DOPEST People 2017
The cannabis industry is still emerging, still forming. It’s a battleground not easily traversed and not for the faint of heart, yet there are those who choose to walk this field, consistently powering through one stride at a time.
There are those who do it with a certain grace and optimism, those who have approached the industry with such integrity and professionalism that DOPE Magazine had to recognize them in our feature of the 2017 DOPEst People.
The next seven pages unfold to reveal individuals who are living and breathing the DOPE LIFE. Each person represented has in one way or another built up the cannabis community in an undeniable fashion. Through Dedication, Optimism, Professionalism, Energy, Leadership, Integrity, Focus and Education, the DOPEst People of 2017 will be worth keeping your eye on this year. The list is a compilation of people from across the United States and Canada who continually carry with them the traits and characteristics of a true cannabis advocate.
The list includes Dabstars’ Jonah Tacoma, whose social media presence just reached more than 2 million followers on Facebook organically; Green Flower’s Max Simon, who wants to bring cannabis into the mainstream with his media company; former Vancouver Canada Woman Grow chairperson Danielle Jackson, who aims to bring community together around the love of the plant; “Berner,” a marijuana entrepreneur; billionaire activist Sean Parker, who donated millions to California’s Proposition 64; psychologist Zach Walsh who wrote a study that shows the benefits of cannabis for mental health; and Jennifer Gilbert-Jenkins, who is part of New York’s hemp pilot program.
Each one of them is a cannabis activist dedicated to their cause. All of them maintain an energetic air of optimism and when they get to talking their excitement is electric and instantly palpable. Their success is a product of focus and dedication and we’re ecstatic to share each of their stories with you.
The Social Media Guru
Dabstars, a cannabis lifestyle and marketing brand, evolved from a sticker. Founder Jonah Tacoma was volunteering at the World-Famous Cannabis Farmers Market in 2013 where he would take his stickers around and photograph popular people from within the cannabis industry holding them. He’d then write a baseball card-like bio about what they’re doing and why it’s cool, and he’d post it on Facebook.
“And it just started to go nuts,” he said. “I had to quantify it somehow.”
Flash forward and you get the modern day Dabstars, a media source with more than 2.2 million Facebook followers.
Beyond that, Tacoma’s Dabstars had more than 15 million impressions on Facebook in November 2016, he said.
“We thought we were going to hit a ceiling and it just hasn’t stopped,” Tacoma said. “They’re just engaging in a way other people aren’t.”
What’s crazier is that it’s all organic since Facebook will shut down pages that boost marijuana-related posts, however mundane.
Each week it’s growing on Facebook by about 25,000-35,000 people a week, he said. And this doesn’t include his other social media presences.
Truly, these numbers are a testament to Dabstars’ engaging content and an audience’s craving for this niche market. Tacoma’s own story is one of sweat equity and reveals his dedication to the plant.
Ultimately, he said, Dabstars is about the people, the products and the businesses: “It isn’t about us.”
Looking ahead, Tacoma wants to continue to focus on promoting quality products out of Oregon and Washington. Other than that, he wants to “just watch it grow.”
“This marketplace is coming of age,” believes Tacoma. “All of us are suddenly businessmen.” And with that comes a serious responsibility, “we’re changing the stereotypes and pushing the social norms,” he said.
To follow Dabstars on Facebook, visit https://www.facebook.com/Dabstars/
The Mental Health Advocate
Zach Walsh has always been interested in cannabis.
He’s a clinical psychologist, a cannabis researcher and an associate professor at University of British Columbia. Most recently, Walsh co-authored a 2016 study, “Medical cannabis and mental health: A guided systematic review.”
“Until we have clinical trials we have to share what we know—that’s what inspired us to do the review,” Walsh said.
Walsh and his team reviewed studies on medical cannabis cases dating back to 1960, which related to substance use, anxiety, psychotic disorders, cognitive functioning and violence.
Regarding substance use, the study challenges the idea that cannabis is a “gateway” drug and instead suggests that it should be viewed as an “exit drug.” Walsh said it’s “pretty clear” that marijuana is a solid substitute for potentially more dangerous substances like alcohol and opiates. Cannabis plays a “harm-reducing role” when used this way, according to the study.
It’s not a question of preventing people from taking drugs but a matter of finding the least harmful one, Walsh said.
“You can’t not treat people’s pain; you have to offer something,” he said.
And cannabis is proving to be the least harmful solution.
