Toronto (September 5)


After a busy August on the US East Coast and in Israel, The Cannabis Society (TCS), with support from Grant Thornton, hosted an Executive Business Conference and Dinner in Toronto on September 5th.

The conference launched with opening remarks by The Cannabis Society CEO, Bill Hennessey, which was then followed by an informative keynote given by Trisha LeBlanc, Partner, Grant Thornton LLP.

Trisha LeBlanc is Grant Thornton’s national industry leader for cannabis. She brings more than 20 years of professional experience in accounting and audit to her role, along with a deep understanding of the cannabis industry, having worked with some of Canada’s largest licensed producers.

From complex financial reporting to general advice, Trisha takes on every challenge through a strategic lens. She assists clients with a range of issues, such as determining the best accounting for partnerships, joint and collaborative arrangements; understanding the accounting implications of complex or unique financing arrangements; accounting for the fair value of biological assets; and financial reporting benchmarking.

Prior to joining Grant Thornton, Trisha worked at a big four firm in Canada, United Kingdom, United States, and The Netherlands. 

Following Trisha’s keynote, the first of two panels for the evening kicked off discussing  Investing in Cannabis. Moderated by Trisha LeBlanc (Partner at Grant Thornton), the discussion included Ben Futoriansky (Canopy Rivers Inc.), Michael Miller (White Sheep Corp.), Brian Sheng (Asia Horizon Group) as the speakers. Topics discussed included what a company needs to have in place to be a candidate for growth capital, the factors which determine the strategy of investment from a series process, the measures the cannabis companies should be taking into consideration to prevent overvaluation, etc.

Ben Futoriansky is an Associate at Canopy Rivers, the venture capital affiliate of Canopy Growth, and the largest cannabis VC fund in the world. Prior to joining Canopy Rivers, Ben was a Consultant for Accenture in their Digital Interactive group. During his time at Accenture, Ben worked across Financial Services, Media & Technology, Resources and Non-Profit organizations focusing on customer experience, digital strategy, and business development. Ben co-founded a travel social network start-up called DestaPlan, allowing users to visually organize trips, coordinate itineraries and share recommendations. Prior to Accenture and DestaPlan, Ben was a Strategy Analyst for Start-up Nation Central in Tel Aviv, where he actively sourced start-ups, prepared industry landscapes, and helped map the Israeli ecosystem. He holds a Bachelor of Business from the Schulich School of Business at York University specializing in Strategy and Finance. He sits on the board of Birthright Excel, a lifelong business fellowship program.

Michael Miller is a venture capitalist, writer, and the Director of Finance at White Sheep Corp., a cannabis operating and investment firm with assets in Canada, the United States, Australia, and southern Africa. At White Sheep, Michael oversees the firm’s venture portfolio and specializes in deal structuring, valuation, and financial reporting. Michael’s expertise on the cannabis industry has led to media appearances on the BBC, Vice, and Business News Network, and he has been quoted expert in MarketWatch, The Financial Post, and Playboy. Michael's investigative writings on the cannabis industry, which principally focus on financial accounting, have been featured in New Cannabis Ventures and PostMedia's The GrowthOp. Michael has also lectured at a number of universities about the cannabis industry and is the co-author of“High” Profits from Accounting for Cannabis Plant Inventory, the world’s very first accounting business case on the cannabis industry that was published by the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School.

Brian Sheng is CEO of Asia Horizon Group - a private equity company deploying capital and building operations in Asia, with an initial focus on the Chinese hemp industry. Prior to Asia Horizon, Brian was a General Partner with Arcview Ventures, the venture arm of The Arcview Group. At Arcview Ventures, Brian led the firm's international investment strategy and spearheaded Arcview's entry into Asia.

Brian was a venture capitalist before joining the cannabis industry as the founder of Fresh VC, a leading early-stage venture capital fund focused on investments in water, marketplaces, and frontier technologies. At Fresh, Brian led the investments in several multi-hundred million dollar companies including FND, FiscalNote, Eaze and served on the Board of Directors of Eaze and FND. Prior to Fresh, Brian served as a Senior Advisor for URI Investments, a cross-border Chinese Private Equity Fund. He started his venture career at Shenzhen Capital Group, one of the largest VC firms in China.


Following the discussion on cannabis investment, Jay Cleary (General Manager of The Cannabis Society) served as the moderator for the second panel of the Cannabis 2.0. Joining Jay on the panel was Abi Roach (Hotbox Holdings), James McMillan (Hexo Corp), Everett Knight (Valens Groworks), Paul Pedersen (Nextleaf Solutions).

Prominent topics of conversation between the speakers included: how brands are going to differentiate themselves based on current marketing regulations, what a successful model of distribution in the industry is, and what steps can be taken to standardized product quality assurance in legalization 2.0. 

Abi Roach, the Founder of Hotbox Holdings, has been innovating the cannabis lifestyle and tourism industry for 20 years, with decades of retail operations. Dedicating her life to the freedom of cannabis consumers and the normalization (and now legalization) of cannabis. Abi is the newly appointed Executive Chair of NORML Canada. Founding director of OCCRA & CFBA.

James McMillan brings more than 20 years of executive experience in strategic sales, marketing and business development with an entrepreneurial spirit, strong negotiating skills, and expertise in developing growth markets to his role as our Vice-President for Business Development. A graduate of Concordia University (Bachelor of Commerce, Marketing/Finance), James has an established track-record of creating successful business development opportunities, building growth organizations, and establishing lasting customer relationships in diverse fields including communications, emerging technologies, energy management and now cannabis across both Canada and international markets.

As Vice-President for Business Development, James plays a leading role in identifying strategic opportunities in the expanding cannabis market. From the development of new and innovative product lines for the medical and recreational markets, to building strong relationships with commercial partners, James is responsible for establishing and expanding our market position in Canada and beyond.

Everett Knight is Executive Vice President of Strategy & Investments where he oversees corporate strategy including mergers & acquisitions, marketing, & investor relations. Mr. Knight is known across the cannabis space for his expertise and thought leadership where he has been involved with working, analyzing, lobbying, investing, advising, & consulting throughout the cannabis value chain. Previous to Valens, Mr. Knight was a portfolio manager at Matco Financial Inc where he ran the Small Cap Fund and launched the first long only institutional Cannabis Fund in Canada and led them both become the top performing funds in their corresponding categories. He has toured over 85 facilities worldwide and analyzed over 1200+ cannabis globally where he accumulated a thorough understanding of the industry, regulations, subsectors, and the companies involved in this fast-growing space. His focus in the cannabis industry has shifted in recent years to developing a specialty in extraction, testing, formulation, & value-added products. Mr. Knight has spoken at 150+ cannabis events across the globe including trade shows, corporate conferences, investor events, government forums, and legal/regulatory debates. 

Paul Pedersen is co-founder and CEO of Nextleaf Solutions - the first public company to be issued a U.S. patent for industrial-scale extraction & purification of cannabinoids. OILS is developing technology to revolutionize extraction & purification throughput, yield, and purity to enhance cannabis oil economics across the globe. Paul has been focused on the cannabis industry since 2013, advising a variety of cannabis companies and investors including Canada’s first legal cannabis oil producer. Paul has founded several startups over his career, including a media company acquired in 2007 by Towerstream Corporation (NASDAQ: TWER). He holds a MBA in Finance from the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University.

If you’re interested in being a speaker, sponsor, or attendee at The Cannabis Society’s upcoming conferences, please reach out to us by emailing

The Cannabis Society