Pubdate: Tue, 19 Nov 2013
Source: Virgin Islands Daily News, The (VI)
Copyright: 2013 The Associated Press
Author: Gene Johnson, The Associated Press


SEATTLE (AP) - 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 began 
accepting license applications from those eager to jump in. By 
midafternoon, hundreds had applied.

They are all hoping to make their mark in the new world of legal 
weed. Here are some of them:

The pig farmer

Bruce King says he was a 22-year-old high-school dropout when 
Microsoft hired him as its 80th employee in 1986. A software 
engineer, he eventually left and started or acquired two other 
companies- telephone adult chat and psychic hotlines - but he really 
wanted to farm. He found a management team to handle his business and 
started breeding pigs north of Seattle. After Washington legalized 
marijuana last fall, he looked at pot as any other crop. The 
potential margins were "fabulously attractive," he says. He found a 
farm with a 25,000-square-foot barn for a marijuana operation.

King, 50, doesn't like pot himself, but says, "If people are going to 
eat a stupid drug, they should eat my stupid drug." He likens it to 
running a psychic hotline when he's never had a reading. "You don't 
have to like Brussels sprouts to grow them."

Pot and patisseries

Marla Molly Poiset had swapped her three-decade-old home-furnishing 
store and interior design business in Colorado for a life of world 
travel when she learned some devastating news: Her eldest daughter 
had leukemia.

She suspended her travels to help her daughter and her family through 
the ordeal. She then continued her tour, attending cooking school in 
Paris. Poiset, 59, graduated last spring, and had an idea: "Blending 
my newfound patisserie skills with medical cannabis," she says.

So she abandoned Paris for Seattle, where she's been developing 
recipes for marijuana-infused chocolate truffles for recreational and 
medical use. Her aim is to create "a beautiful package" like French 
chocolate or pastries for people like her daughter.

They could "ingest discreetly and enjoy life, rather than everything 
being in a pill," she says.

Poster child for anti-pot

Angel Swanson was raised on the South Side of Chicago by a mother who 
warned: "If you see drugs, run."

Decades later, the businesswoman and real estate agent found herself 
in Washington state with a husband, seven children and a strong bias 
against illegal drugs - "the poster child for anti-cannabis," she says.

That is, until one of her daughters, who had serious digestive issues 
and had never weighed more than 100 pounds, came home from college 
one day and ate a full plate of food. The girl had tried pot-laced 
cookies, which stimulated her appetite. Swanson lost it.

"Do you have any idea the sacrifices that have been made for you to 
go to college?" she remembers saying.

Swanson, 52, did some research and couldn't find a reason for her 
daughter not to use weed. She and her husband opened a medical 
marijuana dispensary, The Cannabis Emporium, near Tacoma. They now 
want to sell recreational pot, but hope to continue to serve patients 
- - a challenge, since stores will be barred from trumpeting pot's 
therapeutic benefits.

Good business opportunity

Todd Spaits and Bilye 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, 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 path from addiction

It started with small doses that eased the aches of restaurant work. 
But over time, Yevgeniy "Eugene" Frid found himself addicted to 
prescription painkillers. "It completely envelops your whole life."

He tried to quit many times, and when he finally did, he says, 
cannabis played a huge role - displacing the opiates with a substance 
much gentler on the body.

Frid, 28, quit his job doing business management and marketing for a 
video game company when a friend asked him to help start a medical 
marijuana dispensary. A Greener Today opened in Seattle in 2012 and 
now serves about 4,000 people.

Frid says his most gratifying work is helping patients get off 
opiates the way he did, so he has mixed feelings about applying for a 
recreational retail license. The future of unregulated medical 
marijuana in Washington is dim-many state officials see it as a 
threat to the heavily taxed recreational system. Some medical 
dispensary operators believe they have little choice but to convert 
to the recreational market.

"We don't know what's happening," Frid says.

The security guard

For a guy with a uniform and a gun, Steve Smith was unusually welcome 
at medical marijuana dispensaries. Of course, he was a security 
guard, not a federal drug agent.

Smith, 29, had a background in food marketing. His father worked for 
a large grocery cooperative in California. He earned a degree in 
agriculture business management and started marketing organic and 
natural products for a food broker. He liked thinking he was helping 
people eat better.

A friend who was working in security suggested Smith do the same. 
Looking to keep busy and make some extra money, he took his training 
and became a certified security guard. The company that hired him 
happened to assign him to a couple of medical marijuana dispensaries.

"You can only work as a guard for so long before you want to open 
your own shop," he says.

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.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom