Ngiste Abebe (she/her)
Ngiste is Vice President of Public Policy at Columbia Care, one of the nation’s leading medical cannabis companies. She serves as the President of the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association and on the board of Virginia NORML and of the District of Columbia Cannabis Trade Association. Prior to that, she was co-founder of Undaunted Ventures, a political consulting firm which specializes in innovative narrative, training, and leadership coaching services, and which grew out of her work training progressive organizations and working on campaigns across Virginia. She is the co-founder and co-director of New Leaders Council Virginia. Ngiste holds a BA in Public Policy from the University of Chicago and a Masters in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University. She happily gives and receives recommendations for sci-fi novels and board games.political science and economics from the University of Connecticut and an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Vanderbilt University.
Dr. Dawn Adams (she/her)
Dr. Dawn M. Adams is a nurse practitioner with more than thirty five years of clinical experience. She takes an integrative approach to healthcare focusing on the mind-body-spirit connection while treating medical conditions that includes the support of medical cannabis.
Dr. Adams received her undergraduate degree in Nursing from James Madison University, a Master’s degree in Nursing from the University of Virginia, a post-Master’s Adult Nurse Practitioner certification for Virginia Commonwealth University, and a doctorate of Nursing from Old Dominion University.
In addition to her nursing education, she is a certified Health Counselor through Columbia University and the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. In 2020 she became Healer certified, and completed additional course work through TCMI Global in the clinical applications of cannabis.
Dr. Adams is the founder of Integrated Health Counseling LLC (DBA RVA Telecare), an integrative health practice designed to meet patients where they are and physically, emotionally and geographically. In addition to an experienced clinician, she is an author, policy maker, and professor.
Morgan Fox (he/him)
Morgan Fox is the Political Director at NORML, focusing on congressional lobbying and changing federal cannabis laws. As a professional cannabis policy reform advocate since 2008, Morgan has been directly involved in dozens of successful state ballot initiative campaigns to establish medical and adult use cannabis programs, as well as legislative victories at the local, state, and federal levels. He has been featured in hundreds of print, radio, television, and online publications. Morgan was most recently the Media Relations Director and chief spokesperson for the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) before joining NORML, and spent nearly a decade at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) prior to that. He lives in Washington, DC, and when he’s not working to end prohibition and repair the damage it has caused, he can usually be found exploring the numerous parks and playgrounds of our nation’s capital with his children.
Justin Esquivel (he/him)
Justin Esquivel, President & Geneticist, Green Luster Phenos LLC, has been an influencer and leader in the cannabis industry for fourteen (14) years. Esquivel was the head grower and geneticist of a 20,000 sq. ft indoor commercial-scale cultivation operation out in Colorado back in 2012. Justin has consulted with 62 cannabis facilities, 34 of which operate commercial canopies. He brings standard operating procedures to a gold standard. Esquivel also specializes in Cannabis Tissue Culture & Selective Homozygous Breeding, enabling his company to bring tailored exotic offspring to growers globally!
Cherissa Jackson (she/her)
Cherissa Jackson served 23 years of active-duty military service with 10 of those years as an U.S. Air Force Nurse. She is a veteran of both Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, having served a total of 3 combat deployments where she honed her expertise as a battlefield clinician. She is known as “America’s Combat Nurse” because of her extensive combat experience.
Following her honorable service, Jackson became an ambassador and advocate for persons with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She was inducted into the SHEROES United Organization Hall of Fame and traveled to Rome, Italy in November 2016 in order to collaborate with the Vatican, the Nation of Congo, and the city of Amatrice, Italy to help advance a global discussion on eliminating stigmas associated with PTSD. She has a non-profit that saves the lives of women from cervical cancer called “Project Give Hope” and has travelled internationally to Uganda in 2017, and 2018 and will be traveling to Ghana and Nigeria in 2023.
