Seattle company proposes warehouse-size pot operation in Lacey

A Seattle company wants to capitalize on the state’s new marijuana industry in a big way by building a large facility that would be home to pot producers and processors, potentially providing employment to hundreds of people.

And they want to do it in Lacey.

The company is Privateer Holdings, and through its subsidiary Arbormain, it is proposing to construct a 200,000-square-foot building in Hawks Prairie at 3640 Hogum Bay Road, which would open its doors to pot producers and processors, but not retailers, said Patrick Moen, managing director at Privateer.

The company plans to invest more than $100 million into a facility that Moen said would be “state of the art,” leasing modular spaces of various sizes inside the building to producers and processors. Those spaces also would be outfitted with lights, irrigation systems, plumbing and cooking systems. In short, it would be transformed into a pharmaceutical-grade facility, he said.

The company hasn’t purchased the property just yet – the current owner, according to assessor information, is identified as John Teutsch of Seattle-based Teutsch Partners – and a timeline for its opening wasn’t immediately known, Moen said.

Teutsch has developed other sites in the Hogum Bay Road area that are now occupied by Harbor Wholesale Foods and a Trader Joe’s distribution center.

Moen praised the city for having the right property, the right business climate and the right proximity to Interstate 5.

“Lacey fit all those needs,” he said.

Pot producers and processors are allowed to do business side by side under Initiative 502 – the initiative that was approved by voters to legalize recreational pot – state Liquor Control Board spokesman Mikhail Carpenter said.

But they have to be completely separate, which means no shared spaces, no shared entrances and no shared exits, he said.

“It will all be designed with I-502 compliance in mind,” Moen said.

Privateer isn’t walking in the dark with its Lacey proposal because it already does something similar on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. There, under a subsidiary called Tilray, they produce, process and ship pot directly to medical marijuana users in Canada under a license from the government of Canada.

Tilray has been shipping to medical marijuana users out of a 60,000-square-foot building and expects to grow its staff to well over 100 from its current level of 65, Moen said.

Scale its Canada operation to the proposed operation in Lacey, for example, and Moen thinks Arbormain could employ about 500, a combination of Arbormain workers and those employed by the tenants that fill the building in Lacey.

Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder added that his understanding is that not only would Arbormain create a lot of jobs, but also high-wage jobs.

“All power to them in my opinion,” Ryder said. “They are doing everything within what was passed by the people of Washington. The people have spoken and, to a large degree, you have to be supportive of that.”

“They are making a business decision,” he said, pointing out that it is a compatible use for that Hogum Bay Road area, “and I can’t fault them for that.”

Before Moen joined Privateer, he spent 10 years with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, including running a multiagency task force in Portland. He also spent five years working as a police officer in upstate New York. In addition to his law enforcement background, he’s also an attorney, he said.

During his law enforcement days, Moen said he came to realize that the “criminalization of pot was really futile and an enormous waste of resources.”

He views the emerging legal pot industry as an antidote for several societal problems, including an opportunity to stamp out the black market for pot and to reduce the influence of criminal organizations.

It’s in need of professionalization, he said about the pot industry, one that can get “safe, clean product into the hands of Americans who are demanding it.”

“We just need to work through zoning and permitting and getting through the design,” Moen said. “We are committed to being good neighbors.”