Stock prices for publicly traded cannabis companies may be slumping, but the job market for those looking to make a buck in the legal weed space has remained robust.
Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries Inc. announced on Oct. 31 that it had hired Beth Burk as interim chief legal and compliance officer. Her predecessor, Matt Miller, had joined GTI in January after serving as deputy general counsel at e-commerce company Groupon Inc.
Miller said in a message posted to LinkedIn that he had resigned from GTI and would be taking some time off. “I will be at the proverbial—and hopefully literal—beach,” he wrote. Miller did not return a request for comment sent to him through the professional networking platform.
Burk, a former Winston & Strawn partner whose LinkedIn bio touts her ability to “bring calm to chaos,” was unavailable to discuss her new role. She had most recently spent four years as global chief compliance officer at professional services firm Aon Corp., which she left over the summer.
“I am thrilled to join the GTI team and to lead the company’s best-in-class compliance and governance practices,” Burk said in a statement. A spokeswoman for GTI said that Burk was busy this week in meetings and unable to discuss her new role.
Burk joins GTI at a busy time. In August, the company completed a $59.6 million cash-and-stock acquisition of New York-based Fiorello Pharmaceuticals Inc., one of only 10 authorized medicinal cannabis providers in the Empire State. GTI inked another $80 million cash-and-stock deal in January to buy West Haven, Conn.-based Advanced Grow Labs.
Both deals occurred after GTI raised $67 million through an initial public offering on the Canadian Stock Exchange in June 2018. Cassels Brock Blackwell, a leading Canadian law firm, handled that transaction for GTI, whose CEO is Benjamin Kovler, heir to the Jim Beam bourbon fortune. Kovler took over as CEO from Peter Kadens, who stepped down from the top leadership role at GTI shortly after its IPO.
Earlier this year, GTI promoted chief compliance counsel Dina Rollman to serve as senior vice president of regulatory and government affairs. In June, the company hired Stacey Dixon Mahone, an assistant general at Japanese pharmaceutical firm Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., as its assistant general counsel for litigation and compliance. Bret Kravitz has served as GTI’s chief corporate counsel since 2017.
Budding In-House Roles
Burk’s appointment and Miller’s exit at GTI occurred just before Australian hemp products maker Elixinol Global Ltd. named Teresa Cleasry as its global general counsel and company secretary on Nov. 4. The Sydney-based Cleary previously served as general counsel of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Elixinol has a subsidiary in Colorado and is pursuing business in New York.
Innovative Industrial Properties Inc., an Irvine, Calif.-based real estate investment trust focused on servicing the regulated cannabis space, also announced on Nov. 4 its hire of senior real estate counsel Kelly Spicher. IIP general counsel Brian Wolfe said in a statement that Spicher, most recently special counsel at Foley & Lardner in San Diego, had served as the REIT’s “go-to outside real estate counsel for the past three years.”
In October, Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Lowell Herb Co. named Stacey Hallerman as its new chief administrative officer and general counsel. Hallerman, a longtime in-house lawyer at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. and Swiss luxury goods giant Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA, had previously been a board member at marijuana products retailer MedMen Enterprises Inc.
Lisa Sergi Trager, another former MedMen board member who served as general counsel of the Culver City, California-based company until quitting in April, became CEO in September of Pax Labs Inc., a San Francisco-based vaporizer manufacturer that had hired her as its in-house legal chief over the summer.
Tempe, Ariz.-based Harvest Health and Recreation Inc. and Wakefield, Mass.-based Curaleaf Holdings Inc., two more leading U.S. cannabis companies, also hired new general counsel this year in Nicole Stanton and Todd Goffman, respectively. Goffman was a co-founder and general counsel for blockchain advisory firm CoinScape Advisors, while Stanton was a longtime partner at the law firm Quarles & Brady.
Canadian Companies Hiring
In Canada, where pot stocks have also slumped following the country’s widespread legalization of marijuana in 2018, at least two top companies in the space have named new law department leaders this year.
Barrie, Ontario-based MediPharm Labs Corp., which this week sought to be cross-listed on the Nasdaq, hired Daniel Everall as its director of legal in March. Everall, a former director of the startups team at Toronto law firm Aird & Berlis, reports to MediPharm’s general counsel Ahmed Shehata.
Tilray Inc. hired Dara Redler, a nearly 20-year veteran of The Coca-Cola Co.’s legal department, as its general counsel in January. Redler joined the Nanaimo, British Columbia-based company ahead of its agreement this summer to merge with its largest shareholder, Privateer Holdings Co., a Seattle-based private equity firm operating in the cannabis sector.