Jackson is the author of At Peace Not in Pieces, a bestselling memoir that outlines her principles of coping with her own PTSD challenges as a combat veteran and nurse. She was named one of “25 Individuals of Influence” in the June 2018 issue of PTSD magazine and joined the HillVets 100 list of top influencers of 2018. Cherissa also won the “Daily Record Top 100 Maryland Women for 2016” for her efforts with PTSD. Cherissa was awarded the first “Passion Award” at the AVB 2019 (American Veterans Ball). She is 2020’s recipient of “The Vettys” (Veterans Award) for excellence in Mental Health. Cherissa won the “Star Nurses Nightingale Award” amongst 600 nominees in September 2020. This award was a collaboration between Washington Post and American Nurses Association. Most recently, she become one of the founding members of the “Black Nurses Collaborative”.
She is the current Chief Medical Executive at AMVETS (American Veterans), one of the largest Veteran Service Organization in the country. She leads the organization’s HEAL Program, which strives to confront the risk factors that lead to crisis and veteran suicide. She created the “Veterans’ Alternative Healthcare Summit” in 2021 featuring speakers across the world discussing the benefits of cannabis for Veterans. There were over 25K engagements in this 8 hour conference. Cherissa is a trailblazer for which other Veteran Service Organizations are following her lead.
Cherissa holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Nursing from the Medical University of South Carolina and is a second year student at the University of Maryland’s Masters of Science program in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics.
She launched We Decode LLC on 4/20/2022. This is her cannabis business that is mapping medicine’s healthiest outcomes using DNA sequencing. Her wellness reports and precise cannabinoid matching is saving customers time and money. Cherissa was featured in the August 2022 and December 2022 edition of High Times Magazine and the Baltimore Business Journal. She recently caught the attention of Amazon BEN and Atlanta Hawks who supported Operation Give Hope to provide the DNA kits to Veterans. She also received a generous donation of Martha Stewart’s CBD gummies from Canopy Growth distribution company to distribute to her network.
Hunter Jamerson (he/him)
As a lawyer and a lobbyist, Hunter leverages a tireless work ethic, a command of relevant subject matter, and a dedication to his client’s cause in order to best advocate on behalf of his clients.
Hunter’s practice is primarily focused on the representation of health care providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Hunter’s knowledge of the health care sector allows him to help a client resolve a broad range of legal or public policy problems.
Hunter is one of the first lobbyists to arrive in the General Assembly and is one of the last to leave. He believes that diligence is what wins the day in legislative advocacy. Hunter does not simply monitor the General Assembly—Hunter acts. He is not afraid to push for the passage of controversial legislation; Hunter invests the time, research, and energy necessary to effectively advocate his client’s position even when the opposition is strong.
A client may also have specific legal needs that Hunter can address. For example, health care providers regularly contact Hunter to defend their interests in audit disputes with Medicaid, Medicare, PBMs, or private insurance companies. Hunter also provides health care provider employment agreement review and negotiation. Additionally, Hunter is prepared to negotiate payment rates with insurers on behalf of health care providers across Virginia. Also, Hunter is experienced in representing health care providers in licensure and disciplinary matters before the various boards of the Department of Health Professions.
Hunter is committed to establishing long-term relationships with his clients. Hunter assists clients with building useful relationships with legislators, administrative agencies, and other health care sector interests. Hunter believes that the better he knows his client and its area of health care, the better he can serve his client.
Michael Johnson, RPh (he/him)
Michael Johnson has been practicing pharmacy in Virginia since 1993. He founded Michael’s Pharmacy in Abingdon, which opened in 2000. Michael successfully grew this business by continually adding services to improve patient outcomes, such as the incorporation of compounding services, dosages, and dose forms that are easily customizable to meet each patient’s needs. Because of the unique circumstances of each patient or prescriber's needs, Michael has cultivated relationships with both to serve their needs better. In 2014, the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board accredited Michael’s Pharmacy. Michael is a fellow of the American College of Apothecaries and the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists. He has also been boarded by the American Board of Anti-aging Healthcare Practitioners since 2014. Michael specializes in hormone replacement therapies, metabolic and nutritional health, compounding, and non-sterile compounding. He also coaches patients concerning diabetes, lifestyle management, and immunizations. Michael also enjoys mentoring students he precepts from Appalachian College of Pharmacy and Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy, allowing them to explore his unique practice. Michael is a member of the Virginia Pharmacists Association and Professional Compounding Centers of America. Michael is a founder of Dharma Pharmaceuticals in Abingdon and was their first Pharmacist-in-Charge. Michael is currently the District Manager for RISE Dispensaries in Virginia
Paul McLean (he/him)
Paul McLean is one of America’s most respected new voices in the cannabis industry. After achieving success in construction lending and generating millions in sales, Paul dedicated himself to helping Americans achieve financial success through entrepreneurship. This led him to the staggering reality that African-Americans have been systemically blocked and barred from every major industry in America’s history. Now Paul McLean uses his business acumen and networking abilities to help Africa-Americans achieve economic success by establishing the Virginia Minority Cannabis Coalition (VMCC). Through this group, Paul has engaged economic, political, faith-based, and educational leaders to provide economic opportunities to those willing to dedicate themselves to success by learning more about the cannabis business.
