Inclusivity and Equality in Cannabis: Our Responsibility – With the CEO of Shine Papers
For our last Episode before the Mother’s Day Raffle, we interviewed the CEO of Shine Papers: Dave Brown. Dave has built a hugely successful ancillary cannabis business and he wants to use the hype and following he has built to do good in the industry.
Shine donated to our raffle – but expressed that talking about the issues and getting the information out to the masses is just as (if not more) important as donating. So we picked Dave’s brain about the issues and opportunities in cannabis – and why it is all of our responsibilities to make the cannabis industry more inclusive and equal than any industry before it.
Listen to the Episode Now Here – Or Read on For the Transcription of the Interview
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey into the cannabis world?
I took an alternate route. I’ve done several exciting things in life. I’ve been a professional tennis player. From there I got into the cigar world (premium cigars). I was working in stores, I was running a distribution company, and at one point in time, we were selling a lot of cigars to Vegas casinos, so we wanted to come up with a product that was geared towards the super high-end gambler.
We came up with the idea of putting gold on our cigar. Cigar people loved receiving gold cigars as gifts – but they would not pay for it. It was already an expensive product, to begin with, and then when you add on the Vegas markup, it became incredibly expensive.
That product wasn’t working the way we wanted it to. The other funny thing that happened with it is that people would buy the cigar and not smoke it because it was too pretty.
Despite setbacks, we didn’t want to lose sight of the technology. We thought it was a cool process we had created. So, we were looking for other ways that we could apply it, and we landed on rolling papers. I prototyped the first couple of papers myself and gave them to someone who was working for me who I knew it was a big smoker.
I’ll never forget that first photo of it rolled up and of the gold ash.
I got my education about cannabis by developing this product. I wasn’t in the space, and I wasn’t thinking about it a lot. I believe overall that’s helped us with Shine. I’ve seen (especially in this industry) a lot of people that are such passionate consumers of a product that they can sometimes be a little bit myopic as to how to build a product that will scale. They’re focused on what their personal use habits are but maybe not what works for a broader audience.
With a little bit of detachment, I think we were able to build a company that works for a broad audience. From a business aspect, it was evident that there was a lot of opportunity in the industry – but we also started to get educated on these other issues like the medicinal value of the plant and the legal issues that are arising or have been in place for a lot of people for a long time.
Building the product was kind of our entry point to getting educated on cannabis industry issues. Now that we’re here (the product started in 2013) we have our finger on the pulse of what’s happening and are looking at the different issues we want to get behind and want to support. Our product is unique in that we get a lot of mainstream press coverage, probably more than any other brand in the industry because they’re always willing to talk about luxury even if cannabis isn’t a massive topic for their audience, so the intersection of the two is fascinating.
We want to look at certain things and make sure that you know we are acting with responsibility and making sure that we’re moving specific issues and ideas forward. We feel like we have a unique platform to be able to talk about them.
I’m curious to hear your perspective on the issues still surrounding the war on drugs as a company inside the cannabis industry?
The war on drugs overall was a failure. It was a war on certain people more than on certain products [drugs]. It’s hurt particular communities. We have a ton of people that are serving sentences that go far beyond consequences necessary for cannabis. These are life-changing, life-altering things that have happened to these people, that will probably always travel with them which is unfortunate.
We’re clearly at a point where the mainstream and the people that write policy are starting to look at this entirely differently. It would be fantastic to get people that were ahead of the curve in the cannabis world – and have paid an unbelievably high price in their life for being involved with it – get those people out and get them into better situations. These are not violent offenders. Many times these are people that have such a profound and deep-seated belief in the good of what they’re doing that it’s deplorable to see them paying such a steep price.
While it’s exciting to see where things are moving, there’s a vast population that has been left behind and are paying a high price. Anything that can be done to advance their cause forward I think is incredibly important, healing, and powerful.
You’re based in South Carolina, what is the state of the industry there?
South Carolina is a conservative place by nature. Charleston is kind of like Austin, an oasis of progressiveness and liberalism in a sea of conservative Jews.
Some people are putting a lot of effort in to move legalization forward. My prediction when people ask me about it is that it probably will be one of the last five states to legalize. There still is a significant influence of Bible Belt views. We are solidly Republican from a voting standpoint. I try to wrap people’s minds around the tax revenue possibilities of cannabis. There are a lot of things that could be fixed, our schools are terrible, our roads are seriously in need of repair. We could probably fix a lot of that in one or two years of properly taxed cannabis sales.
I think we are in a state where the social stigma of cannabis is still pretty strong from top to bottom.
I am curious from your perspective if you see a lot of companies in the industry stepping up to the plate on issues like this or if you are seeing a lot more companies ignoring issues?
That’s a good question; I think it’s a mixed bag. You have companies that are incredibly active with a social cause attached to what they’re doing, and you have other companies that are more focused on the profit opportunity. There’s a way to balance both. One can also enhance the other. I try not to cast any judgment on any other companies for how they participate because you might have the absolute best intentions, but you’re just not financially at a place where you can participate.
There are other ways that you can make a difference. But not everyone’s in a position to start a foundation or be a significant sponsor of something. I think everyone in their own little ways can help. It can be as small as just being a good influence in your community and just showing that; hey yes I’m in a cannabis business but you know I’m a great dad or I show up to the soccer games. I think all those little moments to help Destigmatize it and ultimately that’s you know that’s really what’s that’s the only thing that I believe to be left on the table as far as moving issues for it is just overcoming the stigma that’s still there.
I think everyone in the industry has a responsibility to be a good steward of what’s happening right now because it’s really exciting and there are a lot of good things happening.
This particular industry has the opportunity to be one of the most inclusive and equal industries potentially in history, and I just wanted to bring that up and get your opinion on that?
I think that it is really exciting. It’s definitely a strength of the industry that it is not built yet. It’s young in its lifecycle. The systems, infrastructure, and the bureaucracy that might create an unlevel playing field in other industries don’t exist in cannabis yet. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what your background is, what your ethnicity is, what your gender is, what your sexual orientation is, it’s a pretty wide open space right now. If you can find a way to create value, then I think you have a chance to be incredibly successful here without having to fight off you know systemic issues that exist in other industries.
The diversity of thoughts and people is very important to us. It’s an exciting place for people not to feel like they have to fight off years and years of how things have been done. There’s just an infinite level of opportunity and its so crucial that we don’t mess this one up. If we take care of this thing collectively, it’s going to be incredibly impactful for generations.
What are Your One, Five, and Ten year Industry Predictions?
I think the longer horizons are almost easier to predict. I think ten years from now federal legalization will happen.
Five years, I would probably mark that as a time where we will see more and more states get on board with a recreational program and not just medical.
A year from now – I think that we’re still fighting an uphill battle.
I’d like to be seeing a little bit more fluid situation when it comes to legislation. I think the legislation will get to where it needs to if we can make it living document and not something that is set in stone.
Your Goals for the industry Moving Forward?
I hope that people do get involved and they do pay attention to these issues. Whether they’re working in the cannabis industry or they’re just a cannabis consumer, everyone has the ability in a small way to affect change on the stigma and to tell positive stories. I would encourage people at all levels to do that. Cannabis is not something you have to be ashamed to talk about anymore. There is so much opportunity to present a positive image for the plant itself, what it means to consume it, how it positively affects you medicinally.
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