Speakers

    

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.

 

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 12-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.

 

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)

JM Pedini is the development director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and serves as the executive director of the state affiliate chapter, Virginia NORML.

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.

 

Sebastian Wicker (he/him)

Sebastian Wicker is an active advocate for developing sectors and passionate about the value cannabis brings to states and their local communities. He is the CEO and founder of LTF Consulting, helping owners and operators across the country navigate the cannabis industry. Sebastian's prior experience stems from business immigration and commercial aerospace advocacy. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and currently resides in Virginia.

 

 

 

Sheba Williams (she/her)

Sheba Williams was born and raised in Richmond, VA. She is a Norfolk State University alum with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management, she has professional licenses in Cosmetology and Barbering, and her Master Instructor's license. Sheba is the founder and executive director of Nolef Turns - a Richmond, VA based grassroots organization that works to break the barriers of the criminal legal system. She is also the co-founder of the Institute of Forgiveness, which focuses on juvenile legal systems. Sheba has a passion for empowering and uplifting others with court and justice involvement and fights daily to remove the policies and stigmas around a past conviction. Realizing that racism is deep-rooted in Virginia's history, Sheba isn't afraid to reach across every intersection necessary to find the best ways to reach true equity and inclusion by actively working to break down systemic policies that keep barriers in place for those most impacted by mass incarceration.

 

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