Shawn DaNae, CEO of Washington Bud Company, represents Washingtonians of a certain ilk, who you don’t often see in the cannabis industry. Hard-working, blue-collar, badasses who can build things, grow things, and beat you on the golf course.
Before entering the legal cannabis industry DaNae and her husband Bill Wagenseller were running a construction company out of Shoreline. Wagenseller Building Co. got its start in the nineties and specialized in home remodels. The pair built a successful business together.
Like many others in Washington, when medical cannabis grows started popping up all over the place, the power couple wanted in. This wasn’t the couple’s first go at cannabis cultivation. Many years ago, the pair had grown cannabis together and were eager to jump back in.
“We first decided to get back into the cannabis industry after being on hiatus for approaching twenty years, in 2010,” DaNae recalls. “We went to Hemp Fest and started learning what the medical cannabis program was all about. At the time legalization was coming in, there had been a bill SB 5615 sponsored by Jeanne Kohl-Welles. So I really began to plug into the cannabis community and learn about all the things coming down to the line. Because there was a lot of talk about medical marijuana, and legalizing marijuana.”
Not the type to half-ass anything, DaNae went in full force. She joined the Coalition for Cannabis Standards and Ethics (CCSE) and began networking with CCSE founder Greta Carter.
“When I walked into my first meeting with CCSE, I was on my way to a tee time, so I was dressed in my golf gear,” DaNae remembers with a laugh. “So everyone turned to look at me, and [Greta Carter] goes, ‘are you lost, are you supposed to be here?’ So I said ‘yes’ and jumped in and got active right away.” DaNae started her activism with a bang, protesting the infamous Holder Memo outside of Obama headquarters.
In addition to activism, DaNae began learning everything she could about cannabis cultivation. Despite being a bit rusty, DaNae and Wagenseller did have years of experience growing cannabis that helped give them a jumpstart.
They began growing cannabis to help treat DaNae’s Lyme Disease with juicing. So from the beginning, they wanted their plants to be grown clean.
DaNae’s background running a construction business allowed her to navigate the state tax and licensing systems with ease. She wanted her cannabis business to be legitimate.
“I was the first grower to call the Department of Revenue and say, ‘I grow medical marijuana. How do I pay my business and occupation taxes on that?’” DaNae said. “I remember the woman was just like ‘Uh….. let me get back to you on that.’”
Washington Bud Co. was also one of the first branded medical cannabis companies. The brand was backed by high-quality medical cannabis and budtenders throughout Seattle took notice. Washington Bud Co.’s cannabis was selling as soon as it was out the dried and cured.
Since DaNae’s role at Washington Bud Co. was sales and marketing, and the cannabis was flying out the door, that left lots of time for her to pursue other things.
So DaNae became an advocate. She co-founded Women of Weed, Marijuana Business Association Women’s Alliance, and joined other organizations aimed at legitimizing and improving the cannabis industry.
Transitioning to Recreational
When I-502 passed, Washington Bud Co. got to work complying with the new laws right away. They moved to Snohomish because the county was the first to implement cannabis zoning laws. So, Washington Bud Co. bought a property in the county, and before it had even closed applied for a license at that address.
Luckily, Washington Bud Co.’s grow was one of the few that Snohomish allowed to remain in the zoned areas. Due to complaints from religious groups and anti-cannabis activists, Snohomish ended up revoking all but a few growers’ licenses, forcing them to move elsewhere.
Despite being approved for recreational, Washington Bud Co. continued to operate as a medical facility for as long as legally possible. That lasted until mid-2016. The years of medical growing gave the business yet another advantage. By the time Washington Bud Co. took down its first recreational crop, everything was dialed in. Growers knew which strains were pest and mold-resistant, and which customers liked. And they had mastered continual harvest, every 28 days like clockwork.
This commitment to legitimacy and compliance, even when the laws are murky, has bled over into Washington Bud Company’s growing practices. The grow is ‘poison-free’ and opts for predatory mites and preventative measures over harsh chemical pesticides.
DaNae is a staunch advocate for cannabis testing and says that Washington Bud Co. ‘has probably spent more on testing than any cannabis company out there.’ Washington Bud Co. started testing early on to prove that it didn’t use pesticides and heavy metals. Despite constant testing issues in Washington, DaNae has remained committed to growing clean cannabis. This led to the stellar reputation the company has today.
Compliance, fastidiousness, and clean, high-quality cannabis aren’t the only things that make Washington Bud Co. so successful. It’s the deep love of the industry DaNae and Wagenseller share.
“It’s pretty cool. We wake up on a pot farm every morning,” DeNae exclaimed. “Bill and I met over marijuana. We were smoking in the 1970s. We are just old-time potheads. This is truly ours to do.”
Who better to succeed in Washington’s cannabis industry than stoners who love the plant, and are willing to work hard to make sure it’s grown well?