Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.
Washington became one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2012. But there are a lot of challenges ahead: the state must set up a licensing system for marijuana growers and sellers, the federal government may mount a challenge, the need to set a new limit on amount of marijuana in the bloodstream for safe driving. And medical marijuana is still in the picture.Over the next several months we will be exploring the issue and tracking the impact of I-502.

Inside Seattle's First Legal Pot Farm

Sea of Green Farms sits south of Ballard, just east of Fisherman’s Terminal.

It’s a plain, one story building with no windows and a handwritten street number tacked up in front, unspectacular except for the security cameras covering all areas inside and out.

Its crop of choice? Marijuana.

Bob Leeds is one of two partners at Sea of Green. With his grey hair and genial demeanor, you could imagine Leeds putting on a beard and playing Santa Claus.

He retired after 28 years in banking and 15 years in social services when he was approached by a friend, Phil Tobias, about getting into the marijuana business.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Sea of Green employee Bruce Cummins shows the long root of a marijuana plant which has been grown in water instead of soil.", "fid": "35837", "style": "placed_left", "uri": "public://201405/marijuana-Cumminswithroot-KUOW_Bond.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman"}]]“I looked into it and we decided this was a good thing to do and a good thing for my retirement,” Leeds said. “I hadn’t even seen a marijuana plant before this – and now I own about 3,000 of them!”

The men drew from savings and retirement for the venture, about a million dollars.

“We were all in from the beginning,” Leeds said. “I think that’s why we’re ahead of the game; I think other people held back and didn’t buy buildings and didn’t move forward, and we were in from the first.”

The gamble paid off when Sea of Green became the first marijuana grow operation in Seattle and King County to get a license from the Washington Liquor Control Board. 

Inside the operation, there are rooms full of lush marijuana plants growing under intense lighting. The partners use organic hydroponic techniques – meaning they grow the plants in water instead of soil.

They have 57 strains so far, Leeds said they have a possibility of growing up to 125 different varieties. One plant, developed by the farm, is called SOGAK1: “SOG” for Sea of Green and “AK1” taken from a military term.

[asset-images[{"caption": "A Sea of Green employee prepares organic fertilizer for their marijuana plants. Owner Bob Leeds said the operation is focused on growing \"top shelf\" plants.", "fid": "35835", "style": "placed_left", "uri": "public://201405/marijuana-SOGfertilizer-KUOW_Bond.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman"}]]

Other strains have more creative names: Blue Dream, Permafrost and Alien On Moonshine. “That just makes me laugh every time I say it,” Leeds said.

The first crop is growing now and will be ready to harvest in about two weeks. There will be 3,500 plants by the time they’re done. Leeds expects his farm will be producing 100 to 150 pounds a month when it’s fully operational.

Leeds said they plan to add a commercial kitchen with a baker to make marijuana products in the future.

Leeds says it's been hard work, but believes the farm will yield big profits once retail marijuana businesses start opening in Seattle. For now, he’s enjoying the process. “It’s really fun – I love coming into work every day,” he said.

As a side note, the name of the farm was taken from the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.” Here's another Seattle institution doing their version of the famous lyrics.

Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.