Influential People in Cannabis to Know

Adie Wilson Poe PHD
Photo credit: VIRIDE

The changing sentiment over cannabis has been a long and, for some time, dangerous fight. Those that helped shift the perception back from the brink of demonization can never be thanked enough. Names like Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, Dennis Peron and Jack Herer are just a few that helped advance the plant’s science and legal status over the years. Meanwhile, pop culture icons like Willie Nelson, Bob Marley and Snoop Dogg are just a few that made cannabis what it is in the media.

Thanks to their work, and thousands of others, the influential people in cannabis today cover a wide range of topics. From laboratories to boardrooms to courtrooms, these are just a few names you should know in modern marijuana. 


Adie Wilson-Poe, Ph.D.

Adie Wilson-Poe, Ph.D., is a leader in cannabis and the human brain. The Ph.D. in neuroscience is now a leading figure in pushing back against the tired and largely debunked belief that pot is a gateway drug.

Dr. Adie is an active voice in the fight against opioid addiction. Her opinion piece in U.S. News breaks down the history and science behind cannabis as a healing method, as opposed to opioids. In her article, Dr. Adie explained, “Most importantly, a fatal overdose of cannabis is virtually impossible. Even when following doctors orders, the same cannot be said for opioids. Accidental overdose is rampant.”

Dr. Adie’s ability to summarize the topic for laymans and experts alike makes her an essential figure today. With countless people still in the dark about cannabis, informed voices that speak to the everyday person is needed immensely.

Nishan Karassik, Mowgli Holmes and the Phylos Bioscience Team

phylos bioscience influenceThe Founders of Phylos Bioscience are leading the initiative to sequence the DNA of modern and ancient strains. In doing so, they hope to develop the evolutionary map of cannabis. By undertaking this task, we could have a complete look at the history of the plant, each strain and how it all got to this point in time. Their work takes on many similarities of the Human Genome Project. However, as Karassik told Herb, they were more inspired by 23andMe.

The studies so far have found what many consumers had long thought: plant strains were labeled incorrectly. Phylos found that growers would rename strains they made adjustments to while cultivating the flower. While a good branding idea, it made strains that much more confusing. That’s because the grower hadn’t created a new strain at all. Instead, they just gave a new name to already established plant genetics.

The entire team at Phylos deserves the credit as pivotal figures in cannabis for their amazing advancements. That includes Director of Research, Jessica Kristof. She told Merry Jane, “When it comes to actual research, we want the work we’ve done to support the industry so it can grow as a whole.”

Joy Beckerman

joy beckermanJoy Beckerman’s ability to work with Republican and Democrat lawmakers not only makes her one of the most influential people in cannabis today. Her bipartisan knack could create the lasting impact that ends the war on weed and hemp.

Since 1990, Beckerman has been an active force for change in the cannabis industry. Her knowledge spans legal and compliance to industrial hemp and scores more. She serves as a leader to numerous influential groups including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Hemp Industry Association (HIA). We could list many more of her career achievements, but Joy’s an accomplished lady and we’ve only got so much time.

Joy continues to serve as a depth of knowledge that spreads the word through organization efforts and speaking engagements. She is an active presence at events across the country. For all her efforts, Beckerman is rightfully recognized as one of the go-to thought leaders in hemp and marijuana today.

Senator Cory Booker

Cory Booker mmjNew Jersey Senator Cory Booker introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in August 2017. The Act sought to legalize cannabis and clearing the records of criminal possession convictions. The move by Senator Booker is one of the boldest steps taken in Washington, D.C. so far. Lawmakers in the capital and across the country are throwing support to medical and adult use cannabis. That includes notable names including Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris who have offered support to Senator Booker’s bill.

The bill also has the support of prominent organizations like NORML. When it was introduced, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said, “We applaud Senator Booker for introducing this robust legislation that would not only remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, but provide a path forward for the individuals and communities that were most disproportionately targeted by our nation’s failed war on marijuana consumers.”

The People Challenging the DEA

In February 2018, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the DEA’s scheduling of cannabis. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein didn’t write medical marijuana off, however. He even acknowledged how it improved the lives of the plaintiffs:

The lawsuit was tossed out for a typical Washington D.C. reason: a ton of bureaucracy. The judge found that the DEA was allowed to schedule cannabis. He also found that the plaintiffs had to petition the department as well as try other administrative steps before suing. So, while the battle was lost – the war certainly wasn’t. Despite the setback, the progress made by the plaintiffs and legal team, including lead counsel Michael Hiller, Lauren Ruddick, Joseph Bondy, David Holland and others, could trigger the process that rewrites the laws.  

Peckham Family (Etain Health)

etain healthThe Peckham family are the women behind New York’s premier name in medical cannabis, Etain Health. Inspired by the loss of the family matriarch, Frances Keeffe, to Motor Neurone Disease, Amy Peckham and her daughters Hillary and Keeley, entered the field. Now, they represent a choice few approved for cultivation and operating dispensaries throughout the state – including their Manhattan location.

Recently, Etain announced plans to expand into California. They’re partnering with two companies, West Sacramento Management and Daily Green, to make and distribute products in the Golden State. With a booming business, the Peckhams could become a significant name in healing and profits in the years to come.

Who Influences You?

The cannabis world is growing at light speed, and could even reach plaid soon enough. Sorry, couldn’t pass up a Spaceballs reference. Anyway…

New studies and industries are developing in cannabis as fast as its tech and regulations allow for. That’s why finding your own most influential people in cannabis is so essential. Choose the fields that interest you most and take a deep dive into the field. A wealth of wisdom is waiting to be untapped.

Then, let us know who makes your most influential people in cannabis list. We may profile them in an upcoming article!