Making it big in the cannabis industry isn't quite a pipe dream, but there are more than enough broken dreams to go around these days. In the beginning, the legal pot field was largely filled by family businesses, with deals based more on relationships than real-money pitches. But as the legal field grew, so did the demand for more professional backgrounds. Today, executive positions in the industry are largely reserved for those with more traditional and collegiate experience.
So what's a passionate but inexperienced green thumb supposed to do? Ask Graydon Washington.
Marketing director for Bgood's four dispensaries, Washington started working for the dispensary chain for free in exchange for experience, pushing his way up in less than five years. We recently sat down with Washington to learn more about his grind in legal ganja, and how green-eyed youngsters can move up through the ranks.
Westword: How did you get your start in legal cannabis?
Graydon Washington: I attended [Oakland's] Oaksterdam University in early 2013 with the intention of learning everything I could about cannabis and then joining the industry in the Bay Area. But at the time, Washington state and Colorado had both legalized adult-use cannabis, and I was more intrigued by those emerging markets, so I decided I would make my way to Colorado.
Through a family friend, I made the connection with an owner of a medical cannabis dispensary in central Denver called Bgood, and I offered to work there for free for six months in exchange for experience and knowledge. I would end up convincing the ownership to hire me on through my work ethic and attitude — thus the start of my career in the legal cannabis industry.
You rose internally at Bgood. Is that common in the cannabis business?
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I’ve been with Bgood for over five years now and have had the unique opportunity of wearing many hats and moving up in the ranks. My experience in the industry has shown that not many people have been with a company as long as I have been with Bgood. I started when it was a one-shop, one-grow company, and through hard work and dedication, we’ve expanded to several shops and grows. However, where I saw the most turnover was my time spent working in cultivation.
What advice can you share with others who are just starting in the cannabis industry?
Be passionate and love what you’re doing. If you’re in it for the money and high, you'll not get far. I have sacrificed so much and have been through many hardships to get where I am now, but my passion and love for the plant has kept me patient and helped me persevere [through] all the obstacles. I’ve always had a passion for helping people, and I saw an opportunity with cannabis to do so: My father is riddled with MS, my mother suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, and my brother has PTSD from serving in the war.
Just love this plant and be mindful of the time we’re living in: the end of cannabis prohibition!
Bgood has been doing some interesting things in its Northglenn warehouse. Can you talk more about that?
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We refer to it as the Bgood showroom, and we use the space for private events such as hosting all of the Denver NORML meetings in 2018. But more important, we use it for charitable causes such as the annual Rotary Club of Northglenn-Thornton Food Drive. We’d love to connect with more nonprofits and continue doing good for the community. Hit me up at email@example.com if you're interested!
Bgood is bigger than a mom-and-pop, but not quite a Native Roots. What challenges and advantages does being a mid-sized dispensary chain involve?
The most challenging and regressive thing happening to a mid-sized cannabis dispensary such as Bgood is the IRS tax code: 280E. Under this tax code, we’re seen as trafficking a controlled substance, thus being taxed unfairly and not able to deduct any of our basic business expenses on the store side of the business. Although all dispensary businesses must deal with the reality of 280E, the big boys have money to withstand it, and the smaller ones go out of business.
Our advantage in the market has been being the best company we can be through top-of-the-line customer service and top-notch products and brands such as our exclusive growing teams: Lama Brand Cannabis and Top Dawg Genetics. We look forward to carrying on the fight as we open our third recreational store, conveniently located in the heart of downtown Englewood, next month.