Ones to Watch 2020: Stephanie Cernicek


The inaugural Greenway Ones to Watch class were nominated by their peers as those will be some of the most responsible for setting the tone of Missouri’s newest industry. From activists to consultants to operators themselves, the following industry influencers are responsible for determining not only how the industry overcomes the obstacles of 2020, but how the industry will be better for it. The same questions were asked of all; submitted answers and related information edited for grammar and clarity.


NAME: Dr. Stephanie Cernicek

COMPANY: Beleaf Medical LLC & Phytos


TITLE: Chief Science Officer

BACKGROUND: I started at BeLeaf 4 years ago while I was finishing my PhD in chemistry. Beleaf started as one of two non profit companies licensed by MO to cultivate, manufacture, and sell CBD oil to patients with intractable epilepsy. In my roll with the company I extracted CBD and formulated products.


Why cannabis?

If you asked me 5 years ago, this is not what I thought I would be doing. I thought for sure my chemistry degrees would take me into the pharmaceutical world. When the opportunity to work at BeLeaf opened up, I jumped to it. The thought of making products that are far less harmful than pharmaceuticals was extremely appealing. My journey over the last 4 years has been extremely eye opening. Seeing first hand the medicinal benefits of cannabis has been remarkable and something I don’t think I could ever walk away from.

What is your vision of the industry in Missouri?

I am looking forward to watching and leading the way as our industry grows. I have had the unique experience of operating in Missouri under the extremely restrictive CBD/hemp license laws and transitioning into very different medical marijuana laws. It is exciting to see the changes and growth that the state is making in this area. Even though medical is just beginning, I think recreational is right around the corner. When thinking about evolving Phytos and expanding the marijuana infused products we will offer I am always keeping recreational in the back of my mind. We want to build brands and products that will be able to transition as the market grows and becomes more defined in the state.


What opportunity/opportunities does the industry create in Missouri?

This industry is creating a massive amount of jobs across a vast array of skillsets and backgrounds.  Compared to other states we have the second highest number of licensed facilities (behind only Oklahoma). This means there will be a lot of opportunities at all levels in this industry.

For years Missourians have left the state to find jobs and opportunities. Having a legal medical cannabis market in the state means more people will choose to stay here for employment and continue to support our economy.

We also have the opportunity to show people cannabis is not some terrifying gateway drug.

What is one thing you wish all Missourians knew about cannabis?

If I had one thing to say to Missouri, it’s that this isn’t just a man’s game anymore.  For years this industry was dominated by an outdated “old boys club”, but we’re seeing year over year more women rising up to claim their share of the action.  I hope I can be a role model for all of the women in Missouri who might feel intimidated by the idea of breaking into this business.

See more Ones to Watch 2020 profiles here