Shark Tank and Beyond: An Interview with Dean Donlon

Dean Donlon and I go way back.  We both worked with Bodybuilding.com and looked to change lives on a daily basis.  Dean’s career many would consider a dream come true.  He worked with one of the largest online health and fitness websites in the world, helped start a business named, Graterhead, to later working with the man himself, Daymond John of Shark Tank.  Now, he’s on a mission to help educate and bring to the world some of the best cannabis and cannabis related products.

Note: The topics in this interview are not to offend anyone or pressure anyone into using cannabis or its oils for medical or recreational use.  Abide by all state rules and regulations if you do decide to use.  This article is to help educate you on the topic as well as discuss Dean’s amazing career path.  With the laws constantly changing and being revised on a state and federal level, please do your own research according to your state’s laws regarding cannabis as what is said in this interview might have changed since the time of publication.  The thoughts an opinions in this interview are of the interviewee, and do not reflect the views of other individuals or businesses mentioned in this interview.

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1. Can you tell us a little bit about your new venture with High Life Distribution Co.?

Our mission at High Life Distribution is to become the leading supplier of high quality cannabis and cannabis related products and to become an Industry Leader in Global Import and Export of all things cannabis as Global laws and regulations change and cannabis becomes more available to mass markets. We currently operate in Oregon, Washington and California with individual licenses in each state due to current federal laws and are building relationships to expand our reach into additional states as more and more states to change state law and allow more medical or recreational use.

Using extensive market knowledge and industry expertise, our skilled team vets and selects the most cutting edge and technologically innovative products to provide retailers and consumer of cannabis related products. We are committed to offering an effective supply chain, distributing cannabis related products directly from the manufacturer and farmer to the customer.

 

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2. You and I go way back in the health and fitness industry. You’ve done some amazing things over your career. You worked for the largest online supplement retailer (Bodybuilding.com), you are the co-founder of a really cool company called Graterhead which appeared on Shark Tank, and not to mention worked side-by-side with one of the biggest Sharks, Daymond John, as his Director of Sports and Activation at The Shark Group. How have all of these different businesses shaped you into the person you are today and led you down your current path?

Thank you, Matt! To be honest, all of these experiences have played huge rolls in my education and journey without a doubt, but the one thing each had in common was I worked my face off every day in and out to be able to get the opportunities I’ve had. With that said, everything I have done leading up to this has no doubt helped me get to where I am at now. Bodybuilding.com was my first corporate job after college and I started out being paid less than the maintenance expert (or janitor) to add pictures of big sweaty men and women (obviously women in bikinis was always alright…) to the website, but from there I was able to gain experience in content creation and procurement from fitness experts (such as yourself) to fit celebrities. From there a good friend of mine Mick Skinner was able to get me moved to the marketing team and even helped get me my promotion to Offline Marketing Director where I gained experience in the board room working with a vast range of departments from the executive team to the developers. I also was able to gain experience in international business as we expanded into Europe, Australia and Brazil.

Working at The Shark Group was one of the most educating experiences and is something I can attribute to who I have become in many ways, getting to work with and have a friend and mentor like Daymond I feel not even a college career could replace.  I have been blessed (and don’t take that the wrong way, I worked my face in the concrete daily) to sit in corporate board rooms with Daymond and whole executive teams discussing every facet of the businesses. The family at The Shark Group are some of the most amazing people you could want to meet. That was another thing that was ingrained in the fibers of TSG, Daymond always says “invest in people” not businesses or products, so I have become a huge fan of people and not titles as it seems 9 out of 10 people these days are Founders or CEOs as their job on social media and such and just because you spend a couple hundred dollars to register a business and give it a name that doesn’t make you an entrepreneur, business owner, CEO or whatever shit you want to make up.

The one key thing I can say with all the experiences I have had is, if you think you’re working hard enough you aren’t wanting success enough!

 

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3. It seems like the words “cannabis” and “marijuana” are followed by American’s having this thought of a bunch of stoners dressed in tie-dye eating snacks when in actuality, cannabidiol (CBD) seems to be changing modern medicine as we know it. What’s your take on the future of this compound?

The future of CBD, I feel is the same as the future of Cannabis and all Cannabinoids, and that it is going to continue to astonish us as more studies, research and development continue to come about, laws and regulations continue to change and global cannabis trade becomes closer to a reality.

4. CBD from marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug. Do you think they will ever legalize it?

Yes! I think all Cannabis will be legal on a Federal Level in 2 – 5 years, and most likely GLOBAL IMPORT AND EXPORT along the same timeline or shortly after. At least for my sake I hope its global sooner than later as my personal goal is to become one of the major international distributors in the cannabis industry, even if it takes me till I’m 75 years old, but sure hope it doesn’t take that long!

5. There seems to be a huge difference between hemp-derived CBD and CBD from marijuana. Can you help us understand the difference?

