Peninsula greenhouses hope to cash in on newfound business of legalized marijuana
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Dakota Sandoval, left, and his father, Martin Gay, plan to locate a marijuana growing and processing facility in Glen Cove Industrial Park near Port Townsend now that pot is legalized. —Photo by Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

With the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, a few local entrepreneurs are looking to cash in on Washington's newest cash crop.

Martin Gay, along with his son, Dakota Sandoval, have assembled a business plan and are applying to Jefferson County for permission to build a facility to grow and process marijuana.

“It's a real chance to be at the start of a brand new market,” said Gay, who also is chairman of the Team Jefferson economic development council.

“Just the business potential of it. And for me, it's also always about boosting the economy in our county.”

Washington voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults older than 21 by passing Initiative 502 last year.

At age 22, Sandoval said he's excited to have the chance to help “define the market.”

“There's all kinds of options we can do, and there's a real chance to become a leader if we focus on high-quality product and if we can identify the missed opportunities in the market,” he said.

City Councilwoman and former Mayor Michelle Sandoval is Gay's wife and Sandoval's mother.

Under their Jefferson County Cannabis flag, the father-son team are applying to build a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Glen Cove Industrial Park south of Port Townsend.

Inside, they plan to grow and process marijuana.

“If it's legal, we're happy to see it. As with any new economic development opportunity, we're happy to see it,” Jefferson County Administrator Philip Morley said of the potential for growing and processing facilities.

Gay said the 10,000-square-foot warehouse is their ultimate goal. They may start in smaller facilities and intend to have an area on-site to grow marijuana outdoors.

“The spot's perfect,” Gay said. “It's kind of a moonshot plan, but we want to see how it develops and how we can help it grow here.”

Gay said he has a medical marijuana card, primarily to track the “parallel market.”

His hope is that the new crop attracts innovators from Jefferson County's rich supply of horticulturists and botanists.

“Our business plan relies on the knowledge of three botany nerds who are passionate about the crop and its possibilities,” he said.

“The value of the ag experience and that portion of our economy in Jefferson County: You put it out to people who know about growing and who have a real talent and drive for it, and I think you could get a lot of interest from people because it's a brand-new crop that has a lot different potential,” Gay said.

His son said he feels that having a legitimate market for marijuana will help drive innovation in how the crop is grown.

“Because the whole thing has been illicit, there hasn't been any incentive to share new developments or to — just to even brag about what you're doing to other growers,” Sandoval said.

For example, he hopes to be able to develop marijuana bitters that could be added to cocktails or made into juices.

Gay said some local horticulturists have expressed to him a desire to find ways to turn parts of the raw marijuana plants into “superfood”-style syrups that could be added to juices, a la wheatgrass or other dark, leafy greens that often are incorporated into juices and smoothies.

Forty-five applicants from the North Olympic Peninsula have been identified in the two weeks that the state Liquor Control Board has announced those who have applied for licenses to either grow, process or sell marijuana.

Gay and Sandoval's Jefferson County Cannabis are yet to appear on the state's list.

Gay said he wanted to solidify the business plan before applying to the state for the marijuana license, an endorsement on a normal business license.

“There's no advantage, really, to being in on Day One or Day 30,” Gay said.

“So we figured we'd make sure we had everything set up before taking that step.”

Applicants, who must go through state and FBI criminal background checks, cannot have had felony convictions within the past 10 years.

Jefferson County will be allowed four retail outlets: one in the city of Port Townsend and three anywhere else in the county.

Three of the four retailer applicants named in the state's release Tuesday were located in Brinnon.

Thomas Ash also has begun the process of siting a grow operation in the Dungeness Valley.

Ash received a conditional-use permit from Clallam County this week to build two greenhouses on Shore Road, off U.S. Highway 101 between Sequim and Port Angeles.

County Hearings Examiner Christopher Melly has yet to decide on a third greenhouse Ash has applied to build at his farm at 1430 Marine Drive near Dungeness.

Each of the greenhouses in his plan would be 2,668 square feet.

The primary concern for Ash's operation has been security.

Neighbors of the proposed sites were notified by the county's Department of Community Development, with a few expressing concerns that marijuana grow operations could attract criminals trying to poach plants.

Ash noted that a detailed security plan is a big part of both the state's and county's regulations about siting growing and processing operations, though he said he feels the retail outlets would be the bigger security risks.

Ash applied to grow and produce marijuana, according to the Liquor Control Board's list of applicants, under the Tropic Grow name.

Peninsula Cannabis, 3368 E. U.S. Highway 101, Port Angeles, also applied to grow and produce. Applications are being accepted by the state through Dec. 19.

Names of business applicants will be released each Tuesday.

The state has limited retail outlets to 334 throughout the state, while growers across the state are limited to growing a total of 2 million square feet of plants.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 05. 2013 7:25PM
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