Prospectors Seek Fortune in Legal Pot

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THE PATH FROM ADDICTION

It started with small doses that eased the aches of restaurant work. But over time, Yevgeniy “Eugene” Frid found himself addicted to prescription painkillers. “It completely envelops your whole life.”

He tried to quit many times, and when he finally did, he says, cannabis played a huge role — displacing the opiates with a substance much gentler on the body.

Frid, 28, quit his job doing business management and marketing for a video game company when a friend asked him to help start a medical marijuana dispensary. A Greener Today opened in Seattle in 2012 and now serves about 4,000 people.

Frid says his most gratifying work is helping patients get off opiates the way he did, so he has mixed feelings about applying for a recreational retail license. The future of unregulated medical marijuana in Washington is dim — many state officials see it as a threat to the heavily taxed recreational system. Some medical dispensary operators believe they have little choice but to convert to the recreational market.

“We don’t know what’s happening,” Frid says.

THE SECURITY GUARD

For a guy with a uniform and a gun, Steve Smith was unusually welcome at medical marijuana dispensaries. Of course, he was a security guard, not a federal drug agent.

Smith, 29, had a background in food marketing. His father worked for a large grocery cooperative in California. He earned a degree in agriculture business management and started marketing organic and natural products for a food broker. He liked thinking he was helping people eat better.

A friend who was working in security suggested Smith do the same. Looking to keep busy and make some extra money, he took his training and became a certified security guard. The company that hired him happened to assign him to a couple of medical marijuana dispensaries.

“You can only work as a guard for so long before you want to open your own shop,” he says. He wants to apply to open two retail marijuana shops near Tacoma.

THE SECRET SODA

Cecilia Sivertson worked for eight years as a paralegal in the prosecutor’s office for Washington’s most populous county. She helped make sure people paid child support and tracked down deadbeat dads. It was a rewarding, stressful and sometimes depressing job.

After her husband died in a car accident in 2001, she decided she needed a more upbeat line of work and joined a labeling business.

Sivertson, 55, has epilepsy and arthritis in her hands. About two years ago, she says, she noticed improvement in both when she started using marijuana. Last spring, she began making products infused with cannabis oil under her “Nana’s Secret” line. Her specialty is pot-infused soda — with the soda concentrate produced by a client of the labeling business.

The Alabama native says she’s applying to become a licensed marijuana processor so her sodas and other items can be sold in retail pot stores.

CANNABIS: A FORCE FOR GOOD

Paul Schrag has a simple philosophy: He hopes to use his skills to do the most good in the world.

For a while, that meant working in journalism, enticed by its power to shape public discourse. Before being laid off in 2009, he worked as a reporter for the Business Examiner, a biweekly publication in Tacoma.

Nowadays, it means working in the pot industry.

The 40-year-old says he’s been growing marijuana since 1999 and uses it to treat lifelong neck pain. He began working at a medical marijuana collective, where part of his job entails coming up with a marketing and public education plan to help erase any stigma associated with cannabis use.

He believes the medical and social benefits of the plant are only just starting to be understood. He plans to work as a grower’s vice president of marketing, research and development, and believes his knowledge of pot and business will help.

“I’m one of those rare cats that get both,” he says.

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