Cannabis Advisory Committee Members
Jeff Ferro is the Director of the innovative Cannabis Workers Rising campaign at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). He has been a labor activist for 30 years.
His career in the labor movement began when he was elected Financial Secretary/Treasurer of the International Chemical Workers Union Local 58 in 1987. He was elected President in 1991, and ran the day-to-day operations of the Local Union while continuing to work at the Southern California Gas Company as a crew assistant. In 1996, he joined the UFCW’s International Chemical Workers Union Council as a Special Project Union Representative, and was promoted to International Organizer in 1997 and International Representative in 1998.
While at the UFCW International Union, he has served as International Representative and Assistant to the Director of UFCW’s Western Region; Collective Bargaining Representative/LPR; Executive Assistant to the Director/ LPR-Western Region; Deputy Trustee for the UFCW Local 1036 Trusteeship; and Campaign Director and Field Campaign Coordinator. Since 2012, he has been an Executive Assistant to the UFCW’s Director of Organizing.
Mr. Ferro was born and raised in California and obtained his undergraduate degree from Crafton Hills Community College and attended California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. He is also a graduate of the Harvard Trade Union Program.
A graduate of Cal State University Sacramento, Kristin Heidelbach was born and raised in the heart of California’s agricultural communities. She is a 14 year veteran of the Teamsters and currently heads the Teamsters’ State of California Cannabis Division. Kristin is also an International Rep of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and works closely with cannabis industry professionals, across the country, to meet compliance and ordinance requirements mandated by local, county, and state regulations.
Her role in the industry has been praised by political, labor, and industry leaders as she educates and empowers individuals that support fair wages and benefits in the industry. Kristin regularly works with employers and entrepreneurs to connect their businesses with local government. She also works with employees to advise them on their roles and responsibilities as these businesses transition into the developing regulatory environment.
Kristin has been asked to testify before many of the City Councils, Boards of Supervisors, and State Legislators on workers rights and the benefits of a partnership with labor. She has also been a frequent resource for many businesses requesting information about how to meet the compliance requirements in their own local jurisdictions.
Kristin lives in Sacramento with her husband and three children. Although most weekends you’ll see the entire family in any of California’s 58 counties advocating for common sense regulations on behalf of cannabis professionals.
Avis Bulbulyan is the Chief Executive Officer of SIVA Enterprises, a full-service cannabis business development and consulting firm that provides state licensing, management, venture opportunities, product and brand development, and insurance to entrepreneurs across the United States.
In his role, Avis oversees corporate direction, business development and strategy, facilitating company activity in consulting, alliances and channels, marketing, investments and operations across the full vertical. Avis leads a high-caliber team who collectively provides clients with the highest level of support from ideation and concept, through execution. SIVA Enterprises was recently recognized by Expertise.com as one of the top 18 consulting firms in 2017 in Los Angeles, representing the only cannabis business out of 800 firms, respectively.
Avis serves as the President of the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force, an association in Los Angeles working with the local city officials and community on the development of the city ordinances within Los Angeles.
In California, Avis assists local municipalities on the development of local ordinances and their respective administration of the application process. He also participates in town halls to educate applicants on the process and how to transition into the regulated, licensed market.
Avis is currently working with the California Insurance Commissioner on educating the insurance carriers, the industry and public on the need for insurance to be available for cannabis businesses so they are not limited to surplus lines and limited coverages.
As one of the industry’s leading cannabis business and regulatory compliance authorities, Avis is a highly sought-after speaker and a valued expert resource for many municipalities and state agencies, as well as national news sources and publications.
Dr. Timmen L. Cermak graduated in philosophy from Ohio Wesleyan before attending Case Western Reserve Medical School (1968-72). After serving in the Indian Health Service he completed a residency in psychiatry and a post-doctoral fellowship in neurophysiology at Stanford, where he assisted Dr. Stephanie Brown in creating the first therapy group for adults raised by an alcoholic parent. In 1983 he helped found the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA), serving first as president and then chairman of the board. NACoA continues its mission today in Washington, D.C., as the National Association for Children of Addiction, working to eliminate the adverse impact of parental alcohol and drug abuse on children and families.
Dr. Cermak is Board Certified in Psychiatry, with a Certificate of Added Qualification in Addiction Psychiatry. He has served on the Executive Council of the California Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM) and chairs CSAM’s task force on marijuana policy. He served as CSAM President from October 2009-11 during which he co-authored CSAM’s Youth First Report calling for marijuana policy reform. He recently co-chaired the Youth, Education, Prevention and Treatment work group on Gavin Newsom’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy and wrote the BRC final report’s sections on youth and cannabis. He recently authored CSAM’s Standards of Care for Adolescent Substance Use, which outlines a continuum of care to educate California youth about alcohol and other drugs, prevent substance abuse and provide early intervention and age appropriate treatment when needed. He continues a small private practice and enjoys lecturing on the basic and clinical science of cannabis.
