Cannabis Business Association of Illinois Chooses New Board Members and Officers

Nov. 15, 2022

For Immediate Release

Cannabis Business Association of Illinois Chooses New Board Members and Officers

CHICAGO – The Cannabis Business Association of Illinois (CBAI), the state’s leading cannabis trade group, elected a diverse, new line-up of industry executives to serve two-year terms on the board of directors during its recent annual meeting. In addition, the group selected several members to serve in board leadership positions.

“Our board members reflect the diversity of our membership,” said CBAI Executive Director Pam Althoff. “We take seriously the state’s pledge to create an equity focused recreational cannabis program. Our leadership, together with our members, will continue to support policy recommendations to help the state live up to its pledge on equity.”

Board Chair Jeremy Unruh, senior vice president of PharmaCann Inc, said CBAI will advocate for state legislation in 2023 to streamline the confusing multi-agency oversight of the state’s cannabis program and eliminate the use of a federal tax penalty that prohibits cannabis businesses in Illinois from deducting normal business expenses such as rent and payroll.

“The maze of regulatory hurdles at the state level is a significant challenge to success in the Illinois cannabis market,” Unruh said. “For social equity entrepreneurs especially, the additional burden of crippling tax penalties makes it nearly impossible to get their businesses off the ground.”

The newly elected directors chosen at the board’s Thursday meeting are: Ambrose Jackson, chairman and CEO of 1937 Group; Laura Jaramillo Bernal, director of special projects for NuEra Cannabis; Portia Mittons, cofounder and vice president of Bridge City Collective; Ngiste Abebe, vice president at Columbia Care; Ted Brunsvold, founder and owner of Nature’s Treatment; Gabe Mendoza, executive vice president at 4Front Ventures; and Terry Peterson, CEO of Progressive Treatment.

They join current board members whose terms run through 2023: Unruh (PharmaCann); Scott Golden (Cresco Labs); James Leventis (Verano Holdings); Tim O’Hern (Nature’s Grace and Wellness); Frank Perullo (Ascend Wellness); and Don Williams (Curaleaf).

The CBAI also appointed the following board members to leadership positions for the 2023-2024 term: Portia Mittons to serve as treasurer, Tim O’Hern to serve as vice chair, and Don Williams to serve as second vice chair. Those new officers join Chair Unruh, Secretary Leventis and immediate Past Chair John Sullivan as the organization’s executive committee.

The CBAI board of directors is elected from member companies with operational Illinois cannabis licenses.
Here are bios of the CBAI board of directors:

Jeremy Unruh/PharmaCann
Jeremy Unruh is the Chair of CBAI’s Board and senior vice president of regulatory and external affairs for PharmaCann Inc., which operates more than sixty licensed cannabis facilities, including dispensaries and cultivation centers. He is responsible for the company’s external matters, including legislative policy and public affairs; media relationships; organized labor, and coordination with state and local regulators. Jeremy also oversees the development of the PharmaCann social equity and corporate responsibility program. A former prosecutor, Jeremy also went into private practice focusing on commercial litigation, internal compliance investigations and product liability defense.

Ngiste Abebe/Columbia Care
Ngiste Abebe is Vice President of Public Policy at Columbia Care, one of New York’s first medical cannabis operators. She crafts equitable cannabis policy and partnership strategies, and leads industry associations in New York, DC and Illinois. Ngiste previously co-founded Undaunted Ventures, a political consulting firm that specializes in innovative narrative, training and leadership coaching services.

Ted Brunsvold/Nature’s Treatment
Ted Brunsvold is founder and owner of Nature’s Treatment of Illinois, with locations in Milan and Galesburg. Ted is also the President/founder of Illinois Governmental Consulting Group, LLC, a consulting and lobbying firm that works with the Illinois General Assembly, City of Chicago, Cook County and U.S. Congress. He has been a member of CBAI since its inception in 2019 as well as CBAI’s precursor Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois.

