When former Microsoft CEO Jamen Shively, top executive of Diego Pellicer, declared last month that he planned to usher in the era of “Big Marijuana” by opening dozens of cannabis retail shops in Washington State, Colorado and California (when cannabis is legalized), the buzz it generated was felt around the world.
Now, the knives are coming out on Shively, primarily from those within the cannabis industry.
Some contend Shively has the wrong message and is too arrogant to succeed within the rubric between federal drug laws and state rights. Some believe he may even in the end wind up in federal prison.
“The guy’s out of his mind,” Earnie Blackmon, president of RiverRock, which runs a chain of medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver, said to the Huffington Post. “People like him who have no clue are coming in right now as part of this ‘green rush,’ but there’s going to be a lot of them who lose everything they put on the table.”
One major point of contention is Shively’s plans for multi-state and international cannabis sales that blatantly violate federal laws.
“There’s a big target on him right now,” said Kevin Worth of SilverSun Products, which supplies cannabis gardening equipment to farmers in 29 states and Canada. “He’s a token guy right now and no one is going to want to deal with him if that’s his attitude, if he’s walking in and saying things are going to be a certain way because he said so.”
Shively, well aware of his critics, is pushing back, stating he is just filling a void that the marketplace has created on its own.
“The industry leadership position was basically up for grabs,” he said.“What we’re doing is embodying a new attitude for the industry. It’s a dual challenge of positioning the company and positioning the industry.”
And that is the rub. Some in the cannabis industry believe Shively is tone deaf to just how fragile the climate is for cannabis entrepreneur-ism.
“It isn’t helpful, what Jamen did,” said Steve Fox, chief lobbyist at the National Cannabis Industry Association. “We have a short leash right now. The Colorado and Washington experiments are going on, but those need to be done carefully and respectfully.”
Shively denies that he wants to import cannabis from Mexico, rather he wants to export Washington cannabis to Mexico.
“I want to export premium quality cannabis from Washington state to Mexico, just like we export Washington apples there right now,” he said.
“The technical term for what he’s saying he plans to do is ‘conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance’ and you go to federal prison for that,” said Mark Kleiman, a UCLA professor offering legal counseling for Washington state regarding regulation of legal retail cannabis sales next year.
But not all are jumping on the anti-Shively bandwagon.
“Businesses in this industry have nothing to be ashamed of and Jamen Shively’s actions reflect that,” said Troy Dayton, CEO of cannabis industry investor network ArcView Group. “Onwards and into the light.”