F. AARON SMITH
Aaron Smith is co-founder and executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, the largest trade association representing legal cannabis businesses in the U.S and the only one working to advance the industry on a national level.
Prior to launching NCIA, Aaron distinguished himself as a public advocate for marijuana policy reform — first under the auspices of a California-based medical cannabis advocacy group, Safe Access Now in 2005, and then as the California state policy director for the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project until founding NCIA in 2010. Aaron has successfully built coalitions with elected officials on both sides of the aisle in order to advance marijuana law reform legislation. Aaron’s opinion pieces have appeared in major newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times, and he has been a frequent commentator on national television news networks. Originally from California, Aaron is currently based in Denver.
Taylor West is deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. She has spent nearly 15 years in communications and leadership positions in the political, policy, nonprofit, and business arenas. Taylor came to Denver after four years in Washington, D.C., where she worked first as a strategist for a variety of policy and regulatory reform efforts, and then as communications director for National Journal, a highly respected national media organization. She is also a veteran of several high-profile political campaigns and has appeared as a commentator on MSNBC, Fox News, and CNBC. Taylor first became involved in drug policy reform 18 years ago with an internship at DRCNet, now known as StoptheDrugWar.org.
Director of Government Relations
Michael Correia is director of government relations for the National Cannabis Industry Association. His focus is raising awareness and building support for the cannabis industry’s issues on Capitol Hill. In addition, Michael works with other national organizations to increase the cannabis industry profile nationally. Prior to joining NCIA, Michael spent many years working on Capitol Hill, including working for Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA), who retired in 2010, and the House Committee on Resources, serving three different Chairmen. Previously, he was director of federal affairs for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and senior project manager for the Committee for Responsible Federal Budget. In both positions, he advocated for policies in Congress. A campaign veteran, he has worked and volunteered on numerous political campaigns at the local, state, and federal levels over the past two decades. Michael is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego. A native of San Diego, he resides in Washington, D.C.
MEREDITH BOWER HOLT
Director of Membership and Development
Meredith Bower Holt leads the membership department at the National Cannabis Industry Association. Prior to joining NCIA, she spent 8 years at the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) working in the volunteer relations (board, council, and committee management) and membership departments, and acquired her Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation in 2015. Meredith (and her husband and their orange tabby cat Firn) is new to Denver after spending most of her adult life in Washington, D.C. She lost her left leg below the knee via trauma in 2006, and has suffered from intractable chronic phantom limb pain since the amputation. This was treated with massive doses of opioids for nearly a decade until she was able to join D.C.’s medical marijuana program. After becoming a legal patient, Meredith was able to reduce her narcotics intake by over half within 3 months, and has been featured in Roll Call newspaper and many other local news media outlets discussing the benefits of cannabis for patients with chronic neuropathic pain syndromes.
Director of Events and Education
Brooke Gilbert is the director of events and education, and has been with the National Cannabis Industry Association since 2013. In her role, she develops NCIA’s robust event calendar, manages the annual execution of 50+ networking & educational events nationwide, and oversees NCIA’s speaker bureau. Prior to joining NCIA, Brooke served as the Outreach and Events Coordinator for medical cannabis patient-advocacy group Americans for Safe Access where she facilitated the organization’s first national conference. Brooke first got involved in drug policy reform through Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and is a proud recipient of the “Outstanding Alumni Award”. She was instrumental in program development as an intern for SSDP, where she coordinated the first round of mentors & mentees of the Sister-to-Sister program and continues to volunteer as an advisor for the AMPLIFY Project. Brooke is a Virginia native and graduated from James Madison University in 2010 with a B.S. in Public Policy and Administration. She currently resides in Denver, CO with her husband and dog.
Communications and Projects Manager
Bethany Moore is Communications and Projects Manager, responsible for member-facing communications including blogs, newsletters, video projects, and media partnerships. Bethany has extensive experience in non-profit activism work, including drug policy reform and church-state separation issues. Before NCIA, she spent two years as the campaign manager of the First Freedom First campaign at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, while also volunteering with Maryland Americans for Safe Access. Bethany also served as a multimedia project manager for an international finance and investment firm, and worked for National Foreign Language Center at University of Maryland, as well as Radio Free Asia. She also has a strong background in project management and strategic planning, as well as communications and public relations. Bethany is originally from the Washington, D.C. area and relocated to Denver in January 2014.
