The roots of the rapidly expanding cannabis market are found in smaller, quieter operations, often helmed by friends or a couple. Now, those early start-ups held together by close, loving bonds are often out front in the cannabis space; small companies have found their niche as the industry grows up around them.
At many of these companies, you’ll find couples working at the top of the business structure. Co-founders. Chief executives. Leveraging the strength of their personal relationships, these couples have made their business a more inviting and forward-thinking place to accomplish goals.
Here, we profile 12 couples and their cannabis businesses, with a look to what makes their enterprise work best.
Jesce Horton and Jeannette Ward Horton
Jesce Horton owns Saints Cannabis, a Tier 1 cultivation facility in Portland, Ore., and Saints Cloud, a vertically integrated facility currently under development. He is the past owner of Panacea Valley Gardens, a medical cannabis cultivation business near Portland, and Panacea, a separate, adult-use dispensary, which has since sold. He also founded the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), a nonprofit focused on increasing diversity in the cannabis industry.
Read Cannabis Business Times’ January 2017 cover story on Jesce Horton here.
Horton’s wife, Jeanette Ward Horton, leapt into the industry after a career stint with Coca Cola, and is currently the vice president of global marketing and communications for MJ Freeway.
“I got educated on the plant, and on the medicine, and on the best of what cannabis culture is—activism and giving back, and building a better industry,” Ward told Black Enterprise. “I became a convert. This medicine will change the world.”
The couple recently started NuLeaf Project, a nonprofit organization that they operate together.
John and Amy Andrle
In 2009, John and Amy Andrle co-founded L’Eagle, a vertically integrated cannabis operation in Denver, Colo. The 10,000-square-foot grow facility produces the company’s flower, bubble hash and rosin, which are sold in its dispensary. The couple has remained focused on organic cultivation and clean cannabis, which they believe may help the cause for cannabis to be more formally recognized as a relevant and viable solution for many health conditions.
Read Cannabis Business Times’ October 2017 cover story on L’Eagle here.
Husband and wife Eric and Rachael Speegle operate Verdes Foundation, a vertically integrated cannabis company based in New Mexico. Founded in 2010, Verdes has a 22,000-square-foot production and cultivation facility in Albuquerque and medical dispensary locations in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque that offer flower, edibles, pre-rolls, extracts, vape cartridges and tinctures. The couple has focused on building relationships with its neighbors, as well as earning the trust of its patients by providing them access to knowledgeable people.
Read Cannabis Dispensary’s October 2018 cover story on Verdes Foundation here.
Kurt and Kerrie Badertscher
Kurt and Kerrie Badertscher are the co-owners of Otoké Horticulture, LLC, a cannabis cultivation consulting firm. They are the authors of “Cannabis for Capitalists,” as well as regular columnists for Cannabis Business Times.
Kerrie was once a Boulder County Cooperative Extension Horticulture agent for Boulder County, Colo., teaching others to become Master Gardeners. Her experience in horticulture has earned her the designation of Certified Professional Horticulturist (CPH).
Kurt complements Kerrie’s horticulture background with 36 years of experience in the R&D and IT fields. Many work flow, data collection and communication challenges faced in these industries are also prevalent in cannabis, allowing Kurt to advise Otoké’s clients accordingly.
Read Kurt and Kerrie’s most recent “Hort How-To” column here.
Tony and Laura Toskov
Tony and Laura Toskov applied for a dispensary license in Maryland in late 2017, after 800-plus applications had been submitted and only 102 pre-approved licenses had been issued in the state. On Feb. 12, 2018, the couple’s Green Point Wellness opened its doors in Linthicum Heights and began offering more than 40 SKUs of flower, concentrates, topicals, transdermal patches and tinctures. The company’s 14 “dispensary agents” go through rigorous training mandated by the state and provide one-on-one attention to patients.
“Our approach is less pamphlets and signs and more customer service,” Laura said. “That goes back to our commitment to VIP treatment. You’re going to build a relationship with us.”
Read Cannabis Dispensary’s April 2018 story on Green Point Wellness here.
Scott Durrah and Wanda James
Husband and wife Scott Durrah and Wanda James own and operate Simply Pure, a Denver-based, vertically integrated medical and recreational dispensary with four cultivation centers. The dispensary’s location in Denver’s LoHi neighborhood, coupled with its carefully curated product selection of flower, edibles, concentrates, vape cartridges, elixirs, tinctures, topicals, patches and pre-rolls, has made it popular among tourists.
