Eastern Washington University history professor Bill Youngs is one of dozens who want to start a marijuana business in Cheney.
“I’m certainly not unique at all,” said Youngs, who has applied for a license to produce and process marijuana under Initiative 502.
Youngs sees it as a business opportunity and has teamed up with his nephew, who has experience growing medical marijuana in Ontario, Canada. Youngs said he would have little involvement in the business itself.
“I am and will continue to be a writer, history professor, teacher,” he said. “My nephew would be the real grower. I like to tell people I can’t grow a tulip without killing it.”
Youngs said he would involve other family members in the business as well. “I’d like to think that this will be doing some good things for the town, provide some jobs for students,” he said. “I couldn’t have imagined myself doing this two years ago because marijuana was illegal. I kind of feel like it’s starting a vineyard.”
Youngs said he is looking at a parcel of industrial land to buy and build on. He needs a conditional use permit and has already had a hearing before Cheney’s hearing examiner to get one.
“The hearing examiner has given us a green light,” he said. “He basically feels we’re doing this correctly.”
The key question is whether Youngs’ business application will be approved by the state Liquor Control Board. There have been hundreds more applications filed than there will be licenses, and the competition is stiff.
Youngs said he has not previously used marijuana. “I love my daily drink of alcohol, but I’m a straight arrow,” he said. “I’m kind of curious about it, but until it’s fully legal, I probably won’t know about it.”
Youngs said he has been upfront with his employer about his plans and has not heard any objections. “I think the important thing is, it’s legal,” he said. “If it weren’t, I wouldn’t be doing it.”
EWU spokesman Dave Meany said the university has no role in Youngs’ decision. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to comment on a personal business matter,” Meany said.
But Meany emphasized that the university itself has to follow federal laws, which prohibit possession and production of marijuana, because it receives federal financial aid money. “The campus itself is zero tolerance,” he said.
Youngs said he has been impressed by marijuana’s medical benefits and believes the tax revenue will provide a boost to his town.
“I and my family are interested in doing it right,” he said.