Pot Entrepreneurs Rush to Washington State
Don't Call Them "Okies," Call Them "Tokies"
Some cannabis believers are so devout that they're packing for a pilgrimage to one of two new legal-pot meccas: Colorado and Washington States. Similar to (though better-heeled than) the dust-bowl desperates of the 1930s, these legal-pot Okies—marijuana Tokies—long to eke out new lives in the land of legal cannabis, the land of their dreams.
Nazareth Victoria, 48, runs three assisted-living homes in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, suburbs with his wife. In 1999, he was arrested after nearly 20 years in the pot trade, and he spent two and a half years in the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex. At that point, he says, "I vowed to my wife and family that I wouldn't do anything illegal."
But now that marijuana is legal in Washington, Victoria is planning to move here.
Washington's rule-making body plans to accept applications for cannabis-producer licenses in June, with processor and retailer applications coming in September. By the year's end, the recreational ganja game will be in full play.
Six months before Election Day, with news of legalization initiatives in three states, Victoria started planning his move and, having family in Washington, the Evergreen State seemed a natural choice. "I thought they'd be the first to implement," he says, adding, "I think Washington's gonna be the leader."
Others are similarly passionate. "Folks are looking to Washington and Colorado as this laboratory, this brave new frontier," says San Francisco business attorney Khurshid Khoja. Khoja is one of about 40 accredited investors who make up the ArcView Group, which meets quarterly to consider pot-related business pitches. "You're gonna see a lot of interest, not only from Californians, but other folks across the country."
Victoria hopes to secure a processor license and act as middleman between small producers and retailers—helping pot growers package, track, and guarantee outlets for their product. He worries that a pot conviction may disqualify him from a license, and is buoyed by comments at the state's Initiative 502 hearings demanding such convictions not be a factor in legal-pot licensing. "Once it becomes legal, I believe I have a lot to contribute. I feel very excited at the opportunity to be able to finally market a product that I truly believe in."