Reporting by: Alex Halperin, editor of WeedWeek, and Isabel Lord.
Edited by: Will Yakowicz
The federal prohibition of cannabis will end one day—it’s just a question of how and when. Nearly 70% of Americans now favor legalization and several proposals are working their way through Congress on both sides of the aisle. This summer, Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker and Ron Wyden are expected to introduce their long-awaited bill overhauling America’s cannabis policy, while Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace has put forward the States Reform Act, which has the strange bedfellow backing of billionaire Charles Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity and Amazon.
And who else will lead the way? For the past couple of months, Forbes has interviewed dozens of industry analysts, investors, entrepreneurs, executives and business owners, poring over sales data and financial documents to come up with a list of entrepreneurs and changemakers who have an outsized influence over an industry that generated $25 billion in sales last year and is projected to reach $65 billion by the end of the decade.
Publicly-traded companies—including cannabis giants such as Curaleaf, Trulieve, and Green Thumb Industries—were not considered in order to shine a greater light on smaller brands that are doing most of the innovating and on individuals who are fighting for social justice and diversity in an industry where just 2% of companies are owned by people of color.
Here are the pioneers to watch in the green gold rush.