Profile: Local businessman’s leap of faith into cannabis pays off

By Albert Gregory

Aaron Selverston is the CEO and cofounder of Cosmic Distribution, a cannabis supply company in Santa Rosa. (Photo courtesy of M. Martin Vicente)

Distanced from much of his wilder partying days and Burning Man escapades, Aaron Selverston’s newest adventure now finds him as a husband and a father—all while running a thriving cannabis distribution company in Santa Rosa, amidst a pandemic, with the same fervor and energy he’s had since he was a kid.

“He’s kind of like a rambunctious firecracker,” said Selverston’s cousin Joshua Lilienstein, who is a doctor and the medical director at BioMarin Pharmaceutical. 

As a father of two young children, he has put some of his crazier hobbies like paragliding in his past, for now, and has turned his focus to his most recent venture Cosmic Distribution in Santa Rosa; a successful cannabis distribution company he started last year, which now supplies over 200 locations throughout California. 

“It’s really been a magical thing to watch him become a father and have started a very ambitious business and be doing it well,” Lilienstein said. 

Selverston grew up in the city of Del Mar in San Diego County as a self-described “dork” who felt stifled in the “vanilla military town” and left for college to study sociology and journalism at the University of California, Santa Cruz and at UC Berkeley. 

It was around when Selverston was finishing his graduate journalism program at Berkeley that he and Lilienstein became close during a shared experience at Burning Man. 

Selverston had first gone to Burning Man in 1999 with his brother. 

“I fell in love and never looked back. Burning Man is an annual pilgrimage for those of us looking to connect deeply with the community, break out of social patterns and norms, and just play in the biggest sandbox on earth,” he said. 

Lilienstein attended Burning Man for his first time in 2006 and found himself alone at the festival and decided to venture out and find his “wild” third cousin, whom he had barely met once before when they were young. 

After biking all over the hot desert, he found Selverston at his camp lying face down, in just his underwear, on a mattress under a chandelier. 

Afraid to disturb him, Lilienstein left a note and Selverston tracked him down later that day and invited him to a white-wig party he was throwing, which would be the beginning of many capers for the pair. 

“Aaron just has like this unbelievable energy like that I’ve never encountered with anyone else. He has more energy than should be humanly possible and he just manifests incredible things in all different parts of his life,” Lilienstein said. 

Selverston, who has continued to attend Burning Man most years, has built many close friendships at the festival and even met his wife Jennifer Bees there in 2017. He now has two kids, a 3-year-old son named Leo and a 3-month-old daughter Hazel, and plans to bring both to the festival someday. 

Selverston has brought his adventurous spirit and energy to his professional life.  As a journalist, he’s published content on Salon, NPR and even traveled to the Horn of Africa for a piece featured on “Anderson Cooper 360.” 

His risk taker approach has led him to take jobs that included becoming the founding editor of the Palo Alto Patch, working as a political consultant and then to establishing his own startup companies.

“I’ve always been a leap before you look kind of person. I can’t say why I’ve always been comfortable taking risks—it’s just my personality. It’s the old adage that without great risk, there is no great reward. We only have one life,  why phone it in from the couch?” Selverston said. 

Selverston launched his business, Cosmic Distribution, in 2019 in Santa Rosa under the parent company name Radiant Ventures Inc., with three other co-founders, Tyler Alzamora, Deven McKay and Freddy Rouhana, who Selverston knew after selling his high-quality, homegrown cannabis to Rouhana at his dispensary for ten years. 

“He had a very nice product and he was easy to work with. He was reasonable. It was like clockwork,” said Rouhana, who has been in the cannabis industry for 12 years. “He was like one of my favorites of course. We partnered up on other projects, and I selectively choose my partners.”

After California passed Proposition 64, allowing people over the age of 21 to purchase and grow marijuana, Selverston saw the writing on the wall for a new business opportunity. He reached out to Rouhana and the two looked at the different parts of the supply chain that were about to pop up in California. 

“We decided that we would make a run for the middle and focus on extracts and distribution and integrate those two verticals and offer a one stop shop for brands looking to have a single partner make/package and sell their product to dispensaries,” Selverston said. 

With an established business that, like many in the cannabis trade, Selverston said is thriving during the pandemic, he is now primarily working from home, looking at the silver linings and enjoying spending this time with his young family while growing his business. 

“He has two kids, beautiful ones. I think that’s part of his motivation to wake up in the morning and get started on work,” Rouhana said. “Also, he simulates a good work environment for the staff. I think that seeing the progress and seeing the positive vibes, that are always around in the company, it’s something that gets him out of bed.” 

Selverston is trying to build a business with a lasting impact by supporting and promoting brands and people who have been in the business for a long time, building an equity program, creating a sustainable supply chain that includes a distribution, a manufacturing and a service company, and adding brands owned by people of color, supporting cannabis prison reform programs like Last Prisoner Project, which is a non-profit dedicated to bringing restorative justice to those incarcerated for violating cannabis related laws that no longer exist. 

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