the differences in cannabis varietals, Keahey launched the now-famous “Hemp looks like this” campaign, which promoted the many uses of hemp, including textiles, foods and nutritional supplements, all from a supply that has to be imported.
“The fact is we already have this on the shelf in the U.S.,” she says. “We have the ability to grow that domestically.”

Growing up in the ‘90s, Keahey always understood the difference between hemp and marijuana thanks to a clothing store in the Tennessee town where she lived. The purses and jewelry provided an “early awareness” of the plant’s industrial, not psychoactive, nature.

“I understood it was a textile,” she says.

Fast forward to 2013 and Keahey was working at the state chapter of the National Rural Water Association. Her father had 80 acres of land and the family was trying to figure out what to do with it that would be “meaningful and have a lasting impact.” One February afternoon, she went to pay for lunch and pulled out a dollar upon which someone had stamped “I grew hemp” over President Washington’s head.

She eventually started a Tennessee chapter of the Hemp Industries Association, but she never forgot the first message that made her look deeper into hemp.

“I still have it,” she says of that stamped dollar bill. “I had it framed.”

Jesce Horton

Age: 34

Company: Panacea Valley Gardens

Position: Founder and Co-owner

Location: Portland, Oregon

Jesce Horton says he owes a lot to cannabis, so the 34-year-old co-owner of Panacea Valley Gardens is taking steps to give back as the president and founder of the Minority Cannabis Business Association.

Horton credits much of his professional and academic career to cannabis, saying the plant helped him become a “great math student,” ultimately leading him to a degree in engineering from Florida State University.

While in college, he also learned more about the criminal justice side of cannabis and the racial disparity marijuana-related arrests nationwide. Seeing this impact firsthand, particularly in the South, where he was raised, had a profound impact on Horton.

“I saw that and all of it was really close to me from living in the South,” he says. “So, it was important to me to figure out a way to give back to the industry and luckily I was able to meet some amazing people to build this small organization.”

Horton says the goal of the Minority Cannabis Business Association is to “ensure that the people who have been targeted the most by the War on Drugs and by cannabis prohibition have the opportunity to benefit from the industry.”

Horton has made an impressive career in cannabis thus far, having helped start Panacea Valley Gardens, an award-winning medical operation in Portland, Oregon in 2012. Horton says he is now ready to sell his shares in the company so he can move on to his new venture, Saints Cloud, a grandiose plan to house a grow operation, extraction lab, commercial kitchen and more on one tourist-friendly property.

“Saints is essentially where we would have all of the licenses on one property with a lounge and a bed and breakfast,” he says. “We want to do a lot of different things on this property that we were able to acquire. We are going through some permitting and construction right now.”

Neil Juneja

Age: 38

Company: Gleam Law

Location: Seattle, Washington

Position: Founder and managing partner

An intellectual trademark attorney by training, Neil Juneja represented Cannabis City, when it received one of the first eight retail licenses in the state.

Juneja realized there were a relatively limited number of lawyers working in the cannabis field at the time.

“We had quite a bit of fun with it and decided to continue doing it,” he says.

Today, Gleam Law is one of the largest cannabis-focused law firms on the West Coast and recently opened a second office in Portland, Oregon. The firm has filed about 400 cannabis trademark applications and represents three publicly traded cannabis-related companies. The challenge, Juneja says, is dealing with ever-changing regulations and uneven enforcement.

But more than that, Juneja says his work is no longer just work to him.

“It’s not just ‘these are my clients,’” he says. “This is my community.”

Nick Kovacevich

Age: 31

Company: Kush Bottles, Inc.

Position: CEO

Location: Santa Ana, California

Nick Kovacevich says he might consider filling his own Kush Bottles packaging with cannabis if federal legalization ever happens.

“But then who is going to handle the logistics behind getting Spokane County (Washington) cannabis to a dispensary or retail store in New York City?” the entrepreneur says. “Somebody is going to have to manage that.”

Kovacevich could easily be that “somebody” as he has already made Kush Bottles one of the more recognizable names in the industry. Now a publicly traded company, Kush Bottles ranked No. 774 on the 2015 Inc. 5000, a listing of the fastest-growing privately owned companies in the nation. Headquartered in Southern California, Kush Bottles also has satellite operations in Seattle and Denver.

After graduating from Southwest Baptist University in 2010, Kovacevich began looking for an opportunity in the cannabis industry.

“We knew that compliance and safety was going to be a big driver for the transformation and legitimization of the cannabis industry,” Kovacevich says.

His goal was to provide an ancillary product that would meet the needs of the industry, while building an ongoing relationship with the unique players in the industry, rather than just a one-time capital expense. Like bottle manufacturers after the end of alcohol prohibition, cannabis packaging has seen explosive growth as more states legalize. Since Kush Bottles launched in 2010, it has sold more than 100 million bottles and regularly services 3,000 clients in North America.

“The way cannabis is being regulated is giving small, mom-and-pop businesses an opportunity to grow and flourish into a large organization,” he says. “It’s the best part and I don’t think you will find that in any other industry.”

Jessica Knox and Rachel Knox

Jessica Knox

Age: 31

Company: The American Cannabinoid Clinics

Position: Co-founder and consulting physician

Location: Oakland, California

In the realm of medical cannabis, far too many people rely on dispensary employees with no medical training to help them determine the best course of action of treating a medical condition.

In other words, there’s too much emphasis on marijuana and not enough on medicine.

However, the AC Clinics are changing all that.

All the consulting physicians at the AC Clinics (which stands for American Cannabinoid Clinics) have years of experience as emergency room doctors, family physicians, anesthesiologists and in preventative medicine.

Rachel Knox

Age: 34

Company: The American Cannabinoid Clinics

Position: Co-founder and consulting physician

Location: Portland, Oregon


“It’s a family affair, really,” Dr. Jessica Knox says. “It’s my sister, myself and also our parents who are all doctors.”

Dr. Rachel Knox says her family’s clinics aim to provide more than just recommendations for medical cannabis.

“Sure, we can write you a card if you qualify for a medical condition, but we also know that cannabis isn’t everything,” Rachel says. “In addition to using cannabis appropriately for one’s condition, we also cover topics like nutrition, chemical exposure, stress and your relationships. We really do describe our care as integrative cannabinoid medicine.”

Alongside the four AC Clinics locations in Oregon, the Knox family, who collectively are licensed to practice medicine in a total of seven states, plans to open a Washington and a California location in 2017.  The family also established The Canna MDs website as “an effort to educate patients and healthcare providers and the public in general with a reliable and verifiable source of information about cannabis as medicine,” Jessica says. The website contains a wealth of valuable resources for clinicians, advocates and even historians. It’s a lot more than what was offered during Rachel and Jessica’s years at medical school.

“When we were going to medical school, which wasn’t that long ago, cannabis was only discussed as a drug of abuse,” Jessica says.

Ironically, while both sisters were away at college, it was their mother, Dr. Janice Knox, who began looking at the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Her interest led to the formation of both The Canna MDs and the AC Clinics.

“I remember when she was telling me about this (medical cannabis), I was thinking, ‘What kind of pseudo-science has she gotten into?’” Jessica says.

Both sisters say their interests in traditional medicine at the time were waning and the allure of non-traditional medicine promised a move away from the United States “sick care” system where doctors are trained to provide enough health care to send patients home, but not necessarily thrive.

“That was a very frustrating thing to do, because I think everybody goes into medical school thinking they are going to change the world,” Jessica says. “We both felt that there we were missing the boat, that there were a lot of other approaches that we weren’t trained in that could be beneficial for patients.”

“I felt very limited in what I could do to truly help people through conventional medicine,” Rachel says. “When I discussed this with my mom, she challenged us to think outside the box, so we only applied to medical programs where we could get a dual degree in business.”

Rachel and Jessica both graduated from Tufts Medical School in 2012 with their MD and MBA degrees. And though they graduated college the same year, they’re not twins.

“We’re not twins, but people always seem to get a kick out of twins,” Rachel says. “We do get asked if we’re twins and sometimes we’ll just say yes because people get bummed-out when we say no.”

Crystal Oliver

Age: 33

Company: Washington’s Finest Cannabis

Location: Spokane County, Washington

Position: Co-founder and CEO

Even when she is not running the day-to-day operations of Washington’s Finest Cannabis, a state-licensed outdoor producer, Crystal Oliver is a busy woman.

Along with the farm, Oliver is also an executive board member of the Cannabis Farmer’s Council, a board member of The Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy, an executive assistant at Washington NORML, a member of Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board Cannabis Advisory Council and a member of Women of Weed, among other projects.

“We’re business owners, but we’re advocates at heart,” she says.

For the past three years, Oliver, along with her husband and Washington’s Finest co-founder Kevin Oliver, have advocated for small cannabis farmers, including organizing against a code proposal to label all marijuana processing as “moderate hazard/factory/industrial use,” which would have made fire suppression requirements for greenhouse, hoop houses and indoor facilities too much for many small farmers, especially those with that use well water.

“Had it been adopted it would have devastated small farmers in Eastern Washington,” she says.

Oliver believes it is imperative for those in the cannabis industry to get to know their local representatives and to make sure those representatives know you, so they can see that those in the marijuana business are not stereotypes, but just like any other small business owner.

“By getting to know me, that has moved the ball forward,” she says of her experience.

Publishers note: This list would not be complete without the inclusion of three members of Marijuana Venture’s staff: editor Garrett Rudolph, Patrick Wagner (the magazine’s first full-time writer) and Chloe Mehring (our amazing graphics editor).

All three of them are tireless workers and full of talent. With this small, under-40 team and a few of us older farts, we’ve managed to create the fastest-growing magazine in North America and a publication that has become a trusted source of real information on the business of legal marijuana.

Thank you to all three of you.

(I forced Garrett to run this as I know he’s too modest to even think of himself as deserving of a mention.)

— Greg James



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