Our Public Relations Team

Our dedicated staff of Marijuana Communications Experts hail from various backgrounds that form a perfect constellation of skills for telling your story. We have lobbyists, activists, brand managers, non profit veterans, marketers, digital media experts, and more. Combined with our suite of proprietary databases, distribution channels, and scores of personal relationships with journalists forged over years of collaboration, there is no better firm representing members of the cannabis industry.

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Evan Nison, founder and owner. Evan Nison is the youngest member of the NORML Board of Directors and sits on the Board of Directors of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. He is the founder of the PR firm NisonCo, which connects leaders in the legal cannabis, medical marijuana, and hemp industries with influential journalists across the U.S. and world.

In 2010, while still a student, Evan took a semester off and moved to California to run the college outreach for the cannabis legalization ballot initiative Prop 19, which spanned over 40 actively managed schools state-wide. He was President of Ithaca Students for Sensible Drug Policy for 4 years, which under his leadership passed one of the first college policies in the country that equalized penalties for cannabis and alcohol on campus. He also received one of the pens used to sign the New York 911 Good Samaritan Law and New York medical marijuana law for his involvement in the passage of both bills.

During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign Evan pressed Hillary Clinton for a firm answer on her support for legalization during a live town hall event on ABC’s Good Morning America.

More recently, as part of his mission to build socially driven businesses, he co-founded Whoopi & Maya, a women’s-focused cannabis brand with actress Whoopi Goldberg and fellow board member Rick Cusick. He then went on to co-found Emerald Farm Tours, a Northern California-based cannabis tour company to give the public a transparent hands-on view of the cannabis industry from seed to sale, and Bloody Good Vape & Smoke, a smoke shop in New Jersey he founded with a victim of cannabis prohibition who was held in jail for a year awaiting trial.Evan has been mentioned in news sources such as the NY Times, CNN, Politico, USA Today, NBC New York, Bloomberg TV, Forbes, and has been profiled in The Cannabist, Civilized, Ithaca Times, Home News Tribune, The Marijuana Times, and the Sun Times. He also received the 2011 NORML Student Activism Award and High Times Freedom Fighter Award for his advocacy.

Max Broburg, Public Relations Specialist. Max joined the NisonCo team in 2021. His experience includes planning and executing impactful communications programs for startups and Fortune 500 companies across numerous industries. Max has earned media coverage in outletins including Forbes, NBC LA and The Las Vegas Review-Journal. Max has worked in public relations since 2018 after earning a B.A. in Communications from Western Washington University and became interested in the cannabis industry after seeing the impact legalization had in his home state of Washington. Max views his position at NisonCo as an opportunity to share the benefits of cannabis and to continue to help businesses succeed.

In his spare time Max can be found practicing and teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, reading, watching movies or hiking in the Pacific Northwest.

Gina PR Account Coordinator Gina Epifano, Public Relations Account Coordinator. Gina Epifano joined the team at NisonCo in 2021. In her position, she provides proactive media support by crafting press releases and securing media coverage. She received a degree in  Business Management from Fisher College in Boston, Massachusetts. She brings to the team over a decade of event production along with PR experience. Her career in public relations stemmed through her bonds with brands, media, and public relations agencies.

Tori Gates, Director of Operations. Tori Gates has worked in nonprofit management and operations with a focus on drug policy and money in politics since 2009. While at Ithaca College studying Psychology and Marketing with a focus on cannabis start-ups and cannabis marketing, she was the president of the college’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter focusing on public education with programs like Just Say Know, Know Your Rights, and policy change campaigns to equalize the penalties for cannabis and alcohol in partnership with campus public safety and administration. After college she has worked on leading field and political operations for city and statewide money in politics, voting reform, and legalization ballot initiatives in South Dakota and Colorado. Tori began working for NisonCo in 2017 when she moved to Colorado from Massachusetts and uses her expertise to build cannabis email marketing campaigns, offer top-notch marijuana marketing strategy, and create successful systems for the fully remote team. When she’s not running operations and business development you’ll find her ripping down the ski slopes, hiking the wilderness, or enjoying the Rocky Mountain high.

Tony Ham, Cannabis SEO Account Manager
Tony Ham, SEO Account Manager. Tony Ham started at NisonCo in 2018 and was a founding member of the SEO department at NisonCo where he manages clients in the cannabis, CBD, and psychedelic space. With the skills that he honed at his previous jobs on Wall St. he strives to find the best and most efficient solutions and get his clients ranked. Tony has worked with industry leaders such as Ascend Wellness, Dr. Dabber, and Coda Signature. When not working on SEO accounts, you can find him playing with his 3 puppies, at the gym with his wife or gaming.

