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Detours land ‘all-in’ marijuana investors in Belfair

By Tim Kelly - KPBJ editor

Fadi Yashruti, who grew up in South Kitsap and recently left a corporate job in the Seattle area, is one of the principals in Seattle Inceptive Group, which is setting up a state-licensed marijuana production and processing facility on a 12-acre property they purchased in Belfair. Call it the path of lease resistance.

That’s what led two pairs of brothers — friends since junior high in Port Orchard and now business partners — to purchase a former nursery in Belfair as the site for their marijuana-growing operation.

“Probably the most difficult thing about this whole deal is finding a suitable location,” said Fadi Yashruti, point man for the investors who formed Seattle Inceptive Group to enter Washington’s recreational cannabis industry.

They might have been in business in time to supply the state’s first retail pot shops that opened in July, if their deal to lease a warehouse in the Port of Bremerton’s industrial area hadn’t been quashed by the port district commissioners.

“That really had a pretty large impact on us,” Yashruti said. “It really delayed us, and forced us to go find a new location. But in the long run, I think this will actually work better for us because we purchased this property.”

Shifting from a leasing model to buying the former Belfair Valley Nursery — where Yashruti’s group is preparing to erect three large, technically advanced greenhouses on the roughly 12-acre site — raised the start-up investment from $200,000 to around $1 million, he said. They previously had found a suitable property in Tahuya and signed a lease on it, but Yashruti said they’re going to sublease that site to another producer/processor.

Their Belfair site has an existing 5,000-square-foot greenhouse and another smaller building. The new greenhouses will be built adjacent to each other, creating a three-bay structure that’s 90 by 132 feet. 

They will be equipped with blackout shades for light deprivation, which speeds up the flowering cycle of the marijuana plants. Yashruti said a greenhouse grow can produce one or two crops a year, but with light deprivation the process can yield up to five crops a year. 

“This is what warehouse guys are doing, but they don’t need blackout shades; they just turn off the lights,” he said. Utilizing natural light for their greenhouse plants as much as possible throughout the year will greatly reduce the amount of electricity used for lighting in their operation. 

Yashruti said the greenhouses they’re installing will have walls of polyethelene film, rather than rigid sides, so they will be considered soft-sided, temporary structures with fewer permit requirements.

However, the greenhouse space isn’t large enough for the entire 21,000 square feet of plant canopy — the actual growing area filled by marijuana plants — that’s allowed under a state license as a Tier 3 producer, the largest category. So the rest of Seattle Inceptive’s allowed growing area will be outdoors.

The partners have developing relationships with licensed retail shops they hope to supply, and they’ll do more networking at the CannaCon expo Aug. 14-17 at the Tacoma Dome.

Seattle Inceptive also has plans for a side business marketing a crucial supply for operations like theirs.

“We have a patent