Founding Members


Matthew Witemyre, Executive Director Matthew has over a decade of experience in medical cannabis activism and direct industry experience. He served as campaign manager of the 2008 initiative to legalize medical cannabis in Michigan, and has worked on initiatives and lobbying campaigns in Nevada, Arizona, and Minnesota. He was also a co-chair of the successful San Jose referendum to overturn the city's proposed ban on dispensaries in 2012. He is a founding member of California's Cooperative of Choice Inc., original providers of Medi-Cone pre-rolled joints, and was a Special Projects Union Representative for UFCW Local 5 as their first cannabis industry organizer. He also has taught Civics and Advocacy classes at Oaksterdam University and helped develop curriculum for UniCann and 707 Cannabis College. Matthew's mother, Cindy Witemyre, passed away in 2009 of complications from cancer in Lakeland, Florida. Medical cannabis greatly helped Cindy with the pain and nausea caused by her treatment and many surgeries. Matthew has dedicated much of his life to ensuring safe access to medical cannabis patients since his mother was diagnosed in 2003. Matthew also has a deep commitment to landrace strains as he suffers from migraines, and has found that landrace sativas are much more effective at stopping a migraine for him than hybrid strains.   He is strongly committed to safe access to medical cannabis for all who could benefit from it, and dignity and fair compensation for workers.

Matthew WitemyreExecutive Director

Matthew has over a decade of experience in medical cannabis activism and direct industry experience. He served as campaign manager of the 2008 initiative to legalize medical cannabis in Michigan, and has worked on initiatives and lobbying campaigns in Nevada, Arizona, and Minnesota. He was also a co-chair of the successful San Jose referendum to overturn the city's proposed ban on dispensaries in 2012. He is a founding member of California's Cooperative of Choice Inc., original providers of Medi-Cone pre-rolled joints, and was a Special Projects Union Representative for UFCW Local 5 as their first cannabis industry organizer. He also has taught Civics and Advocacy classes at Oaksterdam University and helped develop curriculum for UniCann and 707 Cannabis College.

Matthew's mother, Cindy Witemyre, passed away in 2009 of complications from cancer in Lakeland, Florida. Medical cannabis greatly helped Cindy with the pain and nausea caused by her treatment and many surgeries. Matthew has dedicated much of his life to ensuring safe access to medical cannabis patients since his mother was diagnosed in 2003. Matthew also has a deep commitment to landrace strains as he suffers from migraines, and has found that landrace sativas are much more effective at stopping a migraine for him than hybrid strains.  

He is strongly committed to safe access to medical cannabis for all who could benefit from it, and dignity and fair compensation for workers.

Rick Kelley, Director of Operations Rick served as Assistant Director of State Campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project from 2007 to 2009, overseeing the development and implementation of campaign and media strategies for the successful passage of Michigan’s medical cannabis law and a groundbreaking decriminalization effort in Massachusetts. Prior to this, he was senior staff on the 2006 Nevada statewide initiative, handling all logistics and fiscal operations. Rick has worked as the Associate Director of Communications and Finance for Worksafe, an Oakland-based Legal Services Support Center dedicated to eliminating all types of workplace hazards, advocating for protective worker health and safety laws for low-wage and immigrant workers, and for improved remedies for those injured on the job. Rick also contributed to the formation of a grassroots legal collective, the first in Minnesota, focused on empowering and supporting communities likely to be targeted for their political activism, as well as a coalition of support committees for those imprisoned before, during, and after the 2008 Republican National Convention. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Food Empowerment Project, a California food justice organization devoted to workers, animals, and communities, and helped in the creation of a prisoner support and letter-writing organization formed during the historic 2011 California hunger strike.

Rick KelleyDirector of Operations

Rick served as Assistant Director of State Campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project from 2007 to 2009, overseeing the development and implementation of campaign and media strategies for the successful passage of Michigan’s medical cannabis law and a groundbreaking decriminalization effort in Massachusetts. Prior to this, he was senior staff on the 2006 Nevada statewide initiative, handling all logistics and fiscal operations.

Rick has worked as the Associate Director of Communications and Finance for Worksafe, an Oakland-based Legal Services Support Center dedicated to eliminating all types of workplace hazards, advocating for protective worker health and safety laws for low-wage and immigrant workers, and for improved remedies for those injured on the job.

Rick also contributed to the formation of a grassroots legal collective, the first in Minnesota, focused on empowering and supporting communities likely to be targeted for their political activism, as well as a coalition of support committees for those imprisoned before, during, and after the 2008 Republican National Convention.

He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Food Empowerment Project, a California food justice organization devoted to workers, animals, and communities, and helped in the creation of a prisoner support and letter-writing organization formed during the historic 2011 California hunger strike.

Natalie Koski-Karell, Development Director During law school, Natalie studied and worked with Bay Area worker-owned cooperatives under the supervision of co-op attorney Sushil Jacobs, as part of the East Bay Community Law Center's Green Collar Communities Clinic. During her final year of law school, she reestablished the UC Hastings chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy as de facto President and was an inaugural hire at Harvest dispensary in San Francisco. Natalie believes in (and has witnessed) the wide-ranging therapeutic benefits of cannabis and the sustainable core of worker-owned co-ops.  While studying environmental economics and agricultural policy at Vermont Law School in the fall of 2015, she researched the preservation of cannabis genetic diversity, and outlined a hypothetical business plan for a cannabis-oriented worker-owned cooperative in California. In the summer of 2016, through the Drug Policy Alliance via SSDP, Matthew approached Natalie with the idea for Solidarity Cannabis Seed Initiative. The stars could not have aligned more precisely, and the rest is herstory. 

Natalie Koski-KarellDevelopment Director

During law school, Natalie studied and worked with Bay Area worker-owned cooperatives under the supervision of co-op attorney Sushil Jacobs, as part of the East Bay Community Law Center's Green Collar Communities Clinic. During her final year of law school, she reestablished the UC Hastings chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy as de facto President and was an inaugural hire at Harvest dispensary in San Francisco. Natalie believes in (and has witnessed) the wide-ranging therapeutic benefits of cannabis and the sustainable core of worker-owned co-ops. 

While studying environmental economics and agricultural policy at Vermont Law School in the fall of 2015, she researched the preservation of cannabis genetic diversity, and outlined a hypothetical business plan for a cannabis-oriented worker-owned cooperative in California. In the summer of 2016, through the Drug Policy Alliance via SSDP, Matthew approached Natalie with the idea for Solidarity Cannabis Seed Initiative. The stars could not have aligned more precisely, and the rest is herstory. 

 

Advisory Board

  • Amanda Reiman, PhD - Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance and the City Auditor's appointee to the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
  • Rick Pfrommer - Former General Manager of Berkeley Patients Group and founding member of Harborside Health Center, and former member of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission.  
  • David Spradlin - Founding member of Magnolia Wellness and CEO of The Village educational nonprofit.
  • Aundre Speciale - Founding member of Americans for Safe Access and Executive Director of Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley (CBCB) and Phytologie Wellness Oakland.
  • Deborah Sadler - General Manager CBCB.
  • Chris McCatheran - Oaksterdam University horticulture instructor and CEO of RGDC Genetics.
  • George Bianchini - CEO of SG Farms, producer of Medi-Cone pre-rolled joints.