Young entrepreneur shaping the state's pot business

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by JAKE WHITTENBERG / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on October 31, 2013 at 9:23 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 31 at 9:30 AM

Bill Gates made his billions with computers. Mark Zuckerberg did the same with Facebook.

Alex Cooley has visions of perhaps making that list someday in a more nontraditional way.

He grows marijuana.

"I don't ever see quitting," said Cooley at his startup business called Solstice in Seattle's SoDo district.

Cooley, 28, and a business partner lease warehouse space to legally grow medical Marijuana to sell at dispensaries in the region. With nine unique types of Cannabis to choose from at Solstice, Cooley is quickly gaining a reputation of being a clean cut, quality businessman who is overly picky about the dispensaries he works with.

Cooley is also the first legally-permitted grower in Seattle.

"We're not a bunch of hippies. I'm really grateful for the opportunity to build the industry," he said. "We are building legitimate company and repealing prohibition."

He now oversees 15 employees and has two job openings available.

Cooley says he first began smoking marijuana as a medical patient after he broke his back at age 16. By age 18, Cooley began growing his own Cannabis for personal use.

The double-education major's dreams were shattered when Seattle Public Schools began a hiring freeze. So, he turned his hobby into a business.

"Friends were telling me, 'What you do is really good. You could do this as a career'," Cooley said.

With pot growers across the state preparing to apply for a first ever recreational marijuana license, the future may hold big possibilities for Cooley and other growers, seeking to capitalize on new customers.

Washington voters approved Initiative 502 last November, allowing the sale and purchase of Cannabis for recreational use.

Cooley says in order to transition from growing medicinal to recreational Marijuana, he must destroy his current crop and start anew when he receives a growing license.

He is also concerned about no longer dealing personally with his pot smoking patients who may depend on his product.

The Liquor Control Board is still fine tuning regulations on this new industry.

"They're not making this easy on us," Cooley said.

Although he sees big flaws with the way I-502 will unfold, he sees big possibilities for his future business.

"We've already had possible buyers knocking on our door," he said. Cooley's turned them down "Right now my focus isn't about making lots of money on this. But we'll see."

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