Anthony Mijares (he/him)
Anthony is a U.S. Army Veteran who served 8 years as a Combat Medic during several combat tours in Kosovo, Iraq, Kuwait, Korea and several other countries. Originally from Fort Walton Beach, Florida, he and his family currently reside in Richmond, VA where he is an energetic enterprise-builder, serial entrepreneur, industry thought-leader, jobs creator and community champion. Mr. Mijares currently owns SignScapes, Inc., a 13-year-old physical branding agency, Kloud Enterprise, AKA Old Manchester Hemp Co. and Old Manchester Cannabis Co. He is a partner in Pesos Management, the top-performing company in the gaming industry, and a partner in abZorb, LLC an emerging market leader in distribution of hemp protein products for consumers interested in athletic recovery and women’s health and wellness. Anthony is a member and advocate for the VA Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a graduate of ECPI University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and serves as a featured spokesperson in their marketing campaigns. Mr. Mijares is also an advocate for Military Veteran mental health, social equity, and small business rights in the cannabis industry. Old Manchester Hemp Co. and Old Manchester Cannabis Co. employ women, minorities, veterans, and returning citizens seeking opportunities. Through Manchester, Mijares holds a growing, dealers, and processing license for hemp through the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Old Manchester’s 7,000 square foot seed-to-sale facility operates in the heart of Richmond, VA. Anthony is a dedicated supporter of NORML and serves on the Virginia NORML Board of Directors.
Charlene Morring (she/her)
Charlene A. Morring is the Principal Owner of Morring Law, PLLC. Barred in both Virginia and North Carolina, Attorney Morring is a versatile, flexible, and judicially-minded attorney with exceedingly adroit experience litigation and administrative law processes and procedures. She is imbued with cool demeanor, critical confidence and diplomacy required to lead in jurisprudence environments. A Norfolk native, Attorney Morring attended Old Dominion University where she received a Bachelor of Science in Political Science. She was awarded the prestige of Kaufman Scholar at Old Dominion and was observed as the University of Richmond’s E.W. Hudgins Scholar. Both scholarships recognized her commitment to community.
Despite her professional commitments, Attorney Morring has remained committed to her community. She is an Avvo Top Rated Attorney, Coastal Virginia Magazine, Top Lawyer and named Super Lawyer for her field of law, Workers’ Compensation. She is a member of the Norfolk & Portsmouth Bar Association, South Hampton Roads Bar Association, and Virginia Trial Lawyers Association. Having presented in many capacities throughout her field, Attorney Morring is licensed to practice before the United States Supreme Court and Eastern District of Virginia and all of Virginia and North Carolina state courts. She is the most recently elected Virginia State Bar Council representative for the Fourth Circuit.
Attorney Morring is a member of Virginia NORML, Minorities for Medical Marijuana & International Cannabis Bar Association. She is committed to social equity and inclusion in Virginia's new budding industry and was a speaker at Virginia's First South CannCon Conference. When not practicing law and representing her clients, Attorney Morring enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.
Sarah Kiah Morton (she/her)
Sarah Kiah Morton is the CEO and Co-Owner of LOCKGREEN™, smell-proof stash boxes that come with a built-in combination lock to give cannabis consumers peace of mind as they store and travel in their cars with cannabis.
LOCKGREEN's mission is to help prevent cannabis law violations by educating the community on the changing and often confusing laws, while also providing stash boxes that meet and exceed many states’ requirements for cannabis storage and travel.