Dr. Cermak is the author of A Primer on Adult Children of Alcoholics, Diagnosing and Treating Co-dependence, A Time to Heal, Evaluating and Treating Adult Children of Alcoholics, A Time To Heal Workbook and Marijuana: What’s a Parent to Believe?. As he cuts back his private practice, Dr. Cermak is working on a novel, Pinch and Joe, that retells the legend of Pinocchio in the drug culture of today’s San Francisco Tenderloin. He is also completing Taking Marijuana Seriously, a book that gives the general public access to the fascinating science of marijuana and the brain.
Matt Clifford is a staff attorney for Trout Unlimited, the nation’s oldest and largest conservation organization dedicated to preserving coldwater fisheries and habitat. Matt is based in TU’s Emeryville office, and works on voluntary projects with water users in California’s coastal watersheds to restore instream flows for the benefit of salmon, steelhead, and people. He also works on water policy issues, with an eye toward reforming permitting practices to encourage the adoption of progressive water management practices that benefit streamflow. As part of this work, Matt is TU’s lead staffer on issues related to cannabis cultivation, which is the fastest growing source of significant new diversion affecting coastal California fisheries in recent years.
In addition to the Cannabis Advisory Committee, Matt currently serves on the California Advisory Committee on Salmon and Steelhead Trout, the Peer Review Committee for the Fisheries Restoration Grant Program, and the Steelhead Report Card Program Committee.
Prior to moving to California in 2008, Matt practiced environmental law in Missoula, Montana where served for 8 years as staff counsel for the Clark Fork Coalition, specializing in issues related to hardrock mine permitting, nutrient pollution, mine waste cleanup, natural resource damage restoration, and dam removal. He has also served as private counsel in various cases involving federal public lands and resource development. Matt earned a B.A. from Northern Arizona University in 1988 and a J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law in 1995.
Eric Hirata has been in state service for 25 years. He began his career with the Department of Consumer Affairs, and has spent the past 23 years with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. He has held several positions including Investigator, Supervising Investigator, District Administrator, Legislative Officer, and Deputy Division Chief. He has held assignments in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento. Hirata was appointed Chief Deputy Director by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on August 18, 2017.
Hirata holds a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from California State University, Sacramento, and a master’s degree in public administration from California State University, Stanislaus.
Alice A. Huffman is a grassroots leader at the local and national level, a manager, a consultant, a community bridge between government policy makers and the community. She was elected president of the California Hawaii NAACP in 1999 and has won 8 consecutive elections. She is also a member of the National Board of the NAACP. She runs her own consulting firm founded in 1988, AC Public Affairs, Inc.
She is a past appointee of three democratic and republican governors. She currently assists the Governor in a volunteer capacity in his appointment of African Americans in state government and judiciary positions. She is a member of the Advisory Board for the American University of Antigua and a founding member and President of the Board of Directors of the Center for Democratic Participation.
She is a member of the California Democratic Party Executive Committee, and a member of the Democratic National Committee since 1988 and a Super Delegate to the national conventions. She also served as Chair of the 2008 National Convention in Boston.
Huffman served as a member of the former elected Attorney General’s transition team; The State Parks and Recreation Commission; Member of the University of California President’s Council on Campus Climate, Culture, & Inclusion; The Secretary of State’s California Complete Count Committee for the 2010 Census; and Grand Marshall of the San Francisco’s Gay Pride Parade.
Huffman, a high school dropout, was admitted to UC Berkeley as an EOP student from which she graduated in 2 ½ years with honors in Social and Cultural Anthropology. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Kappa Sorority. She did extensive graduate work in University of Pennsylvania, U.C. Davis in Anthropology and USC in Public Administration.
She has many national and state distinguished awards. The most recent received was the CA Legislative Black Caucus Heritage and Legends Award; numerous awards for her community work on behalf of the African American, Latino and LBGTQ community, as well as efforts to regulate cannabis.
Annually she has been included in the 100 most influential California by the Sacramento Observer, and the Capitol Weekly and twice the recipient of The National NAACP Thalheimer Award for the best state conference in the nation.
Huffman, a widower, devotes a significant amount of her time to the NAACP specializing in organizational development and leadership training.
