It’s been an adventure to say the least, for Sean Green.
The owner of Kouchlock Productions in Colbert, a marijuana grow operation and processing business, was the first cannabis producer in Washington State to receive a license to grow back in 2014.
Three years later, Green, and the company, are going strong.
“I am still in the business; plugging away one day at a time,” he said.
Green became somewhat of a celebrity three years ago when the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board announced that he had earned the first grow license. Local and national news outlets, from NBC to Forbes and the New York Times, talked about the Spokane native who hoped to eventually franchise his marijuana business.
Today, there are 1,103 producer/processors state-wide, and 151 in Spokane County alone.
Green, originally a real estate appraiser, got into the medical marijuana business in 2011 when the economy tanked. Before receiving licenses to grow and process cannabis, he ran two medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane and Shoreline, Wash. Both were sold when he started the grow operation.
Kouchlock Production’s Tier 3 producer/processor license means it can grow up to 30,000 square feet of marijuana canopy. The company today has 10 employees.
Achieving this had its share of challenges, especially as the state’s rules continue to be adjusted as the marketplace evolves.
“There are the things you know that you don’t know, and the things you don’t know that you don’t know, and there have been both of those,” he said of the past three years. ”One of the initial known problems was banking and it’s still a problem.”
Because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, most banks, which are subject to federal regulations, won’t work with the cannabis industry. Some credit unions, however, have taken this step, such as Numerica.
Another unknown was how bureaucracy could limit the ability to profit from the industry. At one point Green had hoped to sell the grow business and invest the capital to create a larger grow location.
“As it turned out the rules at the time made it far too difficult for the interested buyer,” said Green. “The LCB (Liquor Control Board) at the time took more than a year in order to review a change of ownership.”
Today, Green says he is focusing on growing the existing business and tending to ‘the garden.’ He grows about 10 strains, often with evocative names like White Russian, Chocolate Chunk, Blueberry Trainwreck, and Strawberry Sour D. These products can be found at retailers statewide, although he likes to give shouts out to Lucky Leaf and The Green Nugget, both in Spokane.
Though things are going well, he and others in the industry are keeping their eyes on discussions in Washington, D.C. , specifically statements from key Trump cabinet members about the possibility of increased enforcement of federally illegal drugs, especially marijuana.
In late January, Green wrote President Donald Trump requesting a meeting to discuss the financial implications of the hugely profitable cannabis industry. So far, he has not received a reply. Even so, Green is optimistic for the most part.
“We’ve got a governor who says we’re going to go to bat for this,” he said. “Change is scary for everybody but to think you’re going to stop this revolution in our country is naïve.”
Especially considering the potential impacts to the economy, something that Gov. Jay Inslee praises.
“The consumption data is mind boggling,” said Green. “This market is wide open. It’s a billion dollar industry in Washington and estimated to be $10-15 billion in California.”
Which is why Green encourages people to get into the business now, if they’ve ever been interested.
“I don’t even know if I had to look for a job now where I would go,” he said. “I don’t have any regrets… I’m like everyone else, living the American dream. My version of the American Dream.”