On election night, almost exactly one month ago, Washington voters approved I-502, making marijuana legal in our state. That same night, my friend Ron, who is a tax paying, full-time marijuana grower in San Diego, posted "I'm moving to Washington!" on my Facebook wall. I thought he was kidding, and responded simply with a YouTube video of Rick James' song "Mary Jane."
Turns out, Ron was serious.
"My reaction was, let's pack bags and head up north," Ron told me on the phone from San Diego.
Ron calls it The Green Rush and says Washington and Colorado can expect a population influx made up of professional pot growers.
"Our country was built on that. People have been moving all over this country for generations for economic gain. This is nothing new to Americans at all."
Ron currently runs a marijuana cooperative in San Diego, and earns about $50,000 a year, but when he moves to Seattle in early 2013, he plans to close up shop and focus all of his attention on building a business up here.
"I understand that it's going to take a while for the laws to kind of catch up to what we're doing. But I think the important thing, and I know I'm not the only one thinking this, is to get there ASAP and get in on the ground floor."
He's currently looking for a good lawyer to navigate the barely established law. But his first major accomplishment was securing an investor to pay for, "Rent on a location, equipment, nutrients, electricity bills, everything that you would need to start up. What a lot of us coming in from out of town are going to be bringing to the table is the knowledge and the know-how. It's an industry that's been huge here in California forever. You've got families that have been into it for generations. So a lot of that knowledge is going to be brought up."
The concept is entirely new to the state's Liquor Control Board and they're looking for input on everything from how to grow pot to how to sell it.
"I think that's a great thing because I know here in California, when they started making laws, they tried to make it so people who grow at home can only grow in greenhouses. Well, you know, this is southern California and a greenhouse can easily reach temperatures of over 120 degrees. So it didn't make any sense. So it seems to me that Washington is doing it a little bit more responsibly. They're trying to seek the knowledge of people who are already in the industry and trying to take advice."
Ok, lets talk about what a lot of you are thinking: Are a bunch of Cheetos eating, "Beavis and Butthead" watching, stoners about to invade our state?
"That's the misconception. These are going to be people who are organized, these are going to be people who are professionals in other industries. It's going to be somebody from almost every segment of the population. You have to understand, those stoner guys who you're talking about, are not going to have the motivation to come out. They probably will stay on the couches. It's going to be more of the entrepreneurs, it's going to be more of the people who are willing to take risks. It's going to be more of the people who use marijuana as a tool as opposed to an escape."
But Ron definitely knows first hand, the stigma associated with growing pot. I asked him if his parents know what he does for a living.
He sighed. "Yes. I finally told them not too long ago and, no, they're not too happy with me at all. Pretty close to being kicked out the family, not talked to, but I'm their son, they love me. They come from a different generation, they don't understand it. They were a part of that whole Reefer Madness generation and I have to respect that."
He thinks it will be a long time before the country can look at pot like it looks at alcohol. I asked Ron if the government contributed to the negative stigma associated with marijuana.
"Definitely. The way the government treated it, the way the pharmaceutical companies had the government treat it. The fact that it was used as propaganda against certain segments of the society. Our government did a whole campaign against it. So it takes a lot to undo the damage that, in my opinion, the federal government did."
Ron won't reveal his pot selling plan, out of fear that someone will swipe it, and he didn't want his last name used. Until growing pot is legal on a federal level, there continues to be a risk. He says he's at risk for being arrested every single day.
"But those of us that are into it, we sort of love it. I know for me, it taps a lot of different parts of my brain; everything from the growing of it to the marketing of it, to all aspects of it."
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