Living the Dream: Shawn DeNae

Shawn DeNae

Washington Bud Company

Snohomish, Washington

Pioneers, we are called. Forging paths into territory never before explored. Facing the minute-to-minute challenges of survival. Being prepared at all times to defend from the next enemy. Scraping by on limited provisions while working from dawn to post-dusk to live another day. Every single step forward could lead to a forced retreat. Unsure of where the next safe camp will be found. Learning the lay of the land with no maps and a compass that may not point to true north. Peril awaits around every bend and many do not survive the journey. All while we prospect for gold.

Well, I am ready to be a settler. Settlers have the comfort of solid ground. They have worked together to form community structure. Leaders are chosen and respected. Laws are created to form the basis of a just government. Rules are embraced for the common good. Neighbors come together to overcome problems. 

Structures are built from taxes collected to better serve the gathering population. Jobs are created by the visionary entrepreneurs. Lending institutions are established to help them prosper.

Settling is good; it leads to a functioning social order.

The process to get there is obviously complicated and full of missteps. We have lived through our share as our lawmakers and regulators try to create a functioning order for legal cannabis.

For example, when we applied for our license, we followed the rules and found a properly zoned property only to discover that licenses were still issued to those outside of those zones. Then our property came under fire as zoning codes became restrictive under NIMBY pressure. (We survived that hurdle and are now grandfathered in at our address.)

The rules initially allowed for three licenses per applicant as long as they could be 50% operational canopy within the first year, but that was never enforced. Then, secondary and tertiary licenses were revoked causing us to trash our business plans and figure out how to create a profitable business with only one license. Soon afterward, rules again changed to allow three licenses, but now had to be acquired from existing licensees. We do not have the capital to acquire a license so are now at a disadvantage to those who can, even though our property is zoned to allow for multiple licenses.

We were given a set of warnings last summer that had to appear on the packages within six months, so I redesigned and ordered $10,000 worth of packages to arrive prior to the Jan. 1, 2019 deadline. Once that investment was committed, the deadlines were pushed to June 2019 and then again to January 2020. I could have put that money to other uses and been less indebted to credit cards. The new Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board rules coordinator added to the frustration by admitting to me the rules are bound to change again prior to the 2020 deadline. I suspect my packaging inventory will not meet more rule changes and will have to be redesigned once again.

And it goes on and on. I suspect all other states will go through similar rapid changes as they craft their cannabis policies. We are still adjusting liquor and tobacco laws in this country, and I suspect we will be tinkering with cannabis laws and rules forevermore. It is part of creating that social order; it’s not easy but it is necessary, just as it was to turn the Wild West pioneers into functioning societies.

And we’re still working on that one, too!


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