Read Cannabis Dispensary's February cover story on Simply Pure here.
Brooke Gehring and Max Cohen
Cannabis brought this power couple together. Max Cohen (The Clinic, The Lab, The Bank, The Clinic Consulting and Tribe) and Brooke Gehring (LiveGreen Cannabis, Patients Choice and The Live Green Group) uniquely are both founders and CEOs of separately owned, vertically integrated Denver-based companies, multiple brands, their own consulting firms, a charitable non-profit that contributes to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and a CBD business.
Collectively, the couple supports each other's achievements by continuing to lead the industry by example as they consult and operate in markets across North America. It is never about competition, only collaboration, Gehring says.
After a battle with cancer transformed Scott Reach from being a grower and consumer “to actually really, really needing the plant,” he told us, the Colorado industry leader began taking an initial concept and building it into a global seed bank and cannabis brand. Before long, the wellspring of ideas that propped up his early interest in the plant evolved into savvy business acumen and market-leading institutional knowledge. Rare Dankness had become a force.
Scott and his wife, Pamela, now oversee a state-of-the-art cultivation facility and a renowned dispensary, House of Dankness, on the edge of Denver. Together, they’re an industry dynamo.
“The difference that she brought to the company was just a little calmer head and better business sense, and a little more professionalism than your typical grower,” Reach memorably told us in 2016. “At this point, man, I’m just a pretty face. The business is the way the business is because of her.”
Read Cannabis Business Times’ 2016 feature on Rare Dankness.
Chris and Allie McAboy
Chris and Allie McAboy launched The Novel Tree together in November 2014. As an early entrant to Washington’s cannabis market, The Novel Tree, a recreational and medical dispensary, carved out a niche as a high-quality craft cannabis retailer in Bellevue (just across Lake Washington from Seattle).
“We’re looking really for the highest-quality products,” Chris told us in 2017. “We do a sampling program where we make sure the product checked out [for] one of our senior budtenders or management team who is really familiar with product quality, and we basically grade it based on criteria and go from there. If the product is right and the organization seems right, then we’re definitely open to further discussion with them about how we can … get them in our shop.”
Read Cannabis Dispensary’s interview with Chris McAboy.
Jesse Peters and Kate Guptill
Eco Firma Farms has its roots as a small medical marijuana operation run by husband and wife Jesse Peters and Kate Guptill. Now, six years after its 2012 founding, Eco Firma has become a leader in Oregon’s cannabis marketplace and an ardent support of green business practices. Looking back on the early days of his vision, Jesse told us earlier this year that he and Kate set out to create a company that could promote an industry-wide conversation on energy use. “I realized that if we were growing cannabis in a way that destroyed the planet for a profit, we were no better than an oil [petroleum] company,” he said.
The couple, with Eco Firma Farms as a foundation, went on to help form the Oregon Growers’ PAC and the Oregon Cannabis Alliance, with the goal of connection sustainable business models to public policy in the cannabis space.
Read Cannabis Business Times’ feature on sustainable indoor grows, including Eco Firma Farms.
Diane and Jay Czarkowski
“Our story began in Boulder, Colorado, a hotbed of innovation and free-spirited ambition,” Diane and Jay Czarkowski, founding partners of Canna Advisors, write on their website. Their company helped Colorado leaders draft pioneering adult-use cannabis legislation, and now Diane and Jay lead a team of respected advisers who work with policy-makers and cannabis businesses in new and emerging markets across North America.
Aviv and Chrissy Hadar
After co-founding Oregrown in 2013 with a group of friends, Aviv and Chrissy were given the following sage advice: Instead of viewing your constant discussions of work as a negative, like most people that work together do, falling into the “All we do is talk about work together” scenario, instead flip it to: “We are so lucky to have a deep, endless, perpetual conversation with each other.”
This piece of wisdom continues to ring true as the couple works together day in and day out.
Aviv (CEO) and Chrissy (Chief Brand Officer) like to say that Oregrown is their first child. The amount of attention the business needed in its first years of infancy, and the amount of attention the business still needs, requires them to act cohesively not only as bosses and authority figures but oftentimes as parents to a big, growing family. “Working together has only increased our love and respect for one another as we continuously push each other to do the best work of our lives,” Chrissy says.
Read Cannabis Dispensary’s August 2018 feature on Oregrown.