Living the Dream: Shawn DeNae

Professor Jake (left) and Shawn DeNae.

Shawn DeNae
CEO
Washington Bud Company
Smokey Point, WA

“It was funner getting here than being here,” says my good friend Professor Jake.

It’s certainly challenging to navigate the legalization of cannabis, no matter if one is on the side of the regulated or the regulator. Everyone is building the plane while in flight and the pilots rotate frequently, putting us on courses that require drastic redirects.

Those of us that remain in flight have done a damn good job of simply staying in the air!

What has remained constant is the dedication to our craft, the innovation of our producers and processors, the passion of the budtenders, the steady patronage of the retailers and the commitment of the trade organizations to help further the many causes. It is the unique, small-business nature reflected in our regulated system that makes our stellar reputation in Washington so special.

I’m told by those who travel widely that Washington state currently leads the world when it comes to the consumer shopping experience; no other market offers the quality or the variety of the products found on our retail shelves. The maturity of our market is seen in the exceptional branding and the innovative creations developed right here in the land of Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, Boeing and other forward-thinking companies.

But how long will we be able to maintain this foothold of individuality? Will we soon also feel the threat of consolidation? How long must we stand strong against outside financial influence? What happens to us when the borders open and interstate commerce is allowed? Will we have the capacity, resources and business acumen to compete on that larger scale?

I, personally, am supportive of a two-pronged approach to help build a strong platform for independent cannabis businesses to thrive. We must blast the voice of the small to counter the bellow of the big!

The Washington State Cannabis Commission has been a passion of mine (and several other dedicated folks) for five years. Leading the effort as the commission’s action committee chairperson, we’ve stayed vigilant to the cause by consulting with industry members, the attorney general’s office, the Department of Agriculture and other agencies to create a rock-solid bill aimed at helping the small guy with research, marketing and representation at all levels of government that has a great chance of majority support this upcoming legislative session.

The second approach is to help bring retailers and growers together as comrades, instead of adversaries. Many see the retailers as controlling our market. But I do not view it that way; retailers are our customers and we control the price we charge for our products. And I want to work with all independent cannabis business to help keep our reputation for superior products intact. The commonality between independents is no one wants to be steamrolled by big investment groups. This is why I have agreed to be part of the leadership for the new Washington Craft Cannabis Coalition.

What if we can pull it off? What if we can protect our independent nature, compete on the national stage and create strong businesses that thrive against the norm of big business? Stay tuned; I think the fun factor is going to rise!

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