Greg James, a Mercer Island resident, is the publisher of Marijuana Venture, a highly successful pot industry magazine. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

Greg James, a Mercer Island resident, is the publisher of Marijuana Venture, a highly successful pot industry magazine. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

Mercer Island entrepreneur runs huge weed industry magazine

Greg James runs Marijuana Venture, the leading legal pot industry magazine in the country.

As the legal marijuana industry in Washington state continues to grow, it’s also boosting businesses associated with it — including a Mercer Island resident’s industry magazine.

Greg James started the Marijuana Venture magazine in 2012 after weed was legalized in the state. It’s an industry-focused magazine aimed squarely at businesses involved in growing, producing and selling marijuana as opposed to what James describes as lifestyle publications.

“I kind of looked around and I realized that there were all these stoner magazines like Dope and High Times…there’s just a whole bunch of them that are stoner lifestyle magazines but nobody was doing a business magazine,” he said.

While he doesn’t partake himself anymore, James said he’s always thought marijuana should be legal and regulated. He has experience in the formerly booming CD packaging business running Topics Entertainment where they pumped out packaging for everything from National Geographic mapping software to Playboy CDs, he said. But around 2004 the industry peaked as businesses moved away from physical copies to Internet downloads for software and products. James purchased a warehouse and office property in Renton as well as a ranch in north Central Washington.

Following marijuana legalization, he said some old acquaintances reached out, interested in renting space to grow marijuana from him. While he declined, it got him thinking about the emerging industry and how he could find a niche. He noticed that many people who were interested in growing pot weren’t prepared to take on a commercial farming operation.

“Wow, these guys are going to, they’re going to get these cultivation licenses and a lot of them think that what they’re going to do is just a big version of what they do in their garage and they’re going to fail miserably,” he said.

The magazine’s editor, Garrett Rudolph, had worked at the Omak Chronicle where James’ ranch is located. James saw Rudolph was moving to the west side and decided to ask him to work as his editor, which he accepted. The magazine started as a 16-page mailer they sent out to people across the state, but within six months they were publishing a 100-page glossy magazine. The magazine has a circulation size of 25,000 copies a month, with half being sent directly to subscribers and the rest making their way to retailers like Barnes & Nobles.

Advertisement has taken off too. Initially, the magazine was only pulling advertisers from the state, but as the industry has grown, they’re attracting interest from across the country. While companies on the East Coast are more wary of advertising with the magazine, James said that’s starting to change. One packaging industry executive from Chicago flew out to Washington and was surprised by the amount of products, packaging and professionalism of Washington marijuana stores, James said.

The magazine has also been expanding into expos and is hosting the RAD Expo in October in Portland, Oregon, which focuses on weed retail as opposed to other expos that focus on growing.

Legal marijuana has proved to be a windfall for Washington state which collected a total of $319 million in income and license fees during 2017. According the state Treasurer’s office, all but $4 million of this came from the sales tax. This was nearly $130 million more than in 2016. The excise tax for marijuana is 37 percent at the point of sale.

Across the state, sales of marijuana reached $1.3 billion during 2017 up from $786 in 2016, which was double what was sold in 2015.

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