Ambrose Jackson/1937 Group
Ambrose Jackson is the Chairman and CEO of the 1937 Group, a parent company of several businesses in the cannabis industry, including cultivation, processing, infusion, transportation and retail. He has 12 years of experience in healthcare business management, leading departments responsible for regulatory compliance, patient safety and quality improvement. He has also worked at recognized organizations like Cleveland Clinic and Advocate Aurora Health and has served on the Board of Directors for the America College of Healthcare Executives and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Ohio.

Laura Jaramillo Bernal/NuEra Cannabis
Laura Jaramillo Bernal is the Director of Special Projects for NuEra Cannabis, where she has navigated the Illinois and Michigan cannabis industries, working on everything from securing zoning approvals to supervising buildout projects. Before joining the cannabis industry, Laura served as COO of NAIM Media Group, a DC-based media company that develops, produces and distributes content. She also served as Executive Producer of Efecto Naim, an Emmy-winning weekly international affairs show broadcast throughout the Americas. She has been selected as a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, as one of Huffington Post’s 40 under 40 Latinos in Foreign Policy and as a Michael Rockefeller Memorial Fellow.

Gabriel Mendoza/4Front Ventures
Gabriel Mendoza is Executive Vice President of Retail Operations at 4Front Ventures, where he shepherds retail projects into and through every stage of the business life cycle. He is also the cofounder of Chicago NORML, a non-profit that worked to help shape the equity provisions of Illinois’ cannabis legislation. A lifelong Chicagoan, Gabriel got his start in the Illinois cannabis industry in 2014 when he applied for and won one of the medical cannabis cultivation licenses and one of the sixty medical cannabis dispensary licenses.

Portia Mittons/Bridge City Collective
Portia Mittons is the cofounder and Retail Vice President of Bridge City Collective, a multi-state cannabis business with a focus on education and wellness. She is also co-chair of CBAI’s Minority Access Committee, where she works to help social equity applicants thrive in the cannabis industry. Portia co-owns the cannabis dispensary Coughie Pot in Sumpter, Oregon and is actively engaged in numerous cannabis symposiums and conferences focusing on social equity issues, careers in cannabis and CBD guidance.

Terry Peterson/Progressive Treatment Solutions
Terry Peterson is the CEO of Progressive Treatment Solutions, a licensed medical cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility. He previously served as Vice President for Corporate and External Affairs at Rush University Medical Center, Chairman of the Board for the Chicago Transit Authority and CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority. Terry has also spent time in public service, serving as Alderman of Chicago’s 17th Ward and Executive Assistant to Mayor Richard Daley.

Scott Golden/Cresco Labs
Scott Golden is the Vice President of Public Affairs at Cresco Labs, one of the first medical cannabis license holders and an original CBAI member. He supports Cresco’s government affairs, social equity and community integration teams, as well as Cresco’s legislative and regulatory priorities. Scott has assisted CBAI in crafting draft legislation, including HB1443 and the federal Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. Prior to joining Cresco, Scott worked as a litigator in private practice and as a government attorney.

James Leventis/Verano
James Leventis is Vice President of Legal, Head of Regulatory, Compliance and Government Affairs at Verano Holdings. Since its formation, James has helped the company grow from a single-state operator to a publicly traded corporation with vertically integrated operations across twelve states. Prior to joining Verano, James developed an extensive background in the cannabis industry during his time in private practice, where he was an integral part of helping several applicants develop and operate medical licenses in Illinois.

Tim O’Hern/Nature’s Grace and Wellness
Tim O’Hern is Chief Operating Officer and general counsel at Nature’s Grace and Wellness, a cannabis cultivator based on the O’Hern family farm in Vermont, Illinois. Tim previously practiced law in St. Louis, serving as a litigator for insurance bad faith claims, employment claims, wrongful deaths and more. In addition to his legal experience, Tim has been actively involved in all areas of Nature’s Grace operations, including cultivation, extraction, packaging, operations management, product development, equipment and materials sourcing, facility design and development and sales lead generation.

