Countless people practice religion throughout the world, and it holds sway over their beliefs and even their livelihoods. Some find religious beliefs to be an essential way to find meaning outside of the self or to understand their role or destiny in the world. For Brendon Wilder and his wife, owners of new Oklahoma-based cannabis brand Highest Intent, religion was once a big part of their lives. Eventually, they realized that they were unhappy with their religion, and they chose to celebrate their own lives and step away from Christianity. Once that happened, cannabis entered Wilder’s life which led to the launch of his cannabis brand. Wilder shares his journey from Christian to cannabis business owner, and the path that has led him to launch a new brand in Oklahoma, one of the country’s rapidly growing cannabis markets.
You previously practiced Christianity with a “megachurch.” What made you leave the church, and what did you hope to accomplish afterwards?
It’s pretty crazy, but I grew up in that church for 15 years. It was the number one influence in my life above school, my parents, and anything else from the time I was 10 years old. As I gave more and more of myself to “God’s plan,” I was growing increasingly unhappy. It was really a matter of time before all of the suppression of my own emotions would boil over.
Looking back, it’s clear to see that I didn’t truly respect and love myself. Instead, I was trying to earn that love, respect, and approval from other people and “god.” Toward the end of my time there, I remember repeatedly asking myself: “If this is what the rest of my life looks like, am I happy with that?”
Long story short, I left religion/church because for the first time, I felt that I deserved my own version of happiness. I’d had enough “suffering for Christ” and was ready to start enjoying my life. I was leaving my career, the passions I had developed, and all of my 10-15 year friendships. I really had NO CLUE where I would go next in life, I only knew that I wanted out of religion. For the first time, I was ready to live my life for myself.
How did that decision coincide with your journey into the cannabis industry?
The first time I smoked cannabis was almost one year after I left my “church life.” Summer ’16 will always be remembered fondly for that reason (shoutout my homie Jimmy that rolled the blunt)! I grew up around cannabis being a “drug,” so it took a while to unlearn and reprogram my views on things. One short year after my first puff, I found myself taking hourly “vape breaks” from my nine-to-five office job in Dallas, Texas. It was becoming obvious that cannabis was the medicine I needed to heal and grow beyond my past. Cannabis allowed me the space to feel things deeply, address those emotions, and grow from them, rather than suppress them.
As I began to see the personal benefits of consuming more regularly, I began to seek out opportunities that would allow me to move to a state where cannabis isn’t a “drug,” unlike Texas. I had a deep desire to learn more about this plant and the culture that surrounds it that has only grown with time. I always had dreams of eventually starting my own business, but had never found the thing that impacted me enough to earn my passion. Cannabis had done that.
You originally moved from Texas to Oregon, and then most recently to Oklahoma. Can you tell us more about the driving factors for these moves?
My wife and I moved from Texas to Bend, Oregon in January of 2018 with such excitement to press the “reset” button on our lives and begin again. We had both taken remote jobs working in the cannabis industry for the first time. This opened up a whole new world of opportunity, including living in a new and beautiful place. While in Oregon, I was the Director of Operations for a cannabis wellness brand that was transitioning into the California recreational market. Anna and I also partnered with a licensed processor in the i502 Washington [state] recreational market to create new brands, marketing, and distribution into dispensaries. One of our last projects in Oregon was our high-end hemp flower brand called Good Fortune Flowers that we were shipping nationwide. Unknowingly, we launched right before OG COVID dropped and Texas (our primary wholesale market for our new brand) changed their laws around smokable hemp.
As we explored the idea of entering into the recreational cannabis market, we quickly realized the barrier to entry in the more mature recreational markets can be very high. The more that we began to look into our future, the more arrows were pointing to Oklahoma as the right emerging market for us and our ideas. We aren’t afraid of a saturated market and lots of competition because we feel it brings out the best in us and our abilities. Although we still miss the mountains and forests of central Oregon, Oklahoma and its people have truly been so good to us since we moved here in April 2021. We are excited to be launching new brands here and hope to in-time earn the respect and sign-off of the local Oklahoma community.
Tell us about your brand, Highest Intent. What does your product offer to consumers in Oklahoma? Anything different from other competitors?
Our idea with Highest Intent was to make a cannabis product that could also be an addition to anyone’s daily wellness regimen. We realize that a lot of people stress out during their day, then consume cannabis to de-stress in the evening. The pandemic also really shifted our thinking in the direction of “proactive” wellness instead of always taking a “reactive” approach. We also wanted to create a product that’s not just about “feeling high,” yet is still effective for a wide range of users. Rather than creating another pretty-packaged distillate product in fancy packaging, we chose to create a product that we as patients wished existed in the market.
We put our best ideas and intentions forward to bring you—Highest Intent. Our sublingual tinctures unite full-spectrum Nano THC with select ancient medicinal herbs and adaptogenic mushrooms that have supported our minds and bodies for thousands of years. Nano water-soluble THC allows for increased absorption and bioavailability, while the specific entourage of herbs and mushrooms in each formula help in ways that cannabis alone cannot. All of our tinctures use herbal and mushroom extracts (not simply “ground up mushrooms”) that contain no alcohol. Our products are gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, 100 percentage made from plants, and absolutely tasty. We believe that these products will open the door to a more mindful experience in life for many, many people.
Are there any challenges you have had to overcome in order to create the Highest Intent brand, or its products?
Without a doubt, the hardest part of this whole process has been finding the right people to trust and build with. From wasted time and money on “consultants,” to going through several different herbalists and extractors, we have really flexed our problem-solving muscles this past year. We have high standards as patients and prefer a high level of accountability and transparency from the brands that we love and support. Therefore, our brands must meet these same standards, otherwise I can’t personally ethically be proud of them. Unfortunately, not everyone operates this way.
We create products with the mindset that “we are patients first and foremost,” meaning that we will never put out products that aren’t completely up to our personal standard of consumption. Business school tells you to chase larger margins, but we decided to make this a premium, quality-first product at an inclusive price point. It took about eight months of product R&D to finally have a product formulated that we’re genuinely proud of.
When do you expect Highest Intent products to be available in Oklahoma?
We just recently launched to the wonderful OMMA (Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority) patients of Oklahoma! Our Daily Wellness Tinctures are available in two dosage options in our “Energy & Ease” morning tincture, as well as two options in our “Chill & Restore” evening tincture. Each formula is use-specific and is created by our team of herbalists and ayurvedic practitioners.
Are there any plans in the works for 2022? Where do you see yourself and your brand in the future?
These first four Highest Intent products are really only the beginning for us! We have big plans for 2022 that include lots of expansion. We plan to expand our THC line of Highest Intent products within Oklahoma to include more ratios of specific cannabinoids, as well as release products designed for specific uses such as allergies, pain management, respiratory health, etc. Highest Intent will also be launching a nano CBD line of products containing mushrooms and herbs later this year. We fully intend to expand our model and product offering out from Oklahoma to many other emerging markets as well.
As we explored the idea of entering into the recreational cannabis market, we quickly realized the barrier to entry in the more mature recreational markets can be very high. The more that we began to look into our future, the more arrows were pointing to Oklahoma as the right emerging market for us and our ideas.