The real issue or concern I have with the current CBD market isn’t necessarily that its CBD derived from hemp or marijuana, it’s the lack of education and understating around all cannabinoids and the misleading and misinforming CBD companies on the market currently.

Hemp CBD has very lax testing, whereas Oregon’s testing requirements in the cannabis industry are stricter laws than the requirements for food, so with hemp there is a lot of room for contamination. Hemp is also typically low in cannabinoid content so it takes a lot more product to extract a small amount of CBD, and with hemp being a bio accumulator drawing toxins from the soil using more product increases the risk of contaminants. Don’t get me wrong, hemp-derived CBD has played a pivotal role in helping some people and a monumental role on the legislative advancements for the industry.

With everything else aside, the key differentiator in my opinion is the “Entourage Effect”. The most important thing I can say to learn and research if you are interested in CBD’s for any reason is to stop only thinking CBD and start researching the effects of different ones such as CBG’s, THCa, THCv, CBC and CBN’s etc. There is even more research now coming out regarding the important role that terpenes play in the benefits of whole plant medicine.

Honestly, with the cannabis movement so rapidly increasing, research and development around all the compounds and different benefits is evolving so fast we learn something new about this magical WEED every day. All I can say is there are plenty articles online so if someone is interested in learning about CBD’s or the benefits of marijuana for a particular reason or just overall general health all I can say in put in the work and do your research because you will be astonished!

6. My website is for those interested in health and fitness and we even have some collegiate and pro athletes who come around. Am I hearing right that cannabis can possibly help with concussions? How would this affect the substance abuse policy many organizations have in place? Do you think they would change their tune if CBD could help athletes?

Cannabis is beneficial in so many ways for athletes, concussions are a big focus, but keep in mind cannabis has extensive anti-inflammatory properties so there are many more benefits for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. The NFL, NBA and MLB I personally feel will be changing policies over the next year or two, to at least allow those athletes in states where it is legal to utilize cannabis for its healing properties. Even media sources like newsweek are publishing articles about the pressure the NFL is facing on allowing players to consume marijuana and even guys like John Oliver are dedicating some air time to promote the ignorance behind prohibition. There is only one way to stop the atrocious abuse of opiates in the NFL and pro-sports, that’s to allow athletes to consume cannabis! It has even been published that anonymous sources claim Jerry Jones is one of the key influencer in the NFL’s inner group pushing for the league to reconsider its stance on cannabis. My assumption is we will see new rules set with the NFL when the collective bargaining agreement ends in 2020, and shortly after that see all other organizations following suite.

7. There is a lot of money being put into researching CBD for medical use. CBD is being touted as a cancer cell killer and a possible way to treat diabetes, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, autism, and many other conditions. Do you think this is something big pharma will try to lock up for good only for their greedy pockets and the hike the price up like everything else they sell?

Of course they will try, they already have been, and if they do, all us little guys can’t do shit about it so I don’t really spend much time following much of the big pharma developments. But all we can do is try to avoid that from happening and hope they continue to fail like they have been. Just look up Syndros a synthetic-THC derived medicine…

8. What is one take-home message you want everyone to think about or understand before we sign off?

All I can say is do your research and don’t believe everything out there as we are on the verge of changing times and with an industry this big, growing this fast there are going to be a lot of individuals and companies in it just for the money and will lie, cheat and steal to get you to believe that their idea or product is the revolution of cannabis… It may be but do your own homework and learn the facts because every day we are learning something new about the benefits to full legalization of cannabis. With sources like @Leafly all it takes is a few key strokes and your able to keep up with the most recent information and education of what’s happening in the world of cannabis.

 

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9. Is there anyone you would like to thank or any shout-outs you’d like to give to close out the interview?

I would have to thank so many people, but I would start with my parents Dave and Sheree Donlon, my close friend Wendy Hernandez who has helped me through too much, Mick Skinner as mentioned earlier, Daymond John and my whole family over at The Shark Group, my partners, Jeran Dahlquist and Seth Neal the GraterDudes, Benjamin Browning and Coby Goldman with Benjamin OG, Blake Leen Parsons and Mike and Ray Peterson, Everett Lacro, Kailas, Dani and Jude Orjala for always giving me a place to crash, George and Dimi Alexopoulos and Brian Rock for saving me time and time again with a safe place stay and someone to grab a meal with and selflessly help guide me towards partners and business solutions, David Levich, Dan Gershon and Eric Liberman at Sun-Staches for everything always Captain P for life. There are so many people I am missing, but I don’t think anyone wants to read my 30 page thank you note.

10. Where can people find you on social media and follow your work?

If for some reason anyone would be interested in my thoughts, opinions and likes they can find anywhere with a good Google search or:
IG @donlondean
FB facebook.com/dean.donlon
LI www.linkedin.com/in/dean-donlon-bb925012/