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University of Washington students Megh Vakharia and Josiah Tullis met each other in the entrepreneurship club and have come up with a new pot business idea. (KIRO Radio/Jason Rantz)

Mom, I'm going into the pot business - UW students take advantage of new industry

Typically, the kids into after-school clubs weren't the same ones into marijuana, but those lines are blurring after legalization, and a pot business has emerged out of the entrepreneurship club at the University of Washington.

Josiah Tullis and Megh Vakharia, both 19, met in the club, and after coming up with a lot of business ideas, they found one involving a potential pot delivery service received the best response.

"When we really came up with this and started bouncing it off of our friends and sending people the designs, there was an overwhelming market demand, market need for this," said Tullis. "When we realized that, we realized that of all the projects we've sort of been tossing around, this is the one that we really need to see through to the end."

Some are calling the marketplace and delivery business they've come up with the "Uber of pot." Tullis explained how it will work on KIRO Radio's Jason Rantz Show.

"Our ultimate goal is to connect the dots between dispensaries and customers," said Tullis, of the service they're calling Canary. "We'll have multiple dispensaries listed on the app and users will be able to browse and filter by their favorite dispensary. Then patients will be able to place strains from those dispensaries into their cart, tag a delivery location in a zone that we deliver to, and within the hour, a Canary courier will arrive with their marijuana."

Tullis explained he and partner Vakharia saw an opportunity in two growing markets.

"There's actually two different trends that we kind of identified. The first trend is of course the on-demand mobile services. That's a very broad category that includes services like Postmates, like Uber. Instacart is another popular one. We're seeing there is a handful of businesses," said Tullis. "Then of course, with legalization and with the growing demand for legal marijuana, we sort of just fused those two industries and came up with Canary."

They hoped to be able to launch a service in line with the new recreational marijuana market coming to Seattle, but found that their service can't serve recreational customers yet.

"Unfortunately, when we sort of peaked under the hood of Initiative 502 and the Washington Liquor Control Board's rules and regulations, they do ban delivery and online sales," said Tullis.

Ultimately, they plan to launch service for medical marijuana users in July. But they've also got their eye on where the future of the recreational industry is going.

"What we're trying to do with the business altogether is sort of skate where the puck is headed," said Tullis. "When we look down the road two or three years, we really see marijuana being fully legalized and fully de-stigmatized, and certainly there will be opportunity for this in its grandest form then."

At this point, Vakharia said there is still a bit of stigma surrounding the sale of pot. He actually didn't initially approach his parents with the idea, but his mom saw him on TV talking about it and offered her two cents.

"The one word of advice was, you can go into the business, but just don't partake," he said. "My father is very supportive of the idea. He's always been supportive of my entrepreneurial ventures, so this is just another one. It's a different industry obviously. But he's fine with it as long as I don't do anything that would harm myself."

Tullis said his parents are similarly supportive of the idea, but are definitely encouraging the young men to do their homework.

"They've just cautioned us be very careful going forward, get the right legal counsel, make sure that you guys are doing this the right way, and of course we want to do that."

Figuring out the legalities they said has been probably the biggest issue. But they are closely watching the tide of changing laws and think that marijuana is on its way to being legal across the board.

"The canary tagline is 'Prohibition is over,'" said Tullis. "I really do think that 20 years down the line, people will regard marijuana very similarly to alcohol today. It will be regulated and taxed very similarly."

Jamie Skorheim, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Whether it's floating on Green Lake, eating shrimp tacos at Agua Verde, or taking weekend drives out to the Cascades, she loves to enjoy the Pacific Northwest lifestyle as much as humanly possible.
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