INTERVIEW – Justin Barnhill
(Founder of Columbia Concentrates) 2/26/17
Justin Barnhill and I met way back in the 4th grade. We were both new to the private elementary school, Liberty Christian in Richland Washington. We were literally running around the playground, wreaking havoc and chasing girls. We went dirtbiking, skateboarding and had tons of sleepovers as kids. I remember at one time, his dad had a pet parrot! Now... years later, we've turned our ideas into schemes which have inevitably became a sneak peak into our future careers. We've maintained a symbiotic business relationship and this interview gives you some insight to his lab and their operations.
Who inspired you to follow your passion?
My beautiful Mother, Amy Michel, was the biggest influence in inspiring me early on to pursue my passion. Growing up, she consistently told me that I could do anything I wanted to, that I should follow my dreams, and challenge the status-quo. At the root of it, I believe that self-esteem she instilled into me growing up is what allowed me to ignore the dense adversity, and handle the hundreds of hurdles thrown at me.
Who were some really KEY players throughout the journey?
My partner, Tanner Badden, and my team managers, Alex Linnen and Daniel Clark have been key players from day 1. Those guys have consistently stuck with me through this wild 4-year ride to grow our brand into what it is today, even when the future was dim and uncertain. Their loyalty is unparalleled, and I owe everything to my founding team.
What were some of the biggest hurdles you’ve faced putting together your vision?
The biggest hurdles we have faced have certainly been the local laws and regulations here in Benton County. We live in a very “conservatively ran” part of the state that is known for being un-reasonable on cannabis policy. In 2015 after some local regressive zoning ordinances were passed, our county officials were convinced that there would be a Zero-Tolerance policy on legal solvent extraction in Benton County, which left us at a cross-road. We had to choose between moving our company to a more progressive jurisdiction in Western Washington, or utilize the democratic process to stay and fight. We love our hometown and our roots are deep here, so we chose to fight. After 24 months of red tape, city council meetings, and working closely with state and local officials, we have been granted the permission to open the very first legal I-502 extraction lab in the Columbia Basin. We must now lead by example, because our actions will set the precedent for future legal cannabis extractors in Benton County.
When did you KNOW you wanted to be in the industry of cannabis?
Seattle Hempfest 2011. (The Pre-Regulation “medical days”). I turned 18 in the summer of 2011 and decided to go attend “Hempfest” with a group of friends. That was the first cannabis event that I had ever attended, and I immediately fell in love with the industry.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What is needed to get there?
In today’s cannabis industry, the future is uncertain. With the new presidential administration, it’s hard to predict the future of the legal cannabis industry. My 5-year goals are to grow this company to 50 employees, expand to several states, and continue to stay on the cutting edge of cannabis extraction.
Why is what you do as a company, unique when compared to others?
At the tip of it, our products and brand are what set us apart from others. Columbia Concentrates strives to produce the best cannabis extracts in the world, at a fair price for consumers. We have set out to re-shape the perception of cannabis, and to create a brand that sets a gold standard for our industry. As a company, we hold a heavy emphasis on giving back to our community and supporting our local music arts scene. From charities, to our local skateboard team, to the local artists we sponsor, we stay actively involved in our community.
How have my commercial photography services helped you get closer to accomplishing your goals as a company?
The photography and video services you have provided us with have been a key component in visually setting us apart with social media, and printed advertising. Your cutting-edge equipment and visual talent has allowed our company to advertise our products in a professional context, which has been crucial to the success of our marketing.
Lastly...how can people who appreciate what you're doing, actively get involved in supporting your mission in the future?
In one word: Activism. Get involved at the local, state, and federal level. Cannabis is legal in Washington State, but the fight is far from over.
You can find Columbia Concentrates online here;
To see their record of winning the 2016 dope cup award for Best Concentrate company click here; http://www.dopemagazine.com/event-recap-dope-industry-awards-washington-2016/