Jim Willett has never smoked pot.His teenage sons think he’s a square. A former Navy pilot, he spent a year doing drug interdiction flights along the Washington coast, checking for ships carrying bales of marijuana. For the graying retiree, voting against the state’s legalization of recreational weed (Initiative 502) was pretty much a given. In January, Willett did an about-face. After learning about The ArcView Group, a San Francisco–based angel investment network for the marijuana industry, he signed on. “I was puttering around looking for things to do and this hit me like a lightning bolt,” says the 62-year-old Woodinville resident, who ran a waste recycling business for two decades. He has since invested more than $1 million in Washington’s and Colorado’s legal weed market. Think real estate, grow equipment, security systems, inventory tracking software and cannabis oil extraction devices—“basically everything except the plant.” Financing the production and sale of cannabis poses too great a risk for him. “I’m not a crusader,” he says. “I’m just in it for the money.”Welcome to the green stampede. If all goes according to plan, the Washington State Liquor Control Board will begin accepting license applications from pot retailers, growers and processors this month and grant them to qualifying companies in December. Recreational stores could start cropping up early in 2014. You’ve likely read about some of the region’s more high-profile “potpreneurs.” Butcher William von Schneidau, proprietor of BB Ranch at Pike Place Market, now sells bacon made from pot-fed pigs. Brendan Kennedy, CEO of Seattle-based private equity firm Privateer Holdings, which invests in ancillary cannabis companies, has become a media poster child for the squeaky clean, suit-and-tie-clad pot professional. Microsoft manager turned ganja convert Jamen Shively, who held a press conference with former Mexican President Vicente Fox this spring, boasted that his premium marijuana brand, Diego Pellicer, will “mint more millionaires than Microsoft.” Even Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey, who recently bought Tully’s, joked about selling cannabis at the coffee chain. (Above: Former Navy pilot Jim Willett, now an investor in the recreational marijuana market, photographed at his Woodinville home.)These entrepreneurs aren’t just blowing smoke. The potential profits could be sky high. Trade publication Medical Marijuana Business Daily foresees national revenues from legal weed rising to $1.3 billion–$1.5 billion this year. (For those who haven’t been keeping score, medical marijuana is now legal in 18 states and Washington, D.C.) Add in the recreational pot shops opening in Washington and Colorado next year and those figures could jump to $2.5 billion–$3 billion, the publication reports. How much cash the state’s 25 percent excise tax on licensed sellers, cultivators and makers of pot tinctures, balms, edibles and beverages will yield remains to be seen. The Liquor Board estimates it will collect “anywhere between $0 and $2 billion” in tax revenue during the first five years of legalization. The generous spread accounts for the fact that no one can predict whether the federal government—which still forbids possessing, growing and selling pot—will shut down the adult-use party. “This is the greatest business opportunity since the falling of the Berlin Wall and the opening up of the free market in Europe,” says Steve DeAngelo, longtime marijuana activist and president of The ArcView Group, which drew “cannabusinesses” from around the country to two pitch slams in Seattle earlier this year. DeAngelo runs Harborside Health Center in Oakland, California, considered the world’s largest medical marijuana dispensary and featured on the Discovery Channel show Weed Wars. Harborside recently made headlines when the City of Oakland sued the federal government for trying to shut down the dispensary.
Must PuyallupWashington State Fair(9/6 to 9/22, times vary) — People have been “doing the Puyallup” since 1900, and though this year the name has been changed to the more staid Washington State Fair, more than 1 million visitors are expected to attend the rural extravaganza of blue-ribbon food, breathtaking rides and rodeo broncs.
This year marked my 20th Bumbershoot ... in a row! And having attended the festival for two decades I am sure of one thing: It is a terrible place to be a streaker. As I was making my way toward the exit on Monday evening, I noticed a commotion in the crowd at one of those junctions where two giant pathways intersect and festivalgoers try to artfully weave between each other like an Esther Williams routine, but the timing is never right so everybody ends up jostling backpacks and falafel. I zeroed in on a naked young man.
