With experience in cannabis going back to the 70s and 80s, cultivator Shawn DeNae Wagenseller knows how important it can be to a person’s health.
After sustaining an excruciating injury in her youth, Wagenseller found relief and recovery through cannabis, and became dedicated to growing her own. By the 90s, she and her husband were living in Washington with a small indoor grow as a supply.
But after one of their kids outed them to a D.A.R.E officer and was told they were “criminals” he had to turn in, Wagenseller says they packed up the growing business.
Almost 2 decades later and dealing with constant pain, one puff of a joint at the 2010 Seattle Hempfest put her back on the path to not only healing herself, but wanting to heal others.
Now, the CEO of Washington Bud Company, Wagenseller wants consumers of her products to enjoy the taste and effects of cannabis. In order to curate this experience, she’s dedicated to cultivating cannabis in a way that sets her business apart from others.
“We started setting the bar in 2016 and others have certainly followed us,” Wagenseller says. In order to achieve her family’s goal of growing clean cannabis free of toxins, pesticides, and unnatural ingredients, her son, Seth, adopted the unique methods to help with the growing process.
One factor included using organic nutrients instead of salt-based chemicals. While salt-based tends to yield more product, Wagenseller finds that organic is better at producing a strong flavor profile.
Her business also stands out through the use of strict environmental controls and beneficial insects, which act as deterrents to pests without harming the cannabis plant. As she conveys, cleanliness in the facility is crucial in how they grow and provide a safe product to their consumers. “That’s really important to us.”
For several years, she’s been in the process of helping to establish a cannabis commission in Washington.
Many agricultural commodities, like apples, grapes, and hops, grown in the U.S. are represented by an agricultural commission. They are funded by growers and have authority to help set standards, provide research, education, and formal representation for their grower members.
“Currently, we don’t have any of those necessary supports for cannabis growers,” explains Wagenseller. She hopes to rectify this by 2022. With a commission passed, research could be conducted on how to best grow and protect cannabis plants, and bring them safely to the market.
Along with the commission, Wagenseller is working on getting state mandatory testing for pesticides and heavy metals that “don’t break the backs of small farmers.” She’s also become involved with more sustainable packaging by moving to 3-mil plastic bags rather than glass jars, which, in Washington, cannot be reused or repurposed.
While the numbers of women in cannabis have gone down in recent years, Wagenseller reflects on ways the industry can change this loss of representation: funding. “I think the biggest single factor to help bring women into the regulated market is funding and access to capital,” she says. Obtaining capital is key in operating within the cannabis space but women especially have difficulty receiving funds and as a result, are forced out.
Wagenseller wants women looking to get into the industry to do their homework and become knowledgeable with the regulatory side of cannabis.
“Become political much more than you ever thought you would need to. Build your network of politicians and regulators that are going to be overseeing what you do, and build trust within them. Get as many girlfriends around you as you can!”