Jason Nelson discusses new role, helping cannabis business grow as CEO of Avail AG


With Avail Ag, Avail Professional Services aims to help cannabis businesses thrive as the cannabis industry continues to grow.

Based in Saint Louis, Avail provides a comprehensive suite of finance, management, and accounting services; with Avail AG, those same services are specifically tailored to the cannabis industry.

Jason Nelson, the newly appointed CEO of Avail’s Agriculture Division, brings over a decade of experience in the cannabis industry to his new role. With a Master’s in Horticulture and over 12 years of executive leadership experience in the US cannabis sector, Nelson’s extensive background spans several states, starting from his early days in Colorado’s pioneering market to his recent successes in Missouri. He has managed large-scale horticultural operations and business growth strategies across the United States for both single-state operators (SSOs) and multi-state operators (MSOs). His deep understanding of the industry’s complexities and challenges equips him with the skills and tools necessary to guide Avail’s clients towards success.

Throughout his career, Nelson has played crucial roles in various aspects of the cannabis sector, from production and operations to executive leadership and regulatory advocacy. His strategic approach has fostered exponential revenue growth in multiple state-siloed markets while consistently supporting social equity initiatives in previous roles. At Avail, Jason is committed to leveraging his expertise to enhance service delivery and client satisfaction. He aims to foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement, ensuring Avail exceeds the evolving needs of the cannabis and psychedelic industries.

Greenway had the opportunity to sit down and talk more with Nelson about his new role as CEO of Avail Ag and his vision for the future of the cannabis industry.

Jason Nelson

What drew you to Avail Professional Services?

“I made the relationship when I was working with a single-state operator in the past. The personal relationship element goes a long way in a complex industry, as you know. There are tons of operators on all sides of the equation that still have that people-first approach with respect to how they manage their businesses and have great personal relationships.

“Avail was building their client base, and they needed someone to run this business unit specifically. That wasn’t necessarily the case a year or so ago. The timing of those elements, plus the need for true professional services, made it a perfect fit.

“Avail Pro was originally founded as an accounting firm. Then, as Chris Dussold, the managing partner, took it over, the company started branching into more of those services in the cannabis sector, starting with the medical program and into adult use. It was able to grow organically from a strong service model.

“Now, you obviously bring in all of my operational, revenue-chasing expertise with respect to the cannabis industry. It’s a nice tandem for operators to be able to take value.”

How does your experience in the industry help you help cannabis companies?

“There are certainly some big operators in Missouri, like Greenlight or Good Day Farm. And when you look at these other operators, there is going to be a chance to optimize and have success. In any tough competitive market like Missouri, you have producers, suppliers, and retailers.

“Where you’ll start to see more differentiation, it comes back to the value of a service model, which is especially true with smaller operators. They don’t have the bandwidth and the resources to have a full suite of executives running their company.

“For us, the services model allows us to say everybody needs access to capital. They need access to strong financials, which is difficult for cannabis by itself. By extension, once you deal with that, maybe you’re having issues with any component of your corporate function – It might be cultural and human resources. It might be operationally and revenue-generating brick-and-mortar retail, marketing, branding, the stuff I’ve cut my teeth on now with four separate operators over the past 10 years. It gives us a chance to meet any operator where they are and support them.

“It’s not a slam dunk in the Missouri market for any individual operator, even though the market, by and large, is certainly successful.

“Avail was born here in Missouri, and we certainly have strong relationships with our clients here.

“We are looking to help anyone in these particular situations who has a good reputation in the cannabis industry, there are operators in other markets that also need similar market-specific support.

“For example, we’ve got Illinois clients. And are working to introduce the Minnesota market. We have the ability to help businesses in multiple states.”

How does your experience in the cannabis industry benefit Avail clients?

“I have been in the industry for over 10 years and now bring that experience to Avail. When you have the ability to marry the best of both of these worlds: one, access to capital, we can approach operators with some resources; and two, just case studies of mistakes that I’ve made with my previous operators, all the way going back to my MSO world or my Colorado experience. There’s a ton of value in not remaking those mistakes.

“The nice thing about having that MSO experience is I know the Missouri market really well, having worked directly in it. By extension, I’ve also worked directly in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, California, Arizona, Michigan, and Florida.

“Obviously, it is a highly consequential market this year. Being able to share that experience across the country is unique. I think it’s a better fit, honestly, for myself than, say, a single-state operator.

“Every business’ needs depend on what they’re trying to execute against. If you’re a cultivator who’s producing a crop, that’s been my direct wheelhouse as a horticultural scientist and a business major. There are elements of needing cost control, successful automation, quality retention, and even just the raw flower.


“If you’re vertical in the manufacturing element, you have supply and operations planning. For example, what should I be making with this cannabis material that I’m producing? How do I navigate the markets as a wholesaler if I’m trying to sell to other manufacturing labs? Then, you continue to carry forward any of those elements of challenge and difficulty on the retail side. Everybody’s working to get their foot traffic up and make sure that they’re staying engaged against competitive dispensaries.

