Nicole Stanton, Cannabis Counsel and Congressman's Wife, Talks Recent Harvest Acquisition

Nicole Stanton

Nicole Stanton has checked many things off what she calls her “list of things to prove to myself”: leaving her small hometown in Utah; becoming an accomplished commercial litigation attorney; having a family; engaging in charity work with her husband, U.S. Congressman Greg Stanton; accepting an important role on the leadership team for the biggest marijuana-based business in Arizona…

Actually, that last one wasn’t on the original list. It wasn’t even within the realm of fathomability, Stanton says, until late 2018, when she didn't land a job running a nonprofit (she declines to name which one) and instead got a phone call from an old professional friend who was curious if she’d be interested in being a lawyer for a cannabis company.

And that was the genesis of Stanton’s current role as vice president and general counsel to Arizona-based Harvest Health & Recreation.

“If you had told me 12 months prior, or certainly 10 years prior [that I would be working for a cannabis company], I would have just laughed in your face,” Stanton says. “Because it just had not been anything I’d ever [considered]. I hadn’t really been following the industry too much, is probably the best way to say it.”

Now, she’s keenly aware of the legal (and illegal) aspects of the weed industry, as well as its status as an absolute cash fountain in the state. Harvest, which was founded in Tempe in 2013 by Steve White, has grown into a multi-state dispensary operation that tripled its profitability during its latest quarter at the top of the Arizona market — an achievement touted by Florida-based corporation Trulieve in its announcement on May 10 that it had reached a record $2.1 billion all-stock deal to acquire Harvest.

“We look forward to completing this acquisition that is being done and becoming part of Trulieve," Stanton says. "They’re an excellent company and their CEO is a woman. Her name is Kim Rivers, and she’s really done spectacular things in this industry and just led that company to maximum profitability.”

“It’s a very highly regulated industry with a lot of barriers, and she has found a way to make money, and her shareholders have benefited from that,” she continues. “I’m super excited to work alongside her and help get this acquisition to the finish line. I’m always impressed by women who are leading in an industry that is fairly male-dominated.”

Stanton (née France) herself has won several leadership awards over the years from organizations ranging from the Anti-Defamation League to The Business Journals – one more box checked for the woman who left the tiny mining-turning-farming town of Coalville, Utah for law school at the University of Arizona in 1995. She joined Quarles & Brady, LLP and ultimately became a partner before departing in 2018.

In 2005, she married Greg Stanton, who served as mayor of Phoenix from 2012 to 2018 and was elected to the United States Congress (a Democrat, he represents Arizona District 9) in 2019. The couple have two children, son Trevor, 13, and daughter Violet, 10.

They don’t talk about her business at all, Stanton says, and she’s ethically not allowed to discuss her matters with him anyway. But they do have a similar mindset when it comes to the decriminalization of marijuana and things like the SAFE Banking Act, which would prohibit federal penalties for banks that provide services to cannabis companies.

“We have plenty of (other) stuff to talk about – our house, our pets, kids, and all of those things. I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on it or talking about it or lobbying him on cannabis,” Stanton says. “Certainly in the U.S. House of Representatives, I think he’s voted twice on the SAFE Banking Act. Greg would have voted for it regardless of whether I were in this industry or not because philosophically, he believes in it, but secondarily, the people of his district have spoken loud and clear their support for Prop 207 here in Arizona. So, that’s his guiding light – the people that he represents.”

The Stantons, deemed a “power couple” by everybody from the Phoenix Business Journal to Phoenix New Times, continue the community service they began years ago, which includes work with the Arizona Education Foundation, the Arizona Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Arizona Equal Justice Foundation, and Stop Bullying AZ and the Dion Initiative. The latter is named after Stanton’s late brother, Dion France, who battled bullying throughout high school.

When asked how she balances everything, Stanton says she doesn’t. She credits her family, especially her husband and mother, for support.

“I’ve made it my mission in my career to make sure women who may be looking at my path understand… it’s not easy to balance all these things. Give yourselves room to not be perfect at everything.”