Michelle Headshot, PR Account Manager
Michelle Melton, PR Account Manager.Michelle Melton is a seasoned PR communications and marketing professional of 13 years. At NisonCo PR, she works with business leaders in the cannabis, psychedelic medicine, and vegan/plant-based industries. Prior to joining the NisonCo team, she was a communications and brand consultant for six years where she collaborated with a dozen brands regularly. Before becoming a consultant, she held Director of Communication titles spanning a combined six years at the culture-first creative agencies Alldayeveryday and Chandelier Creative.

Marisa Rivera-Martinez, Manager of HR Operations and Accounting. Marisa joined NisonCo in 2020 and holds a dual BSBA in Accounting and HR/Organizational Management, as well as a Senior Professional in HR designation awarded by the HRCI. With over 10 years of experience in helping organizations in diverse industries refine their core processes, she leverages that knowledge to maximize her contribution to what happens “behind the scenes” in support of the organizations’ mission and goals. Her expertise helps keep NisonCo running smoothly and efficiently. In her career she is most proud of co-founding a nonprofit school for children with developmental disabilities in 2010 and remains a committed and passionate advocate. While her personal passions are diverse and travel usually keeps her busy, she enjoys everything outdoors, taking the time out for yoga practice and spending time with her family.

Marissa Smith, Managing Editor. Marissa joined the NisonCo team in 2019 in the capacity of research and blog / ghostwriter extraordinaire. She graduated from Ithaca College in 2014 with a BA in English Literature, a Marketing minor and a Classical Studies minor with the focus in Latin.

While in school, Marissa worked in various editorial capacities for The Ithacan, one of the most-awarded weekly collegiate periodicals in the country. Working as a Chief Copy Editor, Chief Proofreader and Sales Manager (sometimes concurrently) for the publication helped fuel her rigorous attention to detail, proven ability to deliver with a tight deadline, and knowledge of various writing strategies. Her senior year, she became the founding Editor-in-Chief of ZoetIC, a yearly anthology published by Sigma Tau Delta, the international English studies honor society.

Marissa’s professional work has been dedicated to operations management for various local food establishments in the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts, where she instills order and plays with food along the way.

Marissa’s penchant for language, marketing and words has driven her focused dive into cannabis SEO blogging strategy with NisonCo when she’s not up to her neck in locally produced food. She’s honored to work alongside a seasoned and impassioned cannabis PR, marketing, and SEO team who care about social justice and industry accountability.

Brian Nam-Sonenstein, Director of Public Relations. Brian Nam-Sonenstein joined NisonCo in 2015. He manages our pitching team, which includes overseeing media trend discovery and legislative tracking. He also runs NisonCo’s pro bono PR program to provide media assistance to grassroots organizations and companies engaged in advocacy work.

Brian has worked at the intersection of media and advocacy since 2009. He was the associate publisher and director of advocacy at the political website Firedoglake.com, where he worked on and managed the Just Say Now marijuana legalization campaign. Just Say Now garnered over 2.5 million followers and helped engage and register thousands of voters on cannabis legalization and medical marijuana campaigns in states including California (Prop 19), Colorado (Amendment 64), Washington (Initiative 502), and Oregon (Measure 91). Brian’s organizing work goes beyond drug policy reform. For example, he organized jail support for whistleblowers Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou. He also raised over $200,000 to send necessary equipment to Occupy Movement protesters, and raised thousands to send independent journalists to cover critical events like Julian Assange’s extradition hearings in London and the 2016 Democratic National Convention. He is a co-founder and editor of Shadowproof.com, a reader-supported news outlet, where he reports on incarceration. He is also a co-host of the Beyond Prisons podcast: a political education resource for the prison abolition movement, which was named one of the top 10 Anti-Racist Podcasts of 2020 by Elle Magazine.

Lucas Wentworth, PR Account Manager. Lucas Wentworth joined the team at NisonCo in 2018 as a pitcher before getting his first client in 2019. He comes from a strong background in professional writing, editing, social media marketing, and strategic communications. Lucas lives in Buffalo, New York where he is involved in the Western New York chapter of NORML volunteering in media relations and as an event promoter. In addition to his passion for cannabis legalization and equity, Lucas is an advocate for harm reduction education. He regularly volunteers to do street outreach with a community group in Buffalo called Mobile Overdose Prevention Services passing out narcan and offering demos. He has been involved in lobbying for the Good Samaritan Law to be taught in all public high schools in the NYS, as well as for drug decriminalization in the state. When not working, Lucas enjoys playing with his cats, learning German, and practicing zazen.

Wilfred Maina Waimiri, PR Account Coordinator. Wilfred joined Nisonco in April 2021, and is a member of Nisonco’s PR team. He holds a Bachelors in Economics and Finance from the Kenyatta University and briefly worked as a sports journalist at Absolute Sports Limited.

