Executive Director | The Cannabis Alliance
Before Caitlein Ryan became the executive director for the Washington state advocacy group, The Cannabis Alliance, she was a part of a producer/processor in Chelan County, Washington. But soon after starting in cannabis, her career was derailed when, in February 2016, the local municipality went from welcoming cannabis operators to outright banning them. At the time there were about 56 operators in the area.
“We all banded together and formed the Central Washington Growers Association and I ended up being the president when we launched a lawsuit against the county,” Ryan says.
The ensuing battle went on for years and Ryan realized the licensees would need the help of a state-level advocacy group and ultimately departed the license she was working with to join The Cannabis Alliance full time. A few years later, the licensee Ryan worked with won the right to be grandfathered into the county and legally resume production. The experience rekindled Ryan’s love of advocacy, which was a core part of her previous professional life as a theater teacher.
“You can’t be an arts educator without being an advocate because you’re constantly fighting for funding — that’s just the nature of the beast,” Ryan says.
Ryan served as The Cannabis Alliance’s interim executive director during the pandemic and took on the position full time in June 2023.
Ryan has a doctorate in arts education from Arizona State University and likens her position as executive director to being the director of a theater department.
“It’s very collaborative,” she says. “You work with lots of different people and take in lots of different ideas, which is essentially, stakeholder work: talking to as many people as I can, learning what everybody’s perspectives are, and bringing people together to have meaningful conversations and try and arrive at a solution. It’s really exciting.”
Having already gained experience during her stint as the interim executive director, she says she is immediately jumping on the organization’s top two priorities, the first of which is allowing home cultivation.
Washington is one of only two adult-use states that doesn’t allow home growing. Not only is it illegal, but it’s a Class C felony — “which is mindboggling,” Ryan says. “I don’t think a lot of Washingtonians even know how illegal it is to grow a single plant.”
Ryan says home growing is a civil rights issue. Patients shouldn’t be risking their freedom because of a failed medical system in which fewer than 90 stores are participating to serve about 10,000 patients.
The Cannabis Alliance’s second priority is to remove the excise tax for patients who are participating in the medical program. Ryan says the organization ran a fiscal analysis of the annual tax contributions medical participants were making through their cannabis sales and it was less than $40,000. For comparison, Washington state collected more than $511.1 million in cannabis taxes in 2022.
“It’s pretty basic (that) patients shouldn’t be paying 37% tax on medicine,” she says.