Founder | Sound Cultivation | Caitlein@SoundCultivation.com
This month, AAPC caught up with new Individual Member, Caitlein Ryan.
Caitlein Ryan is the founder of Sound Cultivation, a cannabis political consulting solution in Washington State. Caitlein has a PhD from Arizona State University where she focused on arts education curriculum and assessment, social justice, and theatre history. When Washington passed ballot measure i502 legalizing adult use cannabis, Caitlein became an early licensee and stakeholder in the new emerging market. In this new role, she applied her experience in arts education to the cannabis industry. She is a founding member and the first president of the Central Washington Growers Association, which focuses on community engagement and local government in Central Washington. She still serves on the board of CWGA. Since the passage of i502, Caitlein has grown her scope of influence to the state and federal level with membership in the National Cannabis Industry Association, based in Washington D.C. and she is the newly-elected president of The Cannabis Alliance, the largest industry association in WA representing over 250 licensees, medical advocates, and ancillary businesses.
AAPC: Tell me how you first got involved in politics.
Caitlein: I have always been interested in politics as an active member of my community. My father was a pastor and my parents were progressive community leaders in South Phoenix, AZ where I grew up. I became involved as a community organizer when Washington legalized adult use cannabis. Based on my parent’s passion for serving the community around them, I have found that my career path has always gravitated towards political involvement.
AAPC: What was your first impression of the industry? What is your impression now?
Caitlein: Because I came to political consulting from the ideology of an advocacy, I was initially surprised by the seemingly matter-of-fact nature of the industry. I have come to appreciate and enjoy the straight-forward communication that is the norm in political consulting.
AAPC: What has surprised you most about working in politics?
Caitlein: Particularly when speaking with staff and elected officials about cannabis, I am consistently surprised by the lack of quality information in the hands of decision-makers. While it is expected everyone can’t know everything about everything, I am always taken aback when a critical decision maker needs a rudimentary primer. I often have to remind myself to not to jump-in too quickly on policy recommendations without checking for understanding first. I have also had some of the funniest conversations “off the record” about cannabis with the most surprising folks.
AAPC: What do you find most challenging about working in politics?
Caitlein: In cannabis policy, the biggest challenge is always stigma or perceived stigma. Despite the growing body of evidence demonstrating what most folks know intuitively, which is that it is not, in fact, the devil’s lettuce. Beyond the conversation surrounding recreational adult use, when that stigma extends to medical application and hinders policy development, it can be difficult to explain the deliberate slowness of government to patients and stakeholders who are suffering because of bad cannabis policy rooted in fear.
AAPC: What might your colleagues be surprised to know about you?
Caitlein: While I have focused my career on cannabis policy and development, my colleagues are always surprised to learn that I have a PhD in theatre. My degree is in arts education, qualitative research and social justice. I started professionally in politics, developing arts education standards and assessment and advocating for broader arts education programs in public schools. While I am focused on the cannabis industry, I still maintain my ties to the arts. I can even be found doing stand-up comedy occasionally in Seattle.
AAPC: What do you think will change about the political consulting industry over the next five years?
Caitlein: While I am new to the industry in a formal role, I will be bold and hazard a speculation. I think the next five years will be spent on grappling with the use of social media and personal branding. The sophistication of other industries in this modality is impressive and I see political discourse emulating an influencer model. My hope is the next five years will bring some correction of the challenging aspects
AAPC: Why did you join AAPC?
Caitlein: I joined at the encouragement of my dear friend, Rebecca Tweed, who saw how AAPC could support and inform the development of my new consulting business. I am so glad I took the advice! I feel like I have pulled-back the curtain on the hard, daily work of politics and found a community that has not yet become robust in cannabis. I’m excited to continue to have meaningful bi-partisan conversations with fellow AAPC members about the rapidly growing and changing landscape of the cannabis industry.