Sarah transitioned to entrepreneurship in the ancillary cannabis space in 2021, starting LOCKGREEN with her husband Ron after stepping away from a 15+ year career in Corporate America where she was Vice President at one of the largest consulting firms in the country.
She is passionate about engaging the community in cannabis advocacy and normalizing the plant, which she has done since 2018 in various ways, such as: moderating community forums and town hall meetings, speaking at events, educating via social media, and being interviewed by various media outlets.
In addition to serving on the Virginia NORML Board of Directors, Sarah is an active member of Virginia's business community, sitting on various boards and being recognized as one of her region’s Top 40 Under 40 professionals in 2019. Sarah was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH, graduated from the University of Virginia, and is married with 3 children. She enjoys the beach, live music, and singing.
Tamara Netzel (she/her)
Tamara Netzel has been a Virginia Medical Cannabis Patient since 2018. Netzel was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 42. She accumulated a long list of medications prescribed to manage her MS symptoms, which ultimately caused her liver to go into failure, ending her career of 16 years as a teacher. Since she replaced those prescription drugs with medical cannabis two years ago, Netzel has continued dedicating her time to educating others, and began advocating for medical cannabis patients. Tamara serves as the secretary of the Virginia NORML Board of Directors, and founded a 501c3 nonprofit, Cruel Consequences: Portraits of Misguided Law. Tamara also administrates the Virginia Medical Cannabis Patients Group, helping patients navigate the Virginia Medical Cannabis Program. Netzel was named Virginia NORML Activist of the Year for 2020 and has been featured in several media including NBC Dateline, The Emerald, and GRAM magazines.
Dr. Michelle Peace, M.F.S., Ph.D. (she/her)
Dr. Peace received her B.A. in Chemistry from Wittenberg University, a Master of Forensic Science from George Washington University, and her Ph.D. from the Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).
Dr. Peace is the CEO and a founding partner for Cardinal Quality Laboratories, LC, a 3rd party quality assurance testing lab for the cannabis and medical marijuana industry in Virginia. Our mission is to provide reliable, trustworthy analytical testing to assure purity, quality, and safety of consumer products and to support product development. Dr. Peace is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Forensic Science at VCU and is one of the founding faculty for the Department. She served as Associate Chair and as the Chair for nearly a decade. Dr. Peace has also served as a manager in a private forensic drug testing laboratory and has worked as a scientist for Procter & Gamble, where she holds 3 patents.
Dr. Peace has been funded by the National Institute of Justice since 2014 to study the efficacy of electronic cigarettes, particularly as they pertain to substance use and abuse. Her total award for 5 years has been $2.3M. Her research has highlighted emerging issues of electronic cigarettes as a tool for vaping drugs other than nicotine and has characterized the merging of the cannabis and e-cigarette industries. Her current project is a clinical study to assess the impact of vaping on roadside impairment evaluations for suspected DUI.
Dr. Peace is a Past President of the Society of Forensic Toxicologists and is a member of The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists and the Toxicology Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. She is a member of the National Safety Council’s Alcohol, Drugs, and Impaired Driving Division. She has also served on the Scientific Working Group for Forensic Toxicology (SWGTOX) to help develop standards in the practice of forensic toxicology.
Dr. Peace speaks regularly to train law enforcement and probation/parole officers, addiction specialists, attorneys, health system personnel, and primary and secondary education administrators on relevant issues regarding the mechanism of vaping and e-cigarettes as a tool to deliver drugs other than nicotine, as well as the effects of CBD and THC. She has provided testimony and opinions to develop scientifically relevant and robust policy and legislation at the state and federal levels, and she consults with companies and school systems as they re-develop smoking policies to include vaping.
Dr. Peace has testified to the Food and Drug Administration regarding issues of quality assurance, public health, and public safety with the emerging cannabis industry. She has been featured in the New York Times, Consumer Reports, and AARP. The American Chemical Society and Discover Magazine recognized her research in 2018 and 2019 as some of the most influential research in the nation.
