July 12, 2014 in Business

First licensed pot grower has big plans – that he’d like to sell

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Sean Green, who was the first person to get a state marijuana growing and processing license, now is looking to sell the business.
(Full-size photo)

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Sean Green, the Spokane resident and first person in Washington to get a legal pot-growing license, said he’s ready to sell out and try to make money as a pot-business consultant.

Green, 32, is among several dozen pot pioneers with approved marijuana licenses who already want to sell those licenses.

Many of those who were approved by the state haven’t gone forward with their businesses, said Chris Marr, a member of the Washington Liquor Control Board, which regulates the pot business created when voters in 2012 approved Initiative 502.

Many of those getting licenses to grow, process or sell pot have found the process more challenging and expensive than they realized, said Marr, a former state senator who represented Spokane.

After gaining licenses in March for growing and processing marijuana, Green set up a growing area in a north Spokane building.

He recently shipped bags of processed marijuana to three retail stores in Kelso, Seattle and Bellingham. Those stores opened their doors on Monday, the first day of pot sales in Washington, which along with Colorado operates a legal marketplace for a substance still illegal under federal law.

Green said he’s currently transferring the growing and processing licenses to a newer location, a warehouse with 96,000 square feet in Spokane Valley. The building has enough space and electrical power to become one of the state’s largest indoor pot growing and processing facilities in a few years, Green said.

“It could ship about 1,000 pounds of pot per month,” Green predicted. But he added he’s willing to let someone else – for the right price – take over that operation.

Marr said the liquor board has received numerous calls from people wondering how hard or easy it is to transfer the rights of a pot license to others.

Many of those callers get disappointed when they learn state rules covering legal marijuana were not drafted to make it easy for applicants to allow others to take over a pot license, he said.

“I tell people that our priority (at the Liquor Control Board) was not convenience,” Marr said. “Our priority was public safety and compliance with federal directives of setting up a new marketplace. It was not to make transfers easy to do.”

Because state law requires background checks and financial vetting of anyone operating a recreational marijuana business, any applicant who tries to transfer partial or complete shares in an application will face a delay of at least six months before approval, Marr said.

The Liquor Control Board has not yet authorized any changes in the ownership of licenses, since all applications with that condition have been placed in the six-month waiting line.

To prevent speculation with permits, the state does not allow another person to fully assume or “significantly take over” the license another person has received prior to the business opening, Marr said.  

In the case of transferring a license of a pot business already open, the state will conduct a background check and examine the financial resources before it’s sold. That review might not take six months. But in the meantime, the would-be buyer or investor would be restricted from having any involvement in the pot business, Marr said.

Green said he’s not ready to say his asking price for his growing and processing business. “I’m actively talking with potential buyers,” he said.

Green also operates three separate medical marijuana dispensaries – two in Spokane and one in Seattle – that he doesn’t plan to sell.

He’s abandoning the recreational pot growing business, Green said, because he wants to avoid conflicts of interest with similar business operators, both in Washington and anywhere else where pot might become legal.

“If I’m competing with those other businesses that I’m trying to help, it’s hard for them to see me as offering solid value to them,” he said.

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