Kristin Lynch is currently the Deputy Executive Director at SEIU 1021. She is responsible for the development and oversight of the Local’s political and strategic campaigns that advocate for access to quality healthcare, affordable housing and environmental justice. Prior to working with SEIU 1021 she was the Regional Director for a national nonprofit, Food & Water Watch. Before that she spent a decade with the National Nurses United and California Nurses Association as the National Director of Operations and Administration and Public Sector Director. Kristin has a J.D. from Golden Gate University School of Law, where she was a public interest law scholar. She is licensed to practice law in the state of California and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Sociology and Women Studies.
Kristin Nevedal is a founder and the current Executive Director of the International Cannabis Farmers Association and serves as a board member for the California Cannabis Industry Association, where she chairs the agricultural committee. Kristin co-founded and served on the board of the Emerald Growers Association, which promoted the medicinal, environmental, social and economic benefits of lawfully cultivated sun grown medical Cannabis from California by advocating for public policies that foster a healthy and sustainable medical Cannabis industry.
As chair of the American Herbal Products Association Cannabis Committee’s cultivation working group, Kristin assisted in the development of cultivation model regulations and best practices for agency consideration. Kristin teaches classes on environmental sustainability and best management practices at Oaksterdam University. Kristin’s broad policy and advocacy experience also includes serving as a board member for the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana, 420 Archives, and the Americans for Safe Access’ Patient Focused Certification Peer Review Board.
LaVonne Peck is the co-founder of Native Network Consulting and former Chairwoman of the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians in Southern California. Her consulting business over the past 13 years has been working with Tribes in the areas of: Emergency management, oil & gas, water resources, and economic development. In the past 3 years, she has concentrated on the cannabis and hemp industry and the opportunities it can provide Tribes. Native Network Consulting was established as an Indian owned and women owned business serving Indian Country and specializing in Tribal Government relations, focusing on creating economic prosperity.
Dr. Matt Rahn served as the Committee’s chairperson during its inaugural year in 2018 and has over twenty years of experience in higher education and research, and as a land use and policy professional. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Nevada Reno, his Ph.D. from UC Davis, and his law degree from the University of San Diego. Today, most of his work is focused on the interface between science and policy, advising local, state and federal government, law enforcement, fire departments, and private entities on developing ordinances, regulations, and policies that address environmental, economic, and community protection standards.
As a university researcher and educator, he has tackled some of the most fundamental issues facing our state, with a focus on public safety, community resilience, water management, waste management, wildfires, transportation, renewable energy, agriculture, and open space. Matt has a unique background that brings a valuable perspective and synergy to local government and higher education. Matt began working in the City of Temecula in early 2000, ultimately engaging in some of the most consequential projects in the region. He has worked on projects that have improved infrastructure, increased regional energy independence, improved air quality, and enhanced the region’s overall quality of life.
As an elected representative on the Temecula City Council, he works tirelessly to ensure that Temecula preserves and carefully plans its future. He has led the charge on developing a number of initiatives, including the creation of a Senior Master Plan, facilitating regional communication and cooperation on water issues, promoting transportation improvements and infrastructure, advancing higher education opportunities, and developing community-based programs to improve public safety. He serves on the City’s cannabis sub-committee and led the development of a regional workshop for local government and decision-makers. He works to ensure safe and healthy communities by pursuing responsible and thoughtful economic and growth opportunities that address environmental, economic, and community perspectives.
Mr. Keith Stephenson is a statewide resource on medical cannabis and has been recognized by the California State Legislature as a subject matter expert, and the founder of Purple Heart medical dispensary, the longest operating medical cannabis dispensary in Oakland, California – founded September 2006. In addition to the Bureau of Cannabis Control, Mr. Stephenson was recently appointed to the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force as Director of Strategy.
After experiencing the health benefits of using cannabis for injuries and complications from arthritis, Mr. Stephenson was fascinated by the multiple benefits of the cannabis plant which has resulted in a passion for improving the quality of life for others. Purple Heart is recognized for consistently offering patients a wide selection of high-quality products, and for being one of the few dispensaries that established stringent lab testing to ensure patients are consuming contaminate-free medication. Purple Heart’s testing standards meet or exceed levels in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii.
Before establishing Purple Heart, Mr. Stephenson was an FAA certified aviation technician for a major US airline for over 15 years, including eight years as a union shop steward. Mr. Stephenson also served two terms on Oakland’s Measure Z, adult use tax regulation committee, and was an adjunct professor at Oaksterdam University.