Cannabis also has the potential to treat PTSD. Though this research is still in its infancy, one observational study of combat veterans who use cannabis reported a 75 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms after use.
This year, Walsh plans to conduct a study on the therapeutic use of cannabis for those suffering from PTSD. This is among a few other cannabis-related projects he has lined up for the year.
The study also found that, among psychotic disorders, cannabis may be potentially negative for those with bipolar disorder, as it could prolong or worsen mania. However, those with depression often suffer from chronic pain and using cannabis therapeutically would enable them to not have to take multiple pain pills on top of anti-depressants.
Overall, more research is needed on the study of cannabis, but one thing is clear: mental health conditions are among the “prominent” reasons for therapeutic cannabis use.
Max Simon is ready to bring cannabis into the mainstream.
And as the CEO and founder of Green Flower Media, he is in the position to do it.
The media company produces online courses, videos and articles. Currently, hour long videos stream online twice a week for free so anyone can watch. “They can tune in. They can watch and they can learn,” Simon said. “It’s making cannabis education available for everyone.”
In December 2016, these free videos reached 70,000 “students,” as Simon calls them.
Simon founded the company one year ago with the intention of aggregating various types of cannabis materials for educational purposes—he wanted people to have access to this material without having to travel to conferences, without having to spend hundreds of dollars in travels expenses and entry fees. He just wanted people to have access to information.
So, he assembled a team and got to work: “We work so hard, and we’re so focused,” he said.
But working in this industry is not without its struggles. Investors have pulled out at the last minute or bank accounts have been shut down.
“It’s tough to build something great, but it’s even harder when there’s so much fear and misconceptions,” he said. “I have never been challenged or beaten up as I have been in this space.”
“Making cannabis education available for everyone.”
But Simon perseveres and remains dedicated to his mission, which is why he has his eyes on a new goal: In the next five years, he aspires to reach 10 million students.
“We very much believe we’re serving an ever-growing tribe,” he said.
Nothing the company does is sponsored, which Simon said helps the legitimacy and integrity of the educational content. For full access to the library, which will only continue to grow, anyone can pay an $18 per month subscription fee.
For more information, visit www.learngreenflower.com
Jennifer Gilbert-Jenkins is going back to the basics—she has to with this crop.
That’s because she’s growing hemp, well, she’s partnering with JD Farms to grow the crop as part of New York’s hemp pilot program. As a professor at Morrisville State College in New York, Gilbert-Jenkins had the opportunity to apply for one of 10 research licenses.
It’s the first hemp crop to be grown in the state in about 80 years.
And, since it’s not like corn or wheat, which humans have been growing and perfecting for decades, there’s really nothing out there that can tell her exactly what the plant’s nutrient needs are. We’re talking exact percentage of nitrogen kind of needs. The closest suggestion Gilbert-Jenkins could find was winter wheat.
“I don’t want to treat it like winter wheat. I want to treat it like hemp,” she said. “We need to do all those basic research studies.”
So that’s what she’s doing at Morrisville in conjunction with JD Farms. This year they grew the crop using three different types of manure supplied at the same rate. Gilbert-Jenkins’ students will develop a growth curve in response to the yield. Over the next year they will reduce the amount of manure and continue to compile data.
“We’re having fun,” she said.
When speaking to Gilbert-Jenkins it’s easy to be swept up in her enthusiasm for the plant—she so easily draws you into the wonders of hemp, which is used for agricultural purposes. “Let me tell you why hemp is so exciting, because it’s really exciting,” she said. “There are so many things you can sell and harvest from this plant—that’s what I get excited about.” It’s extremely strong and can be used for building materials, it can be used in textiles and it can be used for food.
Another proud point, she said, is how she’s been able to generate interest from students. “They’re getting exposure to a crop that even their parents weren’t exposed to,” she said. “They get it.”
But it’s been a tough go getting people to see the wonders of hemp, since society is still pretty hung up on pot as it’s traditionally seen: for stoners. She said she’s had to educate people regularly. “People just don’t know there’s a difference,” she said.
The Heavy Hitter
Cannabis won big in the most recent election—and while it takes a village, sometimes it can come down to the financial heavy hitters in the background. One of those, who we’d like to recognize, is former Facebook president and Napster cofounder Sean Parker.
Parker donated nearly $8.9 million toward California’s recreational marijuana bill, according to state records. Forbes called him the “biggest individual donor to the committee.”
Especially in a time when money is so influential, it’s nice to have someone on cannabis’ side. And we’re choosing to believe it paid off, as voters approved Proposition 64 by 57 percent in November 2016.
As of December 2016, Forbes ranked Parker the ninth richest entrepreneur under 40 in America. Apart from his donations to the California campaign, last year he pledged $250 million toward a cancer immunotherapy research initiative which will fund various academic institutions, according to Forbes. The Parker Foundation is expected to supply the funding.
DOPE Magazine was not able to reach Parker for comment for this story, but he appears to have stayed quiet on the issue, save an initial statement published in The Sacramento Bee.
“It’s very encouraging to see a vibrant community of activists, many of whom have dedicated their lives to this issue, coming together around a sensible reform based measure that protects children, gives law enforcement additional resources and establishes a strong regulatory framework for responsible adult use of marijuana–one that will yield economic benefits for all Californians,” he said.
We’re not sure what Parker is up to in 2017, but if his record as an investor in cannabis and other life sciences says anything—and it definitely does—he’s one to keep an eye on.
The Community Builder
Danielle Jackson started smoking cannabis when she was 12.
Born into poverty during the ‘70s, she grew up in Canada during prohibition. During the 1990s she worked in cruise liners and the casino gaming industry until she got sick and ultimately “lost everything.”
Coming back to the mainland, she struggled—until she recognized she already had the answer. She was treating her affliction with cannabis. “I heard the rumors and then I looked at what I was already using,” she said. This new perspective was the beginning of a career in cannabis advocacy, as she feels it’s the onus of those within the industry to give back. She began to do this first by sharing her own story.
It began “underground” in the early 2000s in her own neighborhood. She had started her own hypnotherapy business where people felt comfortable approaching her with their questions. “People were curious,” she said. “You’re always so happy but you’re always so sick,” she remembers them saying. It was in this space that she began to educate people about the medical properties of cannabis, always attributing her healing and happiness to the plant.
The process was introspective for Jackson, too. “Sharing my own experience made me look at my own life,” she said.
She also felt a great need to do research on cannabis because she “didn’t want to steer them wrong.” Over the years, she created educational videos, made cannabis-infused health products and, most recently, she signed on with InvestmentPitch.com, an Internet-based media company, to host “The Plant,” which will produce short educational videos centered around cannabis.
Though it hasn’t always been easy, Jackson has consistently stuck with her mission to educate and unite people. She’s a successful business woman and the former chairperson of Women Grow for the Vancouver, Canada, chapter.
When speaking with Jackson, it’s almost impossible not to be swept up by her enthusiasm for life and the plant. She’s dedicated to connecting the community through their singular love of cannabis.
Building on that, she and her reggae band are planning a Green Pride Tour around Canada in 2017. This, she said, is her main focus for the new year.
“The one thing we have in common is we all love the plant,” she said. “I’m just trying to bring us all together.”
Above all, it’s Jackson’s mission to build community wherever she goes. “We can do together what I cannot do alone,” she said.
Berner wakes up and starts working.
He manages about eight different companies, so there’s always something to do first thing in the morning. But then it’s off to the next thing: posting videos, recording music, checking in on his various stores and products.
“It’s about 16 to 18 hours per day,” he said. “I do everything hands on.”
And that’s the way he likes it, that’s what he knows, since he’s started every business from the ground up. Without that touch, “it wouldn’t be me anymore,” he said. Plus, staying involved is what makes a business successful.
“Berner,” as he’s known on social media, is a weed enthusiast, a rapper and a businessman. And he started from nothing. He grew up selling weed and making music because he enjoyed it. Then, about seven years ago, when his mom died from cancer, his mindset shifted and he realized that “life is not guaranteed.”
“It made me step up my game,” he said. “I better figure it out.” After that his businesses took off—Cookies, the branded sativa-dominant hybrid strain and now Berner’s clothing and accessory brand; Hemp20, an herbal, vitamin beverage that contains hemp-seed extract; and his music, to name a few.
Berner’s driven by a desire for his projects to succeed, but also a need for them to. He said his main goal is to work hard now so he can retire young and spend his life with his family.
In the new year, he’s focused on four key things. Of those, one of them is a new brand, called Exotikz, which he describes as the “Nike for weed.” Partnering with Jungle Boys, they are bringing in new breeders and putting them under one roof so new strains have a platform to be seen and to be branded. “Everybody knows the best part about weed is new weed,” he said. “People are juiced about it.”
Above all, despite his dedication, his focus and the energy he’s put into the lifestyle he’s amassing, he said that “nothing would be possible” without the people who have supported him along the way.