Jeremy DePasquale is membership manager for the National Cannabis Industry Association. Jeremy has extensive experience in non-profit membership organizations. He spent two years with the American Institute of Architects, primarily with the Colorado Chapter, planning their 2013 National Convention in Denver. He has a degree and background in politics, including serving as a campaign scheduler for a mayoral campaign in New York City. Jeremy is originally from upstate New York and lived in Washington, DC, before relocating to Denver in April 2012.
Brian Gilbert is events manager for the National Cannabis Industry Association. He works to ensure the success of the NCIA events program through sponsorship support among member businesses, coordination of promotional efforts, and management of on-site event logistics. Brian got his start in the drug policy reform movement in 2009 as one of the founding members of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. He quickly became involved on the local, state, and national level as an Outreach Coordinator for SSDP’s live music activism-based AMPLIFY Project, transforming it over four years into a leading voice for drug policy reform and harm reduction within the live music community. In addition to his work with NCIA, Brian also serves as director of artist and volunteer relations for the AMPLIFY Project and sits on the board of directors of the non-profit harm reduction organization DanceSafe. He is originally from northern Virginia but relocated to Denver in 2014.
Jon Dinh is the membership coordinator for the National Cannabis Industry Association. Jon has over eight years of professional customer service experience. Having worked in retail, restaurants, and call centers, Jon brings an array of service experience that is both intimate and personalized to every encounter. His role is to provide front line assistance to members and help resolve any issues relating to membership. Native to the Rocky Mountains, Jon graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a degree in both Technical Communications and Business Management.
Government Relations Manager
Michelle Rutter is government relations manager for the National Cannabis Industry Association. Prior to working for NCIA, Michelle was a research analyst at a government affairs firm in Washington, D.C., where she analyzed and tracked legislation on numerous issues. Michelle graduated from James Madison University in 2012, receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in History. During her studies, she held a year-long internship with Virginia House of Delegates member Tony Wilt (R). There, she communicated with constituents, businesses, and government officials alike, facilitating meaningful conversations. Michelle was also a member of a pre-law fraternity where she planned events and hosted social functions that sought to encourage long-lasting professional and personal relationships with members. A native Virginian, Michelle currently resides in the Washington, D.C. neighborhood of Capitol Hill.
Jamie McDonnell is the accounting specialist for the National Cannabis Industry Association. Before joining NCIA, Jamie spent two years as the finance manager of a large medical marijuana operation, giving her invaluable experience in the industry. She also has years of experience working as a bookkeeper and accounting specialist for a variety of other companies and individuals, including running her own bookkeeping business. Jamie is originally from Illinois but relocated to Colorado in 1999.
Account Manager and Executive Assistant
Alicia Leonard is NCIA’s Account Manager and Executive Assistant. She has degrees in Hospital and Health Management Services and Business Law, including her Paralegal Certificate. Alicia has a personal passion for the medicinal benefits of cannabis. After two major spine surgeries and many years of pain, she found relief through the use of CBD oral and topical products. Originally from Denver, Alicia spent more than 12 years in Las Vegas owning her own business as a celebrity make-up artist. After returning to Denver in 2006, she worked as a billing specialist for a large hospital organization. Alicia also has many years of experience working as a volunteer in Las Vegas, helping homeless teens and mothers find safe shelter and food during their times of need.
Business Development Manager
Curtis joined the National Cannabis Industry Association as a business development manager. His primary focus is to build and enhance relationships among NCIA, its members, and the broader cannabis community. Curtis got his start in the industry working in marketing and branding before pivoting to advertising. He then went on to launch a cannabis-focused consulting firm that assisted a myriad of companies, from human resources companies and law firms to magazines and celebrity product brands. While diverse work throughout the cannabis industry provided Curtis a sound base in the field, it also motivated him to seek more competitive and rewarding work that held broader policy implications, ultimately galvanizing him to join the team at NCIA. Curtis currently resides in downtown Denver.
Business Development Manager
Rachel Kurtz is business development manager for the National Cannabis Industry Association, making sure NCIA is well represented in WA, OR, AK, HI, and NorCal. Rachel started as a cannabis activist in the mid 90’s as an undergrad before working for a member of Congress and then heading to law school at the University of Washington where she started an SSDP chapter. Following graduation in 2003, she was a drug policy advisor to bar associations around the country, owned a medical marijuana authorization clinic, and worked with various patient and industry organizations before settling into law practice to represent cannabis businesses in the licensing process. She has worked with the speaker committee for Seattle Hempfest for 15 years and serves on the board of directors for the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy, Portland NORML, and the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance. Rachel is a lifelong Army brat and nomad, but considers the Pacific NW her home.