Tamar Todd is an experienced attorney with expertise in policy advocacy, legislative drafting, statewide political campaign strategy, regulatory implementation, and non-profit management in the areas of drug law reform, cannabis law and policy, public health, and criminal justice. She is the former legal director of the Drug Policy Alliance, where she was responsible for developing and overseeing the organization’s legal work as it related to legislative drafting, policy advocacy, litigation, and public education in local, state and federal jurisdictions. She has a particular expertise in marijuana decriminalization, legalization, and regulation, and she co-authored several state and local ballot initiatives and statutes, including Amendment 64 in Colorado and Proposition 64 in California. She has advised the governments internationally on their efforts to legalize the production and distribution of marijuana, and she has testified in numerous legislative and government bodies in the United States and abroad on the issue of drug policy and the intersection of state and federal law.
Todd received her B.A. from the University of Vermont and her J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center. After law school, she clerked for the Hon. Emmet Sullivan on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Captain Helena Williams is a 25-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) is now serving as the commander of the newly created Impaired Driving Section within the CHP. Prior to this time, she was assigned to the California Alcoholic Beverage Control, as the Chief Deputy Director with direct oversight of all field and administrative operations. Captain Williams has also served as a manager within the CHP Office of Internal Affairs Investigation Unit, as a sergeant on patrol in several cities statewide, the criminal law unit at the CHP Academy, the Valley Division Vehicle Theft Unit, and the Capitol Protection Section. As a sergeant she was selected and served as the statewide Drug Evaluation and Classification Program (DECP) coordinator representing California on a national level.
Currently, Captain Williams has been appointed as a member of the DECP, Drug Recognition Expert, Technical Advisory Panel representing all 50 states participating in the DECP and as an appointed member of the Bureau of Cannabis Control, Cannabis Advisory Committee.
Sgt. Woolsey is currently assigned to the San Jose Police Department’s Division of Medical Marijuana Control, which implements the City of San Jose’s medical marijuana regulatory program. Sgt. Woolsey started his law enforcement career with the Los Angeles Police Department in 1995. He worked in three different divisions in Los Angeles before joining the San Jose Police Department in 2001. In San Jose, he gained experience in several different investigative units including the Megan’s Law Detail within the Sexual Assaults Investigations Unit, Background Investigations, and Gang Investigations. Promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 2010, he worked in patrol before being assigned to medical marijuana enforcement in 2013.
Sgt. Woolsey was involved in the early stages of development of the City of San Jose’s medical marijuana regulatory program. Seeing the program evolve from concept to ordinance, and through to implementation, Sgt. Woolsey has extensive experience working with medical marijuana collectives in San Jose. As part of the City’s regulatory program he has reviewed, inspected or toured over two dozen medical marijuana collective establishments, cultivation operations, and manufacturing locations on numerous occasions. In addition to regulatory experience, Sgt. Woolsey has been involved in addressing several illegal marijuana operations, a key component to any regulatory scheme.
As President and Chief Operating Officer, Ben is responsible for all strategic and operational elements of Kush Bottles, a national packaging distribution platform focused on the cannabis industry. The Company operates out of four facilities throughout the United States and services over 4,000 grower, processor and retailer customers. Critical to Ben’s role is ensuring Kush Bottles’ product portfolio meets the compliance requirements of states’ ever-evolving regulations, while also continually expanding Kush Bottles’ infrastructure and capabilities to support the rapidly growing needs of the cannabis industry.
Prior to joining Kush Bottles in 2014, Ben served as Vice President at Wedbush Capital Management, an investment firm focused on developing entrepreneur-oriented companies. He worked closely with executive management teams of these companies to implement and execute sound business plans and build long-term sustainable value.
Before Wedbush Capital, Ben worked for several years in investment banking where he was actively involved in all aspects of the mergers and acquisitions process, including developing detailed financial models, performing industry analysis and conducting due diligence. He began his career as an Investment Banking Analyst with Bear, Stearns & Co. in New York.
Ben Wu graduated Cum Laude in May 2000 with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Finance and Marketing from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
Ben brings his broad array of experience and uses this knowledge to support the cannabis industry. Having been involved in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Nevada since the beginning of adult-use sales in each of those states, he regularly participates on panels and committees to educate the public on cannabis packaging compliance and regulations. Ben has also served on Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s Packaging Advisory Committee where he helped develop their set of packaging rules focused on child resistance.
Beverly Yu is the Assistant Legislative Director for UDW/AFSCME Local 3930, a union representing 110,000 In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) providers in 21 counties throughout California. She works on developing and implementing legislation and policies that positively impact family child care providers, home care providers, their clients and their communities. Yu currently leads UDW’s legislative efforts to build a strong family child care workforce and improve the state’s early care and education system. Prior to her position at UDW, Yu gained extensive legislative experience interning for former Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez, Assemblymember Paul Fong, and Assemblymember Rich Gordon, as well as the Assembly Office of the Chief Clerk. Yu is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations.