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the Weedsmith

Grasslands: A Journalism Minded Agency is thrilled to introduce The Weedsmith, a new series about modern cannabis thought leadership. In these deep explorations of the people who made California the epicenter of cannabis reform and commercialization, we examine key factors supporting the industry’s flowering, such as powerful leadership principles, wrestling with the inevitability of failure and the importance of role models. This series includes interviews with Steve DeAngelo, Amanda Reiman, Amber Senter and other important California pioneers.

Grasslands is proud to dedicate the first season of The Weedsmith to the late, great hash maker Frenchy Cannoli, and we are thrilled to share this never-before-seen Frenchy interview with the community that loved him.

Frenchy Cannoli

The late, great Frenchy Cannoli was world-renowned as a passionate hashishin—a devotee of global hash traditions. Born in Nice, France in 1963, Frenchy traveled to Morocco, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, India and beyond, studying the long history and culture of cannabis hash. He developed seminars called Lost Art of the Hashishin, which he taught in-person and online, contributing to a burgeoning cannabis concentrates renaissance.

Frenchy also collaborated with filmmaker Jake Remington on the documentary Frenchy Dreams of Hashish, blending the story of Frenchy’s life work with the fight for cannabis legalization in his adopted home of California. Frenchy Cannoli passed away in July 2021, but his legacy lives on anywhere hash is shared and appreciated.

Amanda Reiman

Amanda Reiman is an internationally recognized expert at the intersection of cannabis and public health. She has served as the Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, the first chairwoman of the Medical Cannabis Commission for the City of Berkeley, the Head of Research and Patient Services at Berkeley Patients Group and an Advisory Board Member for the Cannabis Travel Association International.

In addition to these numerous contributions to the cannabis industry, Dr. Reiman is also a respected ethnobotanist who pioneered research into how cannabis can be incorporated into substance abuse treatment. She taught at UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare for over a decade, as well as at Excelsior College’s Cannabis Control program. In 2020, Dr. Reiman founded Personal Plants, a platform designed to incorporate cannabis into harm-reduction models. Today, she also serves as Chief Knowledge Officer for New Frontier Data, an analytics and tech firm serving the cannabis space.  

Amber Senter

Entrepreneur, advocate and sought-after thought leader Amber Senter has over a decade of experience in the cannabis industry, starting as sales and marketing director in the medical edibles space and later COO for the award-winning Magnolia Wellness Collective. There she coordinated on-site social service programs—an early preview of the social equity work that has defined her career. In 2015, Amber co-founded Supernova Women, an organization committed to more BIPOC becoming self-sufficient shareholders in the cannabis industry.

Supernova has worked closely with California legislators on funding and expansion of social equity programming in California, including SB1294. She continues to serve as Chairman of the Board and Executive Director for Supernova, in addition to her work as CEO of MAKR House, a company specializing in cannabis supply chain distribution. At MAKR, Senter helped launch Equity Works! Incubator, which pools manufacturing resources to lower barriers of entry for POC in the industry.

Steve DeAngelo

One of the best-known names in cannabis, Steve DeAngelo has certainly earned the sobriquet “Father of the Legal Cannabis Industry,” contributing to numerous firsts in U.S. cannabis history. Steve’s long CV includes co-founding Harborside Health Center, one of the first medical cannabis dispensaries in the country; Steep Hill, the country’s first medical cannabis testing lab; and Arcview, the first investment network solely focused on cannabis brands. Notably, one of Steve’s biggest causes is centered on not a first but a last—The Last Prisoner Project, which he co-founded in 2019.

Steve first became involved in politics as part of the 1970s Yippie movement, organizing a series of Smoke-In protests against cannabis prohibition. In 1987, Steve established the Nut House collective of activists and cannabis advocates that was an essential part of the late Reagan-era counter culture movement in Washington DC. He also contributed to the campaign for Proposition 59—the DC medical cannabis initiative that passed in 1998 but was blocked by Congress until 2009—as well as the fight for Prop 64, which legalized adult-use cannabis in California. Last but not least, Steve’s Cannabis Manifesto is a cogent argument for reformed national drug policy shaped by the author’s four decade career in cannabis.

