Leo Bridgewater Sr.
Director Hospitality & Human Resources
Leo Bridgewater Sr. is a volunteer director and board advisor. He was born and raised in Trenton NJ. He attended Trenton Central High School graduating in 1994. In 2001 Leo enlisted into the United States Army in response to the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington DC.
Leo spent 5 years as a Telecommunications specialist with multiple deployments to Iraq. In 2005 Leo served as a member of the NTMI-J6 staff in Baghdad Iraq where he worked for then Lt. General David Petraeus and Admiral Mike Mullins. Leo separated from the Army in 2006 and spent 2 ½ years working for the Dept. of the Army at the Pentagon in Washington DC. As a Department of Defense Contractor serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Leo has worked for companies like L3 Communications, ITT systems, and Excellus.
Having had 3 battle buddies attempt suicide and 2 being successful. The number of Veteran suicides per day (22) is an issue Leo finds to be totally unacceptable. Leo’s advocacy has seen him testify in NJ Senate Committee to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) added to the NJ Medical Marijuana Program. In September of 2016 NJ Gov. Chris Christie signed bill S-2345 adding PTSD to the NJMMP. Leo currently serves as NJ Chapter President of Minorities for Medical Marijuana and is Sub Committee chair of Minorities with the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association. Leo has partnered with organizations like Coalition Medical Marijuana New Jersey, Drug Policy Alliance, The Americans Civil Liberties Union, I Deserve Canna, Cannabis Cultural Association, and Weed 4 warriors project Trenton NJ Chapter. Leo has testified in NJ Senate Committee for bill S3195 The Taxation and regulation of cannabis for adult use. Signaling his evolution as Advocate/Entrepreneur to the Cannabis Industry in NJ.
As Co-founder of the NJ Cannabis Commission Leo hopes to be a vessel by which the industry works through in the state of New Jersey. Leo is married to LaShona Bridgewater PhD and has two children: Leo Jr. 10 and Langston Kenneth 1 years old.
Eric Cohen, CPA
Treasurer / Financial Counselor and Director of Accounting Services
Mr. Cohen is a volunteer director. Eric Cohen works at Gardner & Capparelli CPA’s as their Director of Accounting. Eric’s background is working with software & tech companies, professional services organizations and a variety of other small to medium sized businesses.
When it comes to giving back to the community, Eric served on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, in addition to serving on the Oswego State Alumni Association.
Eric was also born in Suffern, NY and relocated to the Syracuse area over a decade ago. He graduated with his master’s degree at the State University of New York at Oswego and currently lives in Baldwinsville, NY with his wife Annie and dog Ziggy.
Director of Suicide Prevention & Awareness
Mr. Belen is a volunteer director. He is a decorated United States Army Combat veteran and co-founder of Florida Mission Zero, a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating the PTSD and suicide epidemic plaguing U.S. veterans.
A native of Amsterdam in Upstate New York, Jose enlisted in the Army at age 19. He deployed to Iraq in 2003 during the initial Operation Iraqi Freedom invasion and spent 14 consecutive months in combat. After his honorable discharge in 2005, Jose eventually moved to Florida, where he began raising a family and launched a successful corporate career in the real estate and insurance industries. Meanwhile, he was silently battling the debilitating effects post-traumatic stress disorder, with medical and veterans-support systems he had access to offering little help. Jose’s struggles came to a head in 2016, when the war within his own mind almost robbed him of everything: His career, his family, nearly his own life.
Ultimately, however, Jose was able to overcome his personal demons. Inspired by his triumph, in 2017 Jose and his wife Danielle founded Florida Mission Zero, an organization dedicated to proving PTSD isn’t a death sentence or the end of the line for U.S. veterans and their families. To that end, the nonprofit develops targeted education and advocacy campaigns, spearheads suicide prevention efforts, and organizes family support initiatives. Jose and Danielle also help business owners expand their veterans outreach and hiring programs, as well as run veterans coaching initiatives.
An inspiring public speaker, Jose has shared his story at major conferences nationally and internationally and has graced the stage with the likes of Montel Williams and former NFL star Marvin Washington. Based on his own experiences, Jose is also an outspoken advocate for compassionate access to medical cannabis for veterans and non-veterans alike. He is one of six individuals and organizations who are currently suing the federal government to remove cannabis from its list of Schedule I drugs.
Direct of Event Planning / Director of Culinary Arts
Karl Mcdermott is a professional chef and entrepreneur. Mr. McDermott is committed to influencing the direction of a healthy lifestyle by utilizing organic foods and educating other on sustainable cooking methods and herbal medicine.
Growing up in early Jamaica, Karl was influenced by the fresh and organic foods of the island, while socializing with Stephen and Ziggi Marley, whom were his classmates. While there he dreamt of bringing the knowledge and talent of teaching home grown foods to NY. Chef Karl trained at, The Institute of Culinary Education, I.C.E., New York, a prestigious school under the guidance of Chef Anne Burrell of “Iron Chef America” and Chef Alex Guarnaschelli of “Chopped.” After graduating, he applied himself at Union Square Cafe, Tocqueville restaurant and Felidias.
After 2 years of being in the restaurant business, he moved from NYC to the Hamptons and took the opportunity and challenged himself as a Private Chef with high end families and clientele, which includes: President Bill and Hillary Clinton; Mr. & Mrs. Denzel Washington; Mr. and Mrs. Johnnie Cochran; Jerry Seinfeld; Laura Moore Tanner; Greg Olsen and family; Mr. Henry Silverman; Barbara Walters; Vera Wang; Richard Demato.
Having a vast knowledge of the Hamptons lifestyle, he has created a successful chef/catering business called Hamptons By Design. His vision has now incapsulated local farmers, fishermen, local businesses, etc.
One of many business opportunities has brought Karl Mcdermott to New Mexico Technical University in New Mexico state in which he has lead a team of young and eager chefs. Within a year his team successfully achieved all accomplishments and Karl was awarded Chef of The Year.
Karl has a passion for food and various cuisines, which his favorites are Asian and Mediterranean. His main goal is to educate on flavors, visual and taste. Chef Karl aspires to develop a unique perspective and consultative role in the direction of food handling and consumption.
Director of Veteran and Community Outreach
Mr. Kowalski is a volunteer director. He Robert Kowalski is the Founder and President of Veterans Ending the Stigma, a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission aspires to end all stigma associated with veterans, namely perceptions about mental illness, homelessness, and the use of medical cannabis to treat conditions such as PTSD, TBI, and Chronic Pain. Robert believes by means of constructive dialogue, anecdotal reason, and novel erudition this goal can be accomplished.
Robert served in the United States Air Force as a Security Forces Member and deployed twice to Iraq with conjunction to Operation Iraqi Freedom. After discharge Robert was diagnosed with PTSD along with other conditions and was given a disability rating of 90% through the Veterans Affairs.
Robert was awarded; The Army Commendation Medal, Meritorious Unit Award, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with one Service Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border and one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Force Longevity Service Award, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon and the Air Force Training Ribbon.
Robert has since attended over 30 hours of Cannabis Education Events as well as received certificates of completion or participation in the areas of Treating PTSD and Suicide Risk, EPEC for Veterans-Pain Management Web-Based Module and Endocannabinoids in the Circulation and Psychopathology.