Frank Perullo/Ascend Wellness Holdings
Frank Perullo is the cofounder and Chief Strategy Officer of Ascend Wellness Holdings, which owns and operates state-of-the-art cultivation facilities. He is also the founder of Novus Group and Sage Systems, one of the leading providers of web-based campaign management software. Sage’s ListManager tool empowered thousands of campaigns across the country to make data driven micro-targeted decisions. Frank has served as the general consultant and pollster on hundreds of successful campaigns and has been named by Campaigns and Elections as one of the nation’s most powerful political influencers.

Don Williams/Curaleaf
Don Williams is Vice President of Government Relations for Curaleaf, a medical and recreational marijuana dispensary that operates in more than 20 states. He joined Curaleaf in 2019 and covers the company’s Central and West Regions of the United States. Don previously worked in the private and public sector for over 30 years. He started his corporate career at McDonald’s Corporation in training, operations and government relations.


About CBAI
The Cannabis Business Association of Illinois was originally established in 2015 as the Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois. We have grown alongside our members and today, the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois (CannaBiz IL or CBAI) is a non-profit statewide association that represents cannabis businesses licensed by the state of Illinois as well, ancillary businesses, and industry supporters. CBAI’s Board of Directors of is composed of owners and operators of Illinois’ cultivation centers, MSOs, and independently owned dispensaries.



Member Spotlight: High-Minded Events

Member Spotlight: High-Minded Events

About Phil Cooper and High-Minded Events


Phil Cooper
High-Minded Events

Phil Cooper is the Founder and Owner of High-Minded Events, which focuses on de-stigmatizing cannabis culture and consumption by including it in their events. CBAI is once again partnering with High-Minded Events for the annual ICANN PAC fundraiser, Fall Impact, on Thursday, October 20th.

Tell us about your company
I started High-Minded Events a little over two years ago, in Summer 2020. I already had a successful career in the event design industry, doing high-profile events with big names. But with cannabis becoming legal in Illinois, I saw an opportunity to offer my skills as someone who has the ability to help people approach cannabis in a familiar and comfortable way. When the pandemic took hold and events were canceled, I felt like it was an opportunity for me to really take the time to research and kick off this new company. We dipped our toes into a few events in 2021 and were really pleased with the response because I think people see it as a natural progression, now that cannabis is legal in Illinois.

What role does your company play in the cannabis industry?
Our company has two main areas: one is our catering side, which includes anything from equipment rental – where we provide safe and elegant consumption at private events – to coordinating private chefs, budtenders and chocolatiers to infuse cannabis into food and drink. The other side of our business is our efforts to work directly with cannabis brands to help them design, execute and manage their cannabis events.

Phil Cooper, Founder/Owner, High-Minded Events

Phil Cooper is the Founder and Owner of High-Minded Events, which focuses on de-stigmatizing cannabis culture and consumption by including it in their events.

What drew you to the cannabis industry?
As a recovering alcoholic , I found that cannabis was a healthy alternative for me. At the same time, being a person who doesn’t drink in an industry where one of the main tenets is drinking can be really difficult and isolating. There are tons of events where you walk in the door and are handed a glass of champagne; I’m immediately left out of the customer experience. So, I saw this as a real opportunity to bring a healthy alternative to private events and give people who don’t want to have a drink the option to imbibe in another way. Being able to bring that option to private settings is part of our mission and a really personal goal for me.

What excites you about the cannabis industry?
Working directly with small, craft growers is really exciting. Whether we’re helping them throw their own event or incorporating their products into private events or weddings, I love being able to help these smaller operations get more exposure and break through to some customers. These small events are great opportunities for us to talk directly with consumers about these new brands and their high-quality products without it being a more formal marketing event.