Seattle artists of all stripes are creating the most exciting and artful 5K ever experienced for the third annual NEPO art walk on Saturday, September 7. Follow silly and sublime installations and performances wending from Hing Hay Park through the Chinatown–International District and up to NEPO House on Beacon Hill, where finishers are rewarded with music by the local band Pollens. The only rule: No running. Noon–9 p.m. Free. nepohouse.org
As the residents of the West Seattle Nickelsville encampment pack up their sleeping bags and tents this month, homelessness in Seattle gets a rare close-up. Zooming in is exactly what architect Rex Hohlbein has been trying to do for the past two-and-a-half years with his Facebook group “Homeless in Seattle,” by which he hopes to bring the more than 6,000 fellow citizens into focus.
Must Rock OutBumbershoot(8/31 to 9/2, times vary) — This end-of-summer arts extravaganza pulls together some of the biggest names in comedy, visual arts, theater and, of course, music. Local bands worth braving the crowds for: Kris Orlowski, Kithkin, The Redwood Plan, Katie Kate, BellaMaine and Allen Stone.
Born and raised in Seattle, Roger Shimomura has been living in the Midwest for the last 40 years, but says he is still regularly asked what part of Japan he’s from and how long he’s been in the U.S. Frustrated by the presumption that he’s not American, he created this new series of paintings, American Knockoff, in which he portrays himself as battling both American icons (Mickey Mouse) and Japanese stereotypes (shown here) while using Japanese fighting styles (karate, sumo wrestling and a samurai sword).
People have been “doing the Puyallup” since 1900, and though this year the name has been changed to the more staid Washington State Fair (thefair.com), more than 1 million visitors are expected to attend the rural extravaganza of blue-ribbon food, breathtaking rides and rodeo broncs. But it’s not all fun and games at this treasured state ritual. Here we’ve assembled our picks for the most titillating and terrifying facts about the big event.
The construction crews will clear out just in time for kickoff on Saturday, August 31, when the University of Washington takes on rival Boise State for the home opener—the first game in the thoroughly renovated Husky Stadium. And while you may not be lucky enough to sit in the new luxury suites, remember, every seat in the house still gets an unobstructed view of Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains. 7 p.m. Prices vary. 3800 Montlake Blvd. NE; huskystadium.com
Seattle Design Festival[DESIGN] This year’s 10-day festival of architecture and design boasts more than 60 events, including architecture walking tours, a design-focused film festival (see page 141) and the popular Design Block (which, for the first time, will take place in Pioneer Square), featuring an array of intriguing and interactive inventions, including human-powered machines. 9/13–9/22. Times, prices and venues vary. seattledesignfestival.orgSeattle Fringe Festival
Must PicnicShelby Earl at Salish LodgeThursday (8/22, 7:30 p.m.) — For the final installment of Music on the Green, sweet Seattle singer/songwriter Shelby Earl performs on the intimate lawn at Salish Lodge, while Snoqualmie Falls roars majestically in the background.
COFFEE DATE: Visual artist Diem Chau (diemchau.com), known for the tiny likenesses she carves into Crayola crayons, and whose show of new work at G. Gibson Gallery runs 8/30–10/5 (ggibsongallery.com) SCENE: Diem Chau’s home studio in Ballard on a warm Wednesday in JuneDIEM’S ORDER: Triple-shot iced Americano with milk
Seattle’s own Gala Bent paints and draws tiny, otherworldly, watercolor scenes in The Ether and the Mantle, a show of intriguing new work. 8/30–10/5. Times vary. Free. G. Gibson Gallery. ggibsongallery.com
Having nothing better to do on Mount Olympus, the Greek muse Clio descends to 1980s Venice Beach in the form of an Australian roller girl to help a struggling artist open a roller disco. (Like you do.) A surprise hit on Broadway, Xanadu skates into Issaquah’s Village Theatre, promising high camp and big laughs. 9/12–10/20. Times and prices vary. villagetheatre.org
ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST The theme of this year’s Seattle Design Festival is “Design in Health”—which, thankfully, has been interpreted loosely for the featured film screenings. The lineup includes recent documentaries on such diverse topics as a 1960s commune, a wind-powered home and the first park built exclusively for parkour. Also on the bill are films about rebuilding at the 9/11 ground zero site and the history of West Coast Modernist architecture. 9/13–9/15. SIFF Film Center; seattledesignfestival.org