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‘Bill Gates of bud’ plans high-end pot empire

A former Microsoft manager plans to launch a chain of high-end pot shops in Washington state aimed at a white collar crowd. (Image courtesy Geekwire)

A lot of pot smokers can hardly wait for next year when the newly legalized drug goes on sale. Initial plans call for marijuana shops modeled after state liquor stores, but an enterprising ex-Microsoftie has a much more luxurious vision.

Forget a sterile, fluorescent lit convenience store-like shop or a bunch of dread-locked dudes sitting on a musty couch. Former Microsoft manager Jamen Shively envisions something more along the lines of a high-end cigar shop catering to a decidedly upper class clientele.

He showed off his initial ideas for a chain of retail pot stores in a celebration Thursday morning as marijuana legalization took effect.

His high end pot-products would be branded and marketed much like fine liquors or cigars. Rather than plastic bags and jars, his top quality bud would be encased in stylish, decorative translucent containers. It would all be marketed under the “Diego Pellicer” brand, named for his great grandfather, a hemp grower and seller back in the 1800’s.

He’s been called by some the “Bill Gates of bud.” For now, Shively is funding the idea out of his own pocket. He’s assembled what he calls a “dream team” of top lawyers and creative talent, and expects plenty of investors to flock to the idea once the state approves about 350 private retail pot stores.

A study by the Washington State Office of Financial Management predicted annual marijuana sales could top $1 billion, with millions more spent on everything from growing equipment to paraphernalia.

“We’re focused on Baby Boomers – basically wealthy Baby Boomers,” Shively tells KING 5. “It’s a $100 billion industry in search of a brand. Never in the history of capitalism – forget America, in the world – has such a giant vacuum existed.”

That vacuum won’t be filled any time soon. The state will take the next year to come up with all the rules for regulating the growing and selling of recreational pot. But Shively and many other prospectors are ready to jump on the coming green rush.

“This is the start of not just a company, but an industry,” Allen Valdes, chairman of the board for Diejo Pellicer tells Geekwire. “It’s a unique time in American history. Look at the 1930’s with prohibition. If you look back in history and look at Anheuser-Busch and how other big breweries started out, there was no looking back. I think you’ll see that with marijuana in the U.S. It’s a pretty exciting time for us.”

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