Kennedy says the app already has the necessary code to add on retail locations in Colorado and Washington once they come online. In the meantime, he and two partners are using their Privateer Holdings equity firm and its $5 million-plus in capital from private investors to scout out other promising cannabis startups. In essence, Privateer is helping to fill the void left by skittish banks that have all but refused to grant loans to pot-friendly businesses until they discern which way the legal winds are blowing.
Despite the uncertainty, Bricken says companies are still rushing to join what she calls the "secondary risk market," the modern-day equivalent of Seattle's early entrepreneurs selling pickaxes, supplies, and services to prospectors seeking their fortune during the Yukon Gold Rush of the 1890s. Instead of directly providing marijuana -- a model that may prove too risky for many -- businesses are positioning themselves as experts in enhancing the experience.
"They're coming up with things like 'Cannabis Crawls,' going from dispensary to dispensary and showing you how to get there and providing you with food and transportation along the way," Bricken says. Others are creating art and merchandise ranging from coffee mugs to hand towels that depict some of the most popular marijuana strains.
Whatever tourism model emerges here, many observers say it's likely to be uniquely Seattle. With the region's long tradition of art glass, glassblowers are already setting their sights on the high-end cannabis crowd. One recent ad touting a $175 "Create Your Own Bong" class fizzled when only one person inquired. But other glass studios in the area say it's no longer taboo for people inquiring about one or two-hour lessons to specifically ask whether they can make a bong or pipe instead of a "modified vase."
At the recent Hempfest party, one of the four artisan glassblowers holds his partially molten creation aloft at the end of a blowpipe and parades it through the crowd as the bidding begins. It's a detailed, richly colored and surprisingly large bong in the shape of a monkey wearing a yellow top hat and suit coat, and it fetches a winning bid of $350.
Behind a nearby table laden with smaller, handmade pipes fashioned from art glass and recycled guitar wood, a volunteer points out the grand prize for a raffle at Hempfest's own upcoming "420 Fest": a colorful hand-stitched quilt with a stylized marijuana leaf in its center panel. On the reverse side, a dark green camouflage motif features a grinning Scooby Doo in various poses.
Aspiring comic book artist Joshua Boulet has set up shop at a smaller table, with a duffel bag full of several issues of his tongue-in-cheek comic, "The Green Reefer," which follows the antics of a pot-smoking anti-hero and his beer-drinking sidekick, Six-Pack. In many ways, Boulet is the embodiment of Seattle's new entrepreneurial optimism. After attending Hempfest as a tourist last August, he fell in love with the city and moved from Dallas two months later. Boulet says he is now hoping to sell his comic books in Seattle's thriving head shops -- for $4.20, of course.