Dennis Hunter

Six and a half years in federal prison—that was the price Dennis Hunter paid for turning years of clandestine cultivation experience into a large-scale indoor grow. So large-scale, in fact, that when the police came knocking in 1998, Hunter went down for over 12,000 plants—what was then the largest indoor bust in California state history. Today, Hunter is free and as committed to cannabis as ever. After his involvement in the justice system, Hunter turned the grow skills and passion for cannabis he first developed as a teenager in the late 1980s in Mendocino Country into a series of successful businesses.

Hunter founded Left Coast Garden Wholesale, a cultivation supply retailer, and later met fellow grower and cannabis advocate Ned Fussel, with whom he founded CannaCraft in 2014. Over the past decade, Dennis has grown CannaCraft into one of California’s largest cannabusinesses, with a robust portfolio that include Farmer and the Felon, absoluteXtracts, Care by Design, Loud + Clear, Lagunitas Hi-Fi Sessions and Humboldt Terp Council.

Josh Kirby

Penicillin. Post-it-Notes. LSD. Cannabis-infused sublingual strips. The latter put inventor and CPG innovator Josh Kirby squarely in a long tradition of accidental inventions that changed the game. Josh Kirby spent much of his early career in the music industry, and sometimes worked in cannabis between tours. After moving to Seattle in 2013 and working as Lead Engineer for Mary’s Medicinals, Josh began experimenting with ways to make edibles with more consistent dosing and effects. He was working on an infused gum product when he developed dissolvable strips instead, and the Kin Slips brand was born. That breakthrough started Josh on an ongoing journey to improve the flavors, packaging and other elements that today’s consumers often take for granted in their favorite edibles brands.

Taylor Blake

Few have had a front row seat for the unfurling of the legal cannabis industry quite like Taylor Blake. Since 2008, Taylor has served as associate producer of The Emerald Cup, the OG “Grammy’s of cannabis” that has grown to be one of the biggest and most influential in the game. But well before she stepped into that role, Taylor was deeply immersed in the cannabis culture of the Emerald Triangle. After all, her father, Tim Blake, has been a self-described “cannabis outlaw” and advocate since the 1970s. It was only natural that Taylor would help take the competition her father founded into a new era.

Under Taylor’s co-leadership, the Emerald Cup has grown to a scale and level of production values that was hard to picture when the event first kicked off 20 years ago. No longer a small, homespun celebration on the family farm where Taylor grew up, the Emerald Cup today draws tens of thousands of attendees each year and now has ancillary events like the Harvest Ball outside the Emerald Triangle in Hollywood, bridging the gap between NorCal and SoCal.

Emily Paxhia

Female leadership in both cannabis and cannabis-specific investment firms were even less common than they are today in 2013, when Emily Paxhia co-founded Poseidon Asset Management. What makes her story even more striking is that her career as a cannabis investment executive diverges 180 degrees from her attitude towards the plant as a teen growing up in Reagan-era Western New York, when anti-drug messaging was at its peak.

When Emily moved to San Francisco in 2011, Paxhia took a look at the burgeoning medical market and realized that what innovative cannabis businesses needed to succeed wasn’t more ideas, but more capital. Today, Paxhia not only serves as Managing Director of Poseidon, she is an advisor for Treehouse Global Ventures and has previously sat on the board of Ascend Wellness Holdings. She is presently on the board of such companies as Tradiv, Flowhub and Headset, as well as the Marijuana Policy Project.

Mike Clemmons

In 2005, Mike Clemmons must have drawn the King of Diamonds when he co-founded Guild Extracts. The company distinguished itself as extraction innovators, pushing the envelope on isolate purity. In 2015, the company pioneered the production of THCa crystalline—better known these days as THC diamonds—which consistently provides clean, strong dabs for medical and adult-use consumers. During his tenure as CEO, Mike Clemmons and Guild contributed to the mainstreaming of dabbing with modern consumers, and to new potency thresholds that have transformed the industry.