WASHINGTON: Dot-bong, Marijuana Inc., the Green Rush: Call it what you will, the burgeoning legal marijuana industry in Washington state is drawing pot prospectors of all stripes.
Microsoft veterans and farmers, real estate agents and pastry chefs, former journalists and longtime pot growers alike are seeking new challenges — and fortunes — in the production, processing and sale of a drug that’s been illegal for generations.
In Colorado, the only other state to legalize marijuana, existing medical marijuana dispensaries can begin selling for recreational use in January. But in Washington, where sales are expected to begin in late spring, the industry is open to nearly anyone — provided they’ve lived in the state for three months, pass a background check and raise any money from within the state. Washington on Monday begins accepting applications from those eager to jump in.
Click through the portraits, or read through the profiles, of those hoping to make their mark in the new world of legal weed.
FROM MBA TO THC
Todd Spaits and Bilye (sounds like “Billy”) Miller are more gym-and-yoga than smoke-and-cough. The couple doesn’t use pot — “I much prefer a glass of scotch,” Spaits says — but they say they know a good business opportunity when they see one.
The pair previously worked in online marketing in San Diego, and Spaits has a master’s in business administration. Their most recent startup is skyfu.com, which helps restaurants monitor what people are saying about them on social media.
Spaits, 39, also helps judge business plan competitions and believes his skills are perfectly honed to run a successful pot store.
He and Miller, 38, who has also worked as a bartender, are excited about Washington’s grand experiment. They sought advice from friends who operate medical dispensaries in California to help draw up a revenue model. They’re seeking a retail license in Kirkland, east of Seattle.
THE SECRET SODA
Cecilia Sivertson worked for eight years as a paralegal in the prosecutor’s office for Washington’s most populous county. She helped make sure people paid child support and tracked down deadbeat dads. It was a rewarding, stressful and sometimes depressing job.
After her husband died in a car accident in 2001, she decided she needed a more upbeat line of work and joined a labeling business.
Sivertson, 55, has epilepsy and arthritis in her hands. About two years ago, she says, she noticed improvement in both when she started using marijuana. Last spring, she began making products infused with cannabis oil under her “Nana’s Secret” line. Her specialty is pot-infused soda — with the soda concentrate produced by a client of the labeling business.
The Alabama native says she’s applying to become a licensed marijuana processor so her sodas and other items can be sold in retail pot stores.