Ex-Microsoft manager plans to create first US marijuana brand

Published: June 4, 2013
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Former President of Mexico Vicente Fox (L) talks during a news conference next to marijuana entrepreneur and CEO of Diego Pellicer Inc. Jamen Shively (R) in Seattle. PHOTO: REUTERS

Former President of Mexico Vicente Fox (L) talks during a news conference next to marijuana entrepreneur and CEO of Diego Pellicer Inc. Jamen Shively (R) in Seattle. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEATTLE: A former Microsoft executive plans to create the first US national marijuana brand, with cannabis he hopes to eventually import legally from Mexico, and said he was kicking off his business by acquiring medical pot dispensaries in three US states.

Jamen Shively, a former Microsoft corporate strategy manager, said he envisions his Seattle based enterprise becoming the leader in both recreational and medical cannabis – much like Starbucks is the dominant name in coffee, he said.

Shively, 45, whose six years at Microsoft ended in 2009, said he was soliciting investors for $10 million in start up money.

The use, sale and possession of marijuana remain illegal in the United States under federal law. Two US states have, however, legalized recreational marijuana use and are among 18 states that allow it for medical use.

“It’s a giant market in search of a brand,” Shively said of the marijuana industry. “We would be happy if we get 40% of it worldwide.”

A 2005 United Nations report estimated the global marijuana trade to be valued at $142 billion.

Washington state and Colorado became the first two US states to legalize recreational marijuana when voters approved legalization in November.

Shively laid out his plans, along with his vision for a future in which marijuana will be imported from Mexico, at a Thursday news conference in downtown Seattle.

Joining him was former Mexican President Vicente Fox, a longtime Shively acquaintance who has been an advocate of decriminalizing marijuana. Fox said he was there to show his support for Shively’s company but has no financial stake in it.

“What a difference it makes to have Jamen here sitting at my side instead of Chapo Guzman,” said Fox, referring to the fact he would rather see Shively selling marijuana legally than the Mexican drug kingpin selling it illegally. “This is the story that has begun to be written here.”

Shively told Reuters he hoped Fox would serve an advisory role in his enterprise, dubbed Diego Pellicer after Shively’s hemp producing great grandfather.

The sale of cannabis or marijuana remains illegal in much of the world although countries mainly in Europe and the Americas have decriminalized the possession of small quantities of it. A larger number of countries have decriminalized or legalized cannabis for medical use.

Skepticism 

Shively acknowledges that his business plans conflict with US federal law and are complicated by regulations in both Washington state and Colorado. He said he is interested in buying dispensaries that comply with local and state rules and are less likely to attract the scrutiny of authorities.

“If they want to come talk to me, I’ll be delighted to meet with them,” he said of federal officials. “I’ll tell them everything that we’re doing and show them all our books.”

Washington state’s marijuana consultant, Mark Kleiman, said he was skeptical of Shively’s plans, and feared that the businessman is seeking to profit off others’ addiction.

“It’s very hard for me to understand why anybody seriously interested in being in the marijuana business, which after all is against the federal law, would so publicly announce his conspiracy to break that law,” said Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the US Attorney’s Office in Seattle, referred questions to the Department of Justice headquarters. Department officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Washington state Representative Reuven Carlyle, a Seattle Democrat, sees promise in Shively’s initiative. Any industry emerging from the shadows will inevitably undergo consolidation – and thereby simplify the task of regulators, he said.

“The fact that an entrepreneur is publicly pushing the envelope around a branding and value based pricing opportunity, I would say that’s in the water in Seattle,” said Carlyle, chairman of the House Finance Committee. “That’s in our DNA … We could have predicted that as much as the rain.”

Shively said he has already acquired the rights to the Northwest Patient Resource Center, a medical marijuana operation that includes two Seattle store fronts. He added that he was close to acquiring another dispensary in Colorado, as well as two more each in Washington state and California, with the owners given the option to retain a stake in their businesses.

“We’ve created the first risk mitigated vehicles for investing directly in this business opportunity,” he said.

Shively said he ultimately plans to create separate medical and recreational use marijuana brands. Shively said he also plans to launch a study of the effectiveness of concentrated cannabis oil in the treatment of cancer and other illnesses.

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Reader Comments (2)

  • Baba Shakkari
    Jun 4, 2013 - 11:05PM

    Vincente Fox was a Coca Coal Boss in Mexico before he ran for president. So an Ex Microsoft and an Ex Coca Cola boss are looking to start a new business. Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana(with some restrictions of course). Considering huge demand and market and such big names behind the company, there is great potential for this company. Idea of legalizing was put forward during 2012 elections as a referendum which got approved in 2 states, California rejected it earlier. Marijuana is closely related to Hashish ( commonly known as Charas in Pakistan) and legalization advocates claimed that it is not any more dangerous than smoking cigarettes, and with proper restrictions and taxing it, state can make lots of tax money as well as free up policing resources to go after small time dealers or gangs trying to sell the product. This will put dealers and gangs out of business since it is now available legally at approved businesses. I do not recommend smoking it, but if they ever float shares, it would be a good idea to buy them, lol.

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  • Massive Dabnamics
    Jun 6, 2013 - 12:36AM

    In response to Baba Shakkari’s mention of Hashhish being closely related to Marijuana..

    Thats like saying Aloe vera oils are closely related to the Aloe vera flower.

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