JM Pedini (they/them)
In Virginia, their work has directly resulted in the legalization of medical and adult-use cannabis, decriminalization of personal marijuana possession, and the establishment of the Virginia Legislative Cannabis Caucus and the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority. Appointed to the Governor’s Marijuana Legalization Work Group and as co-chair of the Legal and Regulatory Subcommittee, their current focus is on the Commonwealth’s continued effort to establish a fair and equitable adult-use cannabis regulatory structure that prioritizes consumer safety. At NORML, they oversee the global chapter affiliate network and ensure availability of resources and tools necessary to leverage the organization’s powerful grassroots support.
Prior to drug policy reform, they enjoyed a successful entertainment and media career with The Walt Disney Company.
Jeremy Preiss (he/him)
Jeremy Preiss joined the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority (“CCA” or “Authority”) as its second employee in January 2022. He serves as the Authority’s Chief Officer - Regulatory, Policy, and External Affairs, leading the CCA’s work on policy, legislation, regulation, and public affairs. He also currently serves as the Acting Head of the CCA.
Before joining the CCA, Preiss worked as an executive attorney on ethics, compliance, and international business matters for over 20 years for two aerospace and defense companies, United Technologies and Raytheon Technologies. Prior to that corporate experience, Jeremy was international trade counsel for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and an attorney with the firm Sidley Austin.
Jeremy has Bachelor's and Master's Degrees, respectively, from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and JHU's School of Advanced International Studies, and a law degree (Magna Cum Laude) from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Law. He is married and has two adult children.
Erica Shackelton (she/her)
Erica Shackelton is the founder of the Blue Ridge Sparkway, an information hub for craft cannabis tourism in Virginia. Since launching, she has established herself as an influential voice in the local industry, with a strong online presence and a commitment to community engagement.
Through Blue Ridge Sparkway's website and social media channels on Facebook and Instagram, she provides a wealth of information to foster business growth and tourism. She works with local businesses to promote their events and products, and to form collaborative projects.
She is also active in the community, serving as an advisory board member for the Virginia Hemp Coalition and sponsor for the first annual Virginia Cannabis Freedom Festival. She can be found providing games and giveaways at festivals, judging Cannabis Cups, and providing product reviews and editorials for local home growers.
Erica is passionate about elevating Virginia cannabis and is excited to watch this industry bloom here at home.
Mark Tavares (he/him)
From tomatoes to turfgrass, Mark Tavares has been growing his whole life. As a child, his time was spent in a garden and on his grandfather’s farm. This cultivated his love for soil, the earth, and what it can provide.
Mark opened Commonwealth Canna to help break the stigma around cannabis, educate homeowners on organic growing options, and provide complete growing solutions for gardeners.
He believes that the cannabis industry has amazing potential to bring like-minded people together, break down walls and improve our quality of life.
Vickie Williams-Cullins (she/her)
Vickie R. Williams-Cullins has been described as tenacious, passionate, a community activist and a servant leader. Vickie is determined to be a change agent within her sphere of influence.
Vickie is an entrepreneur. She created OPN-Door Communications, a mediation and training firm. Recognizing that to be empowered to manage this thing called life, you got to have the conversation. Vickie created the Coffee and Conversations series; which includes her popular facebook live events and her upcoming podcast, Coffee and Conversation at the Conflict Corner.
Vickie believes that education is key to your success. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration from her beloved, Elizabeth City State University, Master’s in Public Administration from Old Dominion University, and four certifications in Mediation with the Virginia Supreme Court.
Vickie believes that service is the rent that we pay to exist on Earth. She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. for over 35 years and subscribes heavily to their belief that we must all give back to the community. Vickie has accomplished this with her many years of volunteer service with the city of Hampton, as an alumni member of the esteemed Thomas C. Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership Fellowship program, member of the City of Newport News Reentry Council, South Atlantic Regional Social Action Committee member and a gubernatorial appointee with the Small Business Commission. Vickie is also an 10-year Breast Cancer survivor and is proof positive that early detection is the key to claiming victory over this dreaded disease.
Vickie has been recognized by such esteemed organizations as the Hampton Newport News Pan Hellenic Council and the Virginia Inclusive Communities as their 2014 Humanitarian of the Year honoree for her work in the community.
In her spare time, Vickie enjoys spending time with her husband Terry and their miniature schnauzer, Bootsy.