He has extensive experience guiding educational and marketing initiatives for cannabis companies. Wilfred got his start in cannabis as the lead writer and editor for Every CBD Thing, a website dedicated to educating consumers on everything CBD and cannabis. Through his educational efforts, Wilfred has gotten to interact with and learn from some of the brightest minds in cannabis including Ethan Russo.

Wilfred is constantly working to change attitudes on cannabis in his home country, Kenya.

Trevor, PR Account Manager
Trevor Maniscalo, PR Account Manager. Trevor Maniscalo joined the NisonCo team in October 2021, bringing in his prior experience working in public relations for the cannabis industry. With over two years of experience, he helped leading brands in the cannabis and hemp industry carry out campaigns, amplify their messaging, and reach new audiences. He values being able to help clients meaningfully contribute to important, ongoing media conversations. His strategic work has landed clients coverage in top-tier media publications including Business Insider, Cheddar, CNN, Reuters, and USA Today.

Olivia Copywriter
Olivia Swann, Researcher and Content Marketing Writer. Olivia Swann brings her backgrounds in communications, content marketing, search engine optimization, public service, and education to to grow awareness around important social issues. From exploring new subjects to researching market trends, current cultural issues, or upcoming technologies, she enjoys learning and figuring out how to relay that information to others through the written word.

Matthew Aragon
Matt Aragon, Researcher. Matt Aragon joined NisonCo as a researcher in 2019. His introduction to the cannabis industry began in 2016, after landing his first-ever job at a local CBD/hemp startup in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has extensive experience in harm reduction education and drug policy reform, first becoming involved at age 15 after founding one of the only high school chapters of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) in 2015. In 2018, Matt also helped establish the New Mexico chapter of DanceSafe, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting health and safety within nightlife and electronic dance music communities. He’s currently studying population health and chemistry at the University of New Mexico. Outside of his work with NisonCo, Matt also works as a drug education consultant. His hobbies include growing rare plants, brewing mead, and making silver jewelry.

Mario Ramos
Mario Ramos, Researcher. Mario Ramos joined the NisonCo research team in 2021. He’s been passionate about cannabis for decades and advocates for those who’ve been convicted and incarcerated for cannabis-related charges. His hire is part of NisonCo’s pilot program for hiring formerly incarcerated people in partnership with the Last Prisoner’s Project. To read more about his story, check out his interview on our blog.

Maya Melkote, Researcher. Maya Melkote joined the NisonCo team in 2020. She’s a graduate of Towson University pursuing a career in marketing. She is motivated by digital marketing opportunities that develop paid search, paid social, SEO skills, and creativity.

Shannon Researcher
Shannon Palmer, Researcher and Content Marketing Writer. Shannon Palmer joined the NisonCo team in 2021. She graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in creative writing. Using her years of experience editing, she gives special attention to readability and conciseness. Her professional interests include writing, entomology, and environmental sciences.

Simi Kaur Burn Copywriter
Simi Kaur Burn, PharmD, Staff Writer. Simi joined the NisonCo team in 2022 as a staff writer. A former high school math and science teacher, she returned to higher education to earn her Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Houston in 2010. She then practiced pharmacy full time for 10 years in multiple areas of specialty, including long-term care, geriatrics, sterile compounding, and closed-door pharmacy management in Texas and Oklahoma.

Simi built on her clinical knowledge and experience to transition into holistic health as a medical cannabis pharmacist consultant in 2020. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she provides medical cannabis education to patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, cannabis industry professionals, and academia. She serves on the Board of Directors of the International Society of Cannabis Pharmacists, and is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians and the Psychedelic Pharmacists Association.

A yoga teacher and 25+ year practitioner, Simi co-founded Sun People Yoga, an innovative community-based studio centering the needs of people of color through affordable and accessible virtual yoga and meditation, including unique cannabis-supported classes. When she is not nerding out about the synergistic benefits of yoga and cannabis, Simi can be found hiking, dancing, and sky gazing.

Chris Olson Copywriter
Chris Olson, Staff Writer. Chris Olson joined NisonCo in 2022 as a member of the writing team. He brings to this position his experience developing educational content for nonprofits, media companies, and institutes of higher learning.

Chris developed educational content for conferences and webinars produced by the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), and Jage Media, Inc. While at NCIA, he partnered with the Community College of Denver to develop an associate degree in cannabis business. Additionally, at Jage Media, Inc., Chris wrote stories focused on cannabis brands and retailers.

Chris is also interested in developing educational content for the psychedelics industry. He was a volunteer on the campaign to decriminalize psilocybin in Denver, where his education efforts helped the city become the first jurisdiction in the United States to decriminalize a psychedelic medicine. 

Before joining the cannabis and psychedelics industries, Chris served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana; during service, he received a U.S. Embassy grant to establish a community youth center.

In his free time, Chris enjoys running, reading and traveling.

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