What are the biggest challenges facing your business?
Because cannabis is still relatively new in Illinois and because it’s still federally illegal, we are limited in the venues that will let us hold events. But it’s not even just events: right now, we’re working on trying to secure our own space here in Chicago and there’s some bureaucratic confusion when it comes to zoning. We keep getting bounced back and forth between departments because we’re a new type of business in a new industry. We’re missing some clarity when it comes to consumption rules in Chicago, particularly for events. I’d like to see a very clear process put in place for hosting cannabis-forward events: here is the office responsible for the permitting, here are the requirements and fees, here’s where you can have the events. If a brewery was hosting an event, you’d be shocked if they weren’t serving beer. Cannabis events ought to be treated the same way.

What can we expect from this year’s ICANN PAC event?
It’s going to be an elegant event providing attendees with meaningful networking opportunities with government officials and members of the industry…and plenty of opportunities to sample cannabis products! We’re going to have tons of delicious infused edibles and an interactive joint-packing station where attendees can see the flower they’re picking and get a custom joint rolled to either enjoy at home or in the private courtyard at the event. And we’ll of course have my favorite: infused beverages, which are probably the most popular item at our events and a great substitute for alcohol.

Learn more about the ICANN PAC event and register here

Connect with Phil Cooper and High-Minded Events!


Member Spotlight: Glory Global

Member Spotlight: Glory Global

About Glory Global


Joseph Gnorski

Glory Global,

Joseph Gnorski is Senior Vice President of Retail Markets for Glory Global, which provides cash technology solutions to a variety of industries, including the cannabis sector.

Tell us about your company.

Glory Global was founded in Japan more than 100 years ago, actually starting as a light bulb company. But following World War 2 we developed a machine that would count and sort coins, so we shifted our focus to cash technology and have been doing that ever since. So now we provide these solutions to sectors across the economy, from grocery stores and restaurants to casinos and now, cannabis.


What role does your company play in the cannabis industry?

Cannabis is predominantly a cash business, so the value we ultimately provide to our customers is equipping them with technology that allows them to more efficiently and accurately count, secure and authenticate their cash. The time saved allows them to focus on improving the customer experience and growing their business.

Our first customer in the space was looking for ways to save time so they could focus on expansion. Cannabis businesses who are looking to expand – maybe even out of state – really can’t survive a scenario in which they must manually oversee cash counts in their back rooms on a daily basis. It just takes too much time.

Joseph Gnorski, VP of Retail Markets, Glory Global

Joseph Gnorski is Senior Vice President of Retail Markets for Glory Global, which provides cash technology solutions to a variety of industries, including the cannabis sector.

What excites you about the cannabis industry?

This industry is very new, so we’re seeing a lot of really interesting innovation. Because our solutions provide time back to the staff,, I see a lot of them creating something entirely new and interesting and better for their customers. It’s always fascinating to see how different organizations take that time and resources and put them back into their organization.

There are a lot of companies that have created fascinating customer experiences by removing that sort of transactional element of cash out of the process. Seeing those changes is what really gets me excited.

There are a lot of companies that have created fascinating customer experiences by removing that sort of transactional element of cash out of the process.  Seeing those changes is what really gets me excited.

What are the biggest challenges facing your business?

We operate all over the US, so we must navigate different regulations and laws on a state-by-state basis. As a result, it can be difficult – not just for us but for our clients – to standardize processes, to scale and to grow. This is a very new industry with a lot of new businesses – some of which are making their first entrance into running a company – so any barriers to growth can be tough to overcome. 

What changes could help you be more successful in Illinois?

We would love to see more standardization when it comes to payments and banking. It can get a complicated when you process electronic transactions and deal in large volumes of cash while trying to follow a slew of regulations. So, the easier that system can be, the easier it is to stay in compliance and stay transparent.

Connect with Joseph Gnorski and Glory Global!


