Our team is comprised of smart, inventive professionals with years of expertise in the cannabis industry — who honed their skills at Fortune 50 companies, agencies, The White House, entertainment firms, tech and startup companies, advocacy organizations, and at political campaigns. Powerplant’s team is big enough to execute on large ideas and campaigns and small enough to stay nimble and tailor our strategies to each client.
Chief Executive Officer
Michael Huttner is a corporate and political strategist, attorney and entrepreneur. He is the current Political Director and immediate past CEO of Fenton, the global social change agency. Michael initiated the first meeting in Colorado to decriminalize recreational cannabis which led to the drafting and passage of Amendment 64. He previously served as President of the Huttner Group, Inc., a Boulder-based firm which helps solve complex financial, communications and public policy problems in a variety of industries. Michael has helped launch over 40 different political organizations and has led communications ‘war-rooms’ for political and private clients. Michael also is the Founder of ProgressNow, a network of state-based communications organizations that moves people to action through communications and digital media. Described as the “crown jewel” of progressive investors’ efforts to build messaging power in the states, ProgressNow continues to expand with more than 3.4 million members in 23 states
Previously, Michael was a founding partner in the Denver law firm of Foster, Graham and Huttner where he headed the firm’s political, nonprofit and lobbying practice. Prior to his private practice, he worked as Policy Advisor to Governor Roy Romer and clerked at the Clinton White House for the Office of the Counsel to the President. Michael also has taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Denver College of Law. He earned his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings Law School, where he served on the Hastings Law Journal, and his B.A. from Brown University.
Senior Vice President
Honed across the corporate, political, government, entertainment, technology and cannabis industries, Ellen brings clients more than 20 years of strategy, communications, public affairs, issue/change management and crisis communications experience.
Prior to joining Powerplant, Mellody worked in strategy, communications and media relations positions with two White House administrations (Clinton and Obama), at Comcast-NBC Universal, General Electric, The North Face and as a co-founder and partner at Collective Consulting. Mellody also brought her strategy and communications expertise to three presidential campaigns (Gore 2000, Kerry 2004 and Obama 2008) and the Office of the New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey, where she served as a primary spokesperson and as liaison to the 9-11 Families and memorial. Throughout her career, Ellen has served in various locations around the globe, including in Sydney, Paris, and Baghdad and has worked with clients such as HBO, ABC-Disney, Sony, WarnerMedia, Big Machine Records, Harvest Health & Recreation Inc., Merida Capital Partners, Vicente Sederberg, and others.
Ellen holds certificates of achievement from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and a degree in Communications from the University of Scranton.
Senior Communications Strategist
Leland is a long-time cannabis legalization activist and public relations professional experienced in changing market behaviors. He’s trained countless cannabis c-suite professionals to craft and better tell their stories, which help shape and move the industry forward responsibly. Leland is also a founding board member of the Cannabis Cultural Association, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to helping marginalized and underrepresented communities engage in the legal cannabis industry, emphasizing criminal justice reform, access to medical cannabis, and adult use legalization.
In the past, he has worked on local, state and national cannabis campaigns such as decriminalizing cannabis in New York City by closing the NYPD’s “in public view” arrest loophole in 2014, passing New York’s medical marijuana program in 2015, passing adult-use regulations in several key states in 2016, passing Prop M in Los Angeles in 2016, and is currently working to pass adult-use regulations in the state of New York.
Our network of experts is unmatched in the industry.
Expertise: Public Relations & Strategic Communications (New York) Over four decades David pioneered the use of PR, social media, branding and advertising techniques for social change. David has worked with governments and international NGOs in Africa, Israel, Europe, Japan, Latin America and the Caribbean. David is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 1976 he was an Editor at High Times, and then became Director of Public Relations for Rolling Stone magazine. He also co-produced the No-Nukes concerts in 1979 with Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Jackson Browne and other artists. In the early 1970s, David helped run the campaign that freed John Sinclair from his ten-year for two joint prison sentence. He was active in passing Ann Arbor’s $5 marijuana law in 1972 and in getting the first legalization initiative on a state ballot, the Michigan Marijuana Initiative in 1973.
Expertise: Marketing (San Francisco)
Expertise: Advocacy & Strategic Communications (Washington, DC)
Expertise: Strategic Partnerships & Business Development (New York) James is an experienced entrepreneur, investor and private equity professional. He has founded, invested in or led companies in many different industries through periods of intense growth and development. Notable current holdings include Honor Capital, a $200 million national firm in the specialty finance industry; Fenton, a pioneer in the cause-driven agency field and Collegium, a rapidly growing professional services holding company. He co-founded Watershed Company and 3BL Media and served as senior advisor to Donor Trends and True Givers. James received his MBA from Harvard and is a nonpracticing CPA and former investment banker. He is a regular speaker/panelist at industry conferences and has been published, quoted and interviewed on: CNN, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, New York Times, Fortune, Red Herring, Financial Times, Ad Week and other leading publications. James currently resides in Westchester with his wife and three daughters.
Expertise: Business Development & Strategic Partnerships (New York)
Expertise: Branding & Messaging (Chicago) Sparky is a 25-year veteran of the branding and design industry with deep domain expertise in the legal medical and recreational cannabis industry. Sparky is the former Executive Director of Compassionate Caregivers, an Oakland, California based medical cannabis company, which was forcibly closed by the Federal Government in 2006 although it operated legally within the State of California with permission to operate in seven different incorporated areas of the state. Sparky has consulted numerous cannabis clients operating in California, Colorado, Washington, Idaho, and Illinois including Sacred Mind & Body, Cannabis Training Institute, Papa & Barkley, ebbu, and PharmaCann.
In addition, Sparky has consulted with non-cannabis clients including Chanel, DDB, BBDO, Ogilvy & Mather, DirecTV, PepsiCo and Fox Sports Networks. He has also served as the Creative Director for the Discovery Channel’s Digital Cable Networks and Advanced Television Studio.
Expertise: Public Relations (Denver)
Expertise: Operations & Strategic Counsel (Las Vegas)