OLYMPIA – Sean Green, who operates medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane and Shoreline, Washington, began growing recreational marijuana yesterday after receiving Washington’s first license to grow legal marijuana. He says he has big plans for a nationwide manufacturing and sales empire.
The state Liquor Control Board awarded him the first license issued under Initiative 502. Green was the only one chosen out of approximately 4,700 applicants because he “did the best job of some at filling out forms, passing inspections and otherwise meeting requirements for a license to grow and process marijuana.”
In front of television cameras in a packed hearing room, Green said, “Freedom is what brought us here today. This program is a testament to what we can achieve in our country if we are persistent enough … Cannabis prohibition is over.”
Green added, “I’m coming home with jobs, Spokane,” as he showed off his license. He later explained how growing marijuana is a labor intensive business because marijuana plants require constant care and trimming by hand.
Green, a Washington native and former real estate appraiser, got into the medical marijuana business after the housing market crashed.
He says he started his medical marijuana business in 2011 when an opportunity “landed in my lap.” Before that, Green had been a self-employed appraiser of real estate for about 10 years but, when the recession hit, it was impossible for people to get loans to purchase houses and therefore there was no need for appraisals. Business was at a stand-still. Green struggled to find work but then he read about legislation that required medical marijuana producers and dispensaries to be licensed by the state by May 1, 2011. That’s when the idea came to him.
He filed Pacific Northwest Medical with the secretary of state and started his operation with $10,000 and “a couple of grow lights.” Green then opened his first medical marijuana dispensary in Shoreline at a time when federal drug agents were raiding dispensaries in Spokane; yet went on to open a second dispensary and grow operation. Eventually, he dreamed of growing into a nationwide chain of marijuana production facilities, processing plants and stores.
There was some initial controversy regarding statements made by Sharon Foster, the Board’s Chairwoman. She said that they were “proud” to give its first license to Green. Questions arose concerning a couple of worker complaints made to the state about Green’s medical marijuana business. However, Agency Director Rick Garza said Green passed the Washington State Patrol criminal investigation, a background check that all applicants must pass and added that there’s no check of business complaints. Garza likened the process to that of issuing a liquor license.
One of the biggest obstacles for a marijuana business is finding a bank that is willing to hold its accounts, Green said. Although he built one of his facilities for about $6 million without needing a loan, the company has since had its account closed by six different banks because banks – which are at the mercy of federal law, which still doesn’t recognize marijuana as a legit business – don’t want to do business with a marijuana company.
The Liquor Board expects to approve two or three more marijuana producer licenses this week and then a few each week as its staff finishes reviewing documents and inspecting business locations.
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