“If you’re looking at the entire business unit of any vertical, there are elements of direct experience that we can come in and say, you know, here are our best-case recommendations.

“We can then serve as a fractional executive. Our managing partner, Chris, is a fractional CFO for firms, and I’m a fractional CEO and COO in some cases.

“That really tends to meet operators a lot with where they are and creates value that you bring. It also sets a set duration and timeframe so that if they are feeling burdened, you can finance and provide the ability to stay cash flow positive. We can come in and do it in a very targeted fashion and save some resources. Unfortunately, it is true that you have a lot of consultants in this space, maybe coming from legacy markets in Denver or Washington where their experience doesn’t necessarily carry forward to a Midwest market or a Southern market.

“It could be that you’ve been positioned against folks who have had relationships with fractional leadership that didn’t work out. Then we can come in and say, yes, we respect everybody’s experience, but if you haven’t done this directly in these markets and bear through these caveats, you could just get yourself in trouble, and then you start this cycle of underperformance. So we’re excited to break that cycle.”

Are there any social initiatives that you are working on currently?

“It’s always a key part. Supporting business viability, I think anybody could say we all want a successful industry because if the industry’s successful, then you can start to layer in social improvement initiatives, however, you want to pair them with actual tangible outcomes. You know, here in Missouri, we certainly had strong legislative outcomes with the automatic expungements. We saw the report on tax dollars going to specific entities. Those are tangible outcomes that we’re able to talk about and say, yes, we’ve actually had some success.

“I’m a fractional COO for a Chicago operator. I have been for over 2 or 3 years now. So there’s that element of supporting them as businesses, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t focus on the teaching and education element as well. I am still robustly involved with the school program and the certificate program. We are looking forward to engaging St. Louis Community College again as they’re starting to get their teaching program in place.

“What we generally take with us is, if you’re not focused on any of these initiatives, cannabis is just difficult as it is. But take the time, listen to the stakeholders, help them where they need the help. If you don’t do that, you’re just missing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make sure that we do. We all want an equitable industry. We all want the ability to channel this growth in a way that we all deem inclusive.

“Cannabis has always been a fairly community-oriented business product. This natural plant has been implicated on either a state or federal level for 50, 75, even 100 years. And so the community element that’s been built and fostered along the way has value. I think just that general sense of what cannabis can be to people, what it is to an individual, what it doesn’t have to be, it’s all important.

“Cannabis really has that ability to serve as a community member in and of itself. I’m always heartened when operators do take the chance to leverage not only what you consider social altruism, but they’re reaching out to their specific employees and saying, “Hey. What causes do you guys want to support in your community? What’s important to you as a workforce?” We’ve done that with several other operators where the people who are working those jobs know their communities better than anyone, and we encourage a willingness to put some resources towards that.”

What has been one of your favorite social initiatives that you’ve been a part of?

“I think really supporting licensed recipients that have put a lot of their stake into entering the cannabis industry no matter how they got the license, whether it was a social equity license or standard traditional. Being able to approach them with a sense of altruism and think, I could choose to claw into all this intellectual property experience that I’ve got. I could try to leverage it for my personal maximum benefit, but, no, let’s support you as an operator. We think that there’s plenty of room for growth in this industry and that it doesn’t have to be “it’s either you or me.” We can really focus on this and legitimize this together. Let’s make sure that it’s raising all the money. We can work together and still be successful.”

What do you want people who have never worked with Avail to take away from this?

“We’re finally at a phase of this business saturation cycle where you have someone like myself who’s been 12 plus years in different operations in different states that can now also partner with a financial services firm that offers access to capital. Typically, what you had before is access to capital through investors. Some families opt for venture capitalists, but you may be deficient on the experience side. Then all of a sudden, those investors get pretty upset because cash is burning and there are problems. There are issues because it is such a nascent developing market. So that’s the exciting thing about Avail Ag as part of Avail Professional Services, that it’s a one-stop shop for someone who’s looking to enter the space or if someone’s looking for support as an existing operator. There’s just a growing list of potential clients every day.”

How would a partner like Avail have benefitted you as you navigated the cannabis industry?

“I’ve always been kind of building my experience as time goes on.

“I can just limit that back to even 6 years ago. It felt more obscure back then, especially in new state markets. There’s just something you gain in experience as you go through these individual markets as a go-to-market strategy or exercise because you find out what assumptions were violated.

“For example, it worked in this market. Why is it not working in that market?

“Unfortunately, many of our clients are going through that type of relationship with people they’ve brought into the mix. I wish I would have had it sooner. I guess I’m fortunate that it’s stuck up in my brain and, now, working with Avail I’ll be able to share that value. It was a long road to get here.”

Looking ahead, Nelson is focused on two things serving existing clients and creating new partnerships and opportunities.

“We’ve got dozens of existing clients. It’s not that we’re short on clients right now, but expanding to help those folks who really need this support is a priority,” he said.