International Rising Stars: 9 Cannabis CEOs To Keep An Eye On

By Cynthia Salarizadeh, House of Saka.

Less than 30 years after Israel became the first nation in the world to allow its citizens to use cannabis for medical purposes, the medical and adult-use cannabis markets have spread across the globe at a dizzying rate.

Scientific research and cultural shifts have legitimized cannabis use, and dozens of countries now have fully regulated national programs that allow for varying degrees of legal access (the United States remains a notable exception, although currently, 36 states and four territories allow for the medical use of cannabis products).

According to a recent report, the global cannabis market is expected to reach $42.7 billion by 2024 -- and shows no sign of slowing down after that.

While by no means exhaustive, this list of CEOs represents all developed continents and the CEOs leading some of the most exciting cannabis and hemp companies around the globe -- showing the reach of the industry and its still untapped potential. 

The Americas

United States 

Dr. Oludare Odumosu, Zelira Therapeutics ZLDAF


Oludare ("Dare") Odumosu, PhD, is the CEO of a global cannabis formulation and research company Zelira Therapeutics, which recently made history with the world’s first successful Phase 1/2a clinical trials for a cannabis-based insomnia medicine, and just announced its second world-first clinical trial, for sports-related chronic pain.

As a publicly traded company on the Australian market ZLD ZLDAF, Zelira and Odumosu made news for undergoing a major leadership and culture shift to consolidate its corporate operations in the United States, under Dr. Odumosu's leadership as CEO, while simultaneously maintaining its public trading and government-supported research efforts in Australia.

He currently has several CBD and THC formulations in the market focused on PTSD, Autism, Parkinson’s and more. With his leadership and formulations, Odumosu’s Zelira is also making a claim on the huge CBD market, and recently launched SprinJene CBD, an oral care line, this is the first of many more CBD health-and-wellness products to be launched in the US as early as this year. As a self-described “Nigerian by birth, American by choice,” Odomusu also represents the new generation of young, multicultural leaders in cannabis, to date at age 37, he is the youngest black CEO of a publicly traded global cannabis company. 

Earlier this year Odumosu was named to the board of the National Cannabis Roundtable, which promotes common sense federal regulation, tax equality and financial services reform and supports changing federal law to acknowledge states’ rights to regulate and manage cannabis policy.


Mimi Lam, Superette

Mimi Lam is the CEO and co-founder of Superette, an award-winning cannabis retailer and lifestyle brand that makes buying and consuming cannabis equally enjoyable experiences. 

As an entrepreneur at heart, she sees every moment as an opportunity to innovate and do things better. Her experience in scaling operations complements her background in capital markets, M&A and corporate strategy. She believes that values-driven brands are the future, and she is passionate about bringing fun and community to the forefront of the cannabis retail experience.

Mimi is a founding member of the Ontario Policy Cannabis Council and is part of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s National Cannabis Working Group. Mimi is pushing the industry towards a more inclusive, socially responsible, and environmentally friendly future through mentoring and national advocacy initiatives.


Andrea K. Krell, YVY Life Sciences

Andrea K. Krell is the co-founder and CEO of YVY Life Sciences, a leading Latin American cannabis lifestyle brand creating unique experiences and natural & high quality products, produced with an innovative & sustainable agricultural model. 

She is a founding member of CECAM, the chamber of medical cannabis companies in Uruguay and currently serves on the board. 

Prior to returning to Uruguay, Andrea lived in Israel for 11 years where she completed her BA in Economics, founded Microfy, a leading Israeli microfinance organization and co-founded Parko, a tech startup. She also lived a few years in California where she got the opportunity to work on a cannabis farm in the Emerald Triangle, learning sustainable cultivation as well as how to make cannabis oils for her husband and partner, Kevin, who suffers from an autoimmune condition.


Javier Hasse, El Planteo


Javier Hasse is a cannabis, hemp, CBD and psychedelics-focused reporter, currently serving as managing director for Benzinga Cannabis, and CEO of Spanish language news site El Planteo, a company he co-founded. 

He is also a Senior Contributor to Forbes and part of the Rolling Stone Culture Council.

His book, “Start Your Own Cannabis Business,” was published by Entrepreneur Media in 2018 and hit the #1 Best-Seller spot on Amazon.

As an award-winning reporter and editor, Javier's had roughly 5,000 unique articles in multiple languages published across numerous mass media outlets including CNN, Forbes, MSN, Chicago Tribune, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, Entrepreneur Magazine, MarketWatch, Houston Chronicle, The Street, Nasdaq, Morningstar, Playboy, Benzinga, MERRY JANE, High Times, and many others.

Beyond cannabis, Javier is a published photographer and Billboard-charting rapper, featured on hip-hop albums that also included Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and Inspectah Deck, Twista, Lil Windex, Riff Raff, Cyhi The Prynce, Yung Bleu, DJ Whoo Kid, Jonathan Hay, and others.


Nelson Cury, Mesobis and Green Fund

Nelson if the co-founder and CEO of Mesobis Inc, a latin focused cannabis lifestyle brand. In addition to his role at Mesobis, Nelson runs the day-to-day of Activist Artist Management’s Green Fund, a cannabis fund focused on early-stage brands. Nelson lead three investments in the fund, including Pure Beauty, Flower Co and Garden Society.

Prior to joining the Green Fund, Nelson was responsible for sourcing and evaluating investment opportunities, as well as working with existing portfolio companies at the intersection of media, entertainment, and technology. Nelson also advises Activist clients in strategic capital, strategic partnerships, talent deals, and business development.

