It’s a classic story of local boy(s) making good, but in the age of legal cannabis.
Brothers Jay, John and Paul Bohannon, plus John’s wife Katie and Jay’s wife Crystal, are former Chewelah residents who have made their award-winning cannabis business, Honu, a family affair. Even the Bohannon’s parents, Gary and Deb, are involved.
“(Gary) kind of does quality control, oversees everything,” said Jay Bohannon. “My mom oversees our joint division.”
The Bohannons moved to Western Washington about 15 years ago before marijuana was a legitimate business.
“We moved over here for technology occupations,” said Jay. “John and I both were in the tech industry.”
In 2013, they began learning about the medical marijuana industry as the result of some health issues.
“Our family has believed in the plant, the product,” said Jay. “We’ve been consumers for many years. My brother John had an injury on his elbow, and my brother Paul was going through prostate cancer.”
Doctors for both brothers suggested alternative treatments and that they look into medical marijuana. This planted an idea that grew when the Bohannons took a trip together.
“We were on a family vacation in Hawaii and we all agreed (to start a business),” said Jay Bohannon. “We were sitting on a beach trying to decide our name, what’s our presence, and the turtles were coming up to us. We asked the locals what the word for turtle is and they said ‘Honu.’”
The Bohannons liked what sea turtles signify to Hawaiians: longevity, peace, good luck and humility: a perfect name for a venture.
In 2015, the family branched out into recreational cannabis with a facility in Longview. Today they’ve grown to around 50 employees and a large selection of items, including concentrates, edibles, vape cartridges, topicals and spa products like lotions, mineral spa salts and lip balm.
Honu was initially known for its edibles. In 2016 the company was named the Best Edible Company at the Dope Industry Awards. It also won an award for the Best Sweet Edible in Washington the same year for the Coconut Snowball, a coconut truffle dipped in white chocolate and rolled in sweetened coconut, a recipe created by a niece.
“She was a pastry chef in Chicago,” said Bohannon. “Using promises and shiny objects we convinced her to come and help us get our kitchen off the ground.”
Honu was nominated for the award again for 2017, as well as the Best Topical, but didn’t take home the top trophy. Even so, Jay Bohannon says the nomination was a huge honor and reflects the work ethic of the company.
“I think it’s a combination,” he said of Honu’s success. “We have some stellar employees, just great products. Our goal is to be here for the long haul and represent a professional industry.”
The company also won a best Packaging & Design award from the Marijuana Business Association and a local award for one of their cannabis strains, Strawberry Cough. Today, the Bohannon’s have quit growing marijuana in order to concentrate on processing.
“We realized (growing) wasn’t our strength. We’re much better at focusing on the processing side. There are a lot of amazing growers. We’re not going to put energy and time into growing, but instead leverage our partnerships with them.”
That is working so well that Honu is expanding its reach from the Washington to Nevada, Colorado, Oregon and California. They’re hoping to grow into Montana and Alaska this summer and are expanding their product line.
“The big upcoming launch will be a new candy line with five new flavors,” said Jay Bohannon. “We’re creating new tincture flavors and new vape strains constantly.”