Former Microsoft exec could reshape Washington's pot business

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A former Microsoft executive is sinking money into a fight over the future of medical marijuana in Washington State, according to an article published Sunday in The Daily Beast.


Millionaire Martin Tobias is working with Republicans in the state to restructure Washington's medical marijuana industry and the existing medical marijuana community is nervous the new setup could push out growers who have been there for years, the news outlet reported.

The medical cannabis industry currently operates through a system of collective gardens that grow for patients and sell it at dispensaries. The Republican bill in the state would close down many of those businesses.

"It’s pretty clear that will reinvigorate the black market,” Dominic Corva, the executive director of the nonprofit Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy, told the Daily Beast. “This is not in anyone’s best interests, certainly not the state’s.”

Washington legalized medical marijuana more than a decade and a half ago, but voters there also approved recreational marijuana in November 2012. Now, legislators are trying to reconcile the medical laws with the broader regulatory structure for recreational pot.

The existing medical marijuana business isn't without it's problems — it has been criticized for some operators who flout the regulatory rules and sell to patients without legitimate medical conditions. Democrats in the state, however, are offering a bill that would give medical pot growers a better chance to move into the legal market.


According to the Daily Beast, Tobias is a "key player" with South Fork Business Park, a real estate venture in Raymond, Wash., located about 125 miles southwest of Seattle. The group has roughly 12 legal cannabis businesses as tenants.

Tobias presented at a November 2014 marijuana industry conference in Las Vegas, according to an event agenda. He spoke on behalf of South Fork Business Park, where he is managing partner, and billed it as "the largest specialized campus for [marijuana] producers and processors in Washington with over 750,000 sq ft of facilities across over 35 acres."


Tobias did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.