Member Spotlight: Metrc

Member Spotlight: Metrc

About Metrc


David Urbanowicz


David Urbanowicz is Vice President of External Affairs and Business Development for Metrc, which provides cannabis regulatory systems for 20 states, the District of Columbia and Guam.


Tell us about your company

Metrc (pronounced “Metric”) is the leading provider of track-and-trace technology, which helps states regulate cannabis industry operations. We started in the early 1990s, initially looking at the ways technology could help extend the life and utility of fresh food, with the goal of helping to eliminate food waste.

The technology that was developed during those efforts came into use when the state of Colorado was getting ready to launch its legal cannabis industry and approached us for help developing a regulatory system to ensure the security and safety of the marketplace. We spent two years working with Colorado to create a system to track a variety of information that is transparent and can be easily accessed by state regulators. We’ve since expanded to 20 states, the District of Columbia and Guam.


What role does your company play in the cannabis industry? We are ultimately a regulatory system providing real-time information to state governments about their cannabis industries. For each state in which we operate, we have a centralized database of every single plant and product in the legal marketplace, as well as all the information related to it such as where it came from, where it’s going, who handled it along the way, results from independent testing labs, and other information critical to a well-regulated marketplace, including information on where it was ultimately sold and for how much.

Every business throughout the supply chain reports into the same database – the one we provide – and regulators can see that information in real time and act on it immediately, if necessary. Our goal is to help both regulators and businesses keep the market safe and secure, because seed-to-sale traceability helps ensure product and consumer safety.

David Urbanowicz, Metrc

David Urbanowicz is Vice President of External Affairs and Business Development for Metrc, which provides cannabis regulatory systems for 20 states, the District of Columbia and Guam.

What sort of information does Metrc track?

To be as useful as possible, the information we track has to be very granular: what seeds are used, how they grow, when a plant gets cut, etc. In the event of an issue, this allows the system to pinpoint the affected products that need to be pulled from the market, rather than issue a major blanket recall.


The system also has safeguards built in, so if a product fails tests at any step of the process, it cannot continue moving through the supply chain until the issue is addressed. So, businesses are in essence automatically compliant because the system won’t let them act on something if there is an issue.


Another huge focus for partner states that Metrc helps with is tax collection. Because the system tracks all sale information, state departments of revenue can look directly at that data and reconcile it with a business’ tax receipts.


What excites you about the cannabis industry?

Solving complex problems like this is exciting for a brand-new industry, with a huge learning curve. The cannabis industry is at the forefront of supply chain transparency, in large part because of systems like ours. Most industries – even other highly regulated ones – don’t have this level of real-time data and tracking, so it’s an innovative system with potential implications for other markets as well.

Connect with David and Metrc!


6/1/2022 Statement from the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois

6/1/2022 Statement from the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois


June 1, 2022

The Illinois Cannabis Business Association welcomes the action by a Cook County judge lifting the legal hold on issuing cannabis dispensary licenses to 185 social equity applicants. While we are pleased with this development, we are disappointed in the decision of the administration to hold these conditional licenses until further guidance is given in the federal residency case, as each delay continues to harm those waiting to enter the industry.

The applicants have put their careers and livelihood on hold in anticipation of these awards, including taking on daunting financial risks to pursue a promise made by the state when the cannabis equity legislation was passed in 2019.

The state must do more to implement policies that provide greater ownership opportunities for minority cannabis entrepreneurs, including set-aside licenses, innovative incubation and co-location programs, and legislation that addresses the challenges for diverse businesses.

The court’s action, and the state’s swift follow up, are both necessary to address ongoing inequities in the licensing process as well as to answer the growing demand for safe recreational cannabis products from consumers across Illinois.

This will allow our industry to become, as anticipated when the law passed, an evolving, growing, thriving industry, instead of the stop and go process that has hindered its true potential.

We are heartened by the court’s action and look forward to celebrating the arrival of these new businesses into the Illinois market.

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