Prior to joining Activist, Nelson was a Venture Associate at Avant Global, a boutique Venture Capital firm based in Santa Barbara, California. In that role, Nelson was responsible for the complete life-cycle of various business and investment opportunities, from ideation to liquidity.

Nelson is also the fourth generation in his family’s business in Brazil. As such, he is actively involved with his father’s organization, FBFE (Family Business Forum of Brazil), a multimedia platform that connects thousands of members of family businesses across Brazil.

Nelson graduated with Honors from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Sociology and a Minor in Music. Nelson believes business is an efficient means for enacting positive change; at the age of thirteen, he founded a thrift store with the help of his family and donated all the proceeds to help children with Autism.



Mark Brayshaw, Levin Health

Mark Brayshaw is a former sports administrator in the Australian Football League and CEO of Levin Health, the Melbourne-based medical cannabis company dedicated to developing cannabis-based medicines for patients suffering from chronic pain and other sports related conditions. The company currently has a range of prescription products available under the Levin™ brand accessible through the Special Access Scheme in Australia for legalized medical cannabis. 

After a three-year, professional career as an AFL player with the North Melbourne Football Club (which he describes as “brief and inglorious”) Mark spent a decade as a senior executive at 3 AFL clubs, including as CEO of the Richmond Football Club.  He then spent 8 years as a North Melbourne Director and 6 as CEO of the AFL Coaches Association.

At Levin, Mark’s extensive sports network within Australia is a driving force in establishing Levin Health as a “sports science” company, leveraging medicinal cannabis and world class research to help solve some of the challenges ex-athletes face as they try to stay active. Levin launched its clinical trial activities this year targeting selected patient groups; the first in partnership with Zelira Therapeutics to study cannabis and sports-related chronic pain. Levin Health was awarded a cultivation licence from the Australian Office of Drug Control in April 2019. All of Levin’s products are made in Australian GMP-certified facilities with Australian cannabis as their commitment to developing and providing the best cannabis-based sports medicine possible, made by Australians, for Australians.



James Storie-Pugh, mellow

James, together with his business partner, Neil Tunbridge launched CBD-exclusive wellness marketplace, mellow in the middle of the pandemic.  In just a few short months the platform has evolved from a trusted CBD marketplace into a global eCommerce company.

James Storie-Pugh (L) with mellow co-founder, Neil Tunbridge 

mellow now boasts an ever-expanding series of B2C (mellow talks and mellow eats) and B2B (grow by mellow and mellow Asia) sub-brands designed to offer knowledge and education to its community, as well as provide a comprehensive suite of operational and marketing services to CBD brands looking to enter emerging and lucrative global markets.  

In tandem, James is a director of Pivot International, the successful eCommerce marketplace agency he and Neil co-founded in 2015.  Pivot is a fast building a high-growth marketplace trading and financial services agency offering a suite of business growth tools.

James has 20 years of experience and expertise working with international eCommerce marketplaces on strategic expansion and operational processes spanning the UK, France and U.S.A.  

Prior to founding Pivot and mellow, James held strategic digital and eCommerce inhouse positions at Microsoft, (pioneer of the online flash sales business model) and Global Brands Group (a top 10 global branding company and a member of the Fung Group).



Lawrence Lum,

Lawrence has spent over the last 10 years bringing international brands and retailers into Asia, specifically Greater China, through eCommerce and digital activation. His experience spans across business strategy, finance, brand marketing, eCommerce, IT development, cross-border logistics and market activation.

Lawrence was part of the founding team at eCargo having joined in 2014 as Business Development Director. He helped set up the cross-border store operations, marketing and IT functions within the group, and since supported over 35+ international brands (including, Woolworths, La Perla, Ted Baker, Juicy Couture, Giuseppe Zanotti and more) with their entry into China via online platforms and generated over USD100m in sales for its principals.

He was appointed Chief Commercial Officer in 2016, and to the role of Chief Executive Officer in October 2020. Prior to taking up the role to lead eCargo, he spent a few years in Investment Banking, Digital Banking and Asset Management in Hong Kong and China, with J.P. Morgan, HSBC and Value Partners.

He also has an entrepreneurial spirit having started multiple ventures including his last one called Zingly in 2013, a SaaS platform focused on helping brands capture and utilize user-generated content. He strongly believes in driving a customer-centric business that ensures the company’s principals are capturing all opportunities available to generate value.

Lawrence graduated with Honours with dual specializations in Finance and Strategic Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto, Canada.



Mark Palestine, Hemp Africa

Mark Palestine, a native of Johannesburg, is the CEO/Co-Founder of Hemp Africa (PTY) Ltd., a Lesotho-based cultivator of high-quality medical cannabis. 

With Lesotho’s legal reform of medical cannabis in 2017, Mark - a Chartered Accountant who spent his career taking companies public on stock exchanges around the world - developed a vision for a grow operation that would embody Lesotho’s motto “Khotso, Pula, Nala” or “Peace, Rain, Prosperity”: providing affordable, high-quality medical cannabis to its global customers, remunerative employment to local residents, and dynamic growth to its investors. 

Channeling his attention to detail, problem-solving nature, and determination, Mark launched Hemp Africa in 2018 and obtained the largest grow license in Africa. Today, Hemp Africa’s initial 80,000 sq/ft state-of-the-art greenhouse is capable of producing 9 metric tons (9,000 kilograms) of high-quality dried flower annually, while employing over 100 workers from the local village. Mark has plans to scale Hemp Africa with the evolution of global demand for medical cannabis, ultimately to include up to 25 greenhouses and considerable outdoor growth, alongside an extraction facility.

The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.

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