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The Cannabis 50: Sharing Stories of Progress


The cannabis and hemp industries, while continuing their rapid growth, still have to navigate a continually evolving regulatory, operating, and social environment. Those who have succeeded in the sector – whether entrepreneurs, investors or advocates – have more than a little contrarian spirit about them. They have had to work to overcome financial and operational obstacles, including a crazy quilt of regulatory oversight that drives up CapEx needs and increases compliance costs; lack of consistent access to banking, which complicates the execution of simple, everyday transactions; and a grossly unfair tax burden that treats operators – deemed “essential” during the pandemic and providing jobs and tax revenues to their local communities – as drug dealers.

Layered over the business and financial concerns are social and environmental justice issues including individuals imprisoned for activities that are legal in many jurisdictions today; barriers to entry that prevent minority groups from participating in the growth of the industry; and environmental concerns related to sustainability.

Amid this swirl of obstacles and opportunities, media buzz and misinformation, we have set out to identify and celebrate those who are making positive contributions to the growth of cannabis and hemp. That is why we created the Cannabis 50, our annual list honoring 50 businesses, investors, advocates, celebrities and other organizations—contributing positively to the cannabis and hemp industries.

As the Cannabis Practice Leader at public accounting and consulting firm MGO, we are honored to have played a role in the emergence and maturation of the legal cannabis and hemp markets, working with companies to raise capital, be compliant with their tax, financial reporting and regulatory obligations, and strengthening their operations and profitability. This experience gives us a unique perspective on the industry: we’ve seen hard work, dedication and ingenuity pay off; and we’ve seen mistakes made and bad actors get their due. As the global scope of cannabis grows and new persons and organizations are emerging and doing good work, the Cannabis 50 gives us a platform to share stories representing a broad spectrum of challenges, opportunities, and innovations shaping the future of cannabis and hemp.

In selecting the Cannabis 50, we conduct research and outreach in a variety of ways. Firstly, we lean on the insights of  MGO professionals, their clients and contacts for suggestions. We also conduct a detailed market research campaign where we identify key industry trends and seek out those making a positive impact in those areas. And finally, for our second inaugural Cannabis 50 list, we were able to reach out to the 2019 honorees to get their perspective on peers, and maybe even rivals, that they see making a positive impact. From these various data points we weigh, discuss, and assess all options to narrow them down to the final 50.

The centerpiece of the Cannabis 50 is the Impact Review, our 50+ page guide to our honorees. The Impact Review is organized into five core categories:

–  Doing Well includes entrepreneurs and organizations expanding financial, operational and environmental horizons.

–  Doing Good contains nonprofits, activists, and organizations working to undo social harms, support sustainability and provide equitable opportunity.

–  Money Talks is composed of investors, lobbyists and others who spend their time opening the avenues to capital that fuel the emerging industry.

–  Knowledge is Power encompasses researchers and educators who are dedicated to expanding and sharing the untapped benefits of cannabis and hemp.

–  All of the Lights counts those athletes, entertainers and influencers who use their platforms to mainstream cannabis culture and give back to the community. 

In any swiftly-growing industry, there are both good and bad players. We at MGO seek to celebrate the good players, and share their stories, ultimately creating examples for others to follow and thus paving the way for the industry to continue to expand, against the many challenges, into its evolving future.  As you read this, we would ask that you consider your role in the future of the industry and how you can positively affect it. In an industry that prides itself on its non-conformist spirit, how will you contribute to solutions to address complex issues like social justice and equity, sustainability and community stewardship; while simultaneously growing and building a profitable and self-sustaining industry?  We look forward to telling your stories in future editions of the Cannabis 50.

You can explore the Cannabis 50 at: www.Cannabis50.com