Ones to Watch 2020: Denise B. McCracken


The inaugural Greenway Ones to Watch class were nominated by their peers as those will be some of the most responsible for setting the tone of Missouri’s newest industry. From activists to consultants to operators themselves, the following industry influencers are responsible for determining not only how the industry overcomes the obstacles of 2020, but how the industry will be better for it. The same questions were asked of all; submitted answers and related information edited for grammar and clarity.


NAME: Denise B. McCracken

COMPANY: Dogwood Advisors


TITLE: Attorney at Law, Founder

BACKGROUND: Legal: New York City Law Department, Manhattan Civil Litigation and Brooklyn Torts Divisions, City agency defense litigation; Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn (Arlington Heights, Ill.), representing Illinois school districts in litigation matters; D.B. McCracken Law, LLC (St. Louis, Mo.), solo practitioner; Dogwood Advisors (St. Louis, Mo.), compliance-focused cannabis law firm.

Grant writing: People’s Music School (Chicago, Ill.), free community music school for low-income youth with a nationally recognized el Sistema program; Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, a non-collecting art museum focusing resources on exhibitions, educational programming, and the advancement of local artists.


Why cannabis?

Cannabis offers a singular opportunity to be part of an industry from the ground up.

What is your vision of the industry in Missouri?

States serve as laboratories of democracy and we are watching the cannabis experiment play out in front of us.

After writing this sentence, I researched the source of “laboratories of democracy” mostly so as not to throw out a pithy statement that is inconsistent with its original context. What I found is an analogy for my vision of the industry.

States as laboratories of democracy is a concept promoted in a dissenting U.S. Supreme Court opinion,

It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.


New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, 285 U.S. 262, 331 (1932) (Brandeis, J, dissenting).

The question being decided was whether the public interest justified Oklahoma laws requiring hearing and licensure from a state commission to engage in the manufacture, sale and distribution of ice. Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it? The majority, and winning, opinion decided that ice was not so invested in the public interest as to justify state oversight restricting participation in the ice industry. In other words, ice is not a permitted lab rat.

What was so special about the ice industry in 1932 that the Oklahoma legislature originally thought it required close oversight?  Without giving any spoilers, the dissenting Justice drops 57 footnotes of supporting facts and scholarly resources. He draws analogies to lawsuits about cotton gins, slaughtering cattle, ferry services and upholding the Eighteenth Amendment prohibition on the sale of liquor. New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann is an example of how a once novel commodity and a heated topic of debate becomes, over time and scrutiny, commonly accepted.

The various state-by-state laboratories and conflict with federal law are experiments in the reasons and mechanisms for cannabis oversight. Over the long run and upon closer scrutiny, my vision for Missouri and America is that cannabis will be so commonly accepted that future generations will wonder how cannabis could have been so controversial in the first place.

What opportunity/opportunities does the industry create in Missouri?

Since the last set of licenses were awarded, it’s been amazing to hear people’s ingenious ideas on how to enter the medical marijuana industry without a license and how to extend the impact of a held license. I’m reluctant to identify one, or even a few, because there really are still a vast number of opportunities to be thought up.

The recreational industry offers opportunities for more Missourians to enter the once-in-a-lifetime cannabis industry as plant-touching licensees. So far, recreational efforts range from regulatory oversight of an open market to consolidating market share supplemented by a nominal equity program. Missouri-based initiative campaigns and the State legislature have the opportunity to develop a recreational program that truly levels the playing field for more Missourians.

What is one thing you wish all Missourians knew about cannabis?

People who buy the cannabis they consume, for medicinal and recreational purposes, are infinitely safer with legalization than without.  In addition to having oversight of the pesticides and herbicides Missourians ingest, legalization educates citizens on the effects different cannabis strains and products have on the human body as a result of ingestion-methods and the various ratios of THC to CBD and the rest of the cannabinoid soup. Missourians will develop a greater understanding of the direct impact the cannabis they have the freedom to purchase has on their wellbeing.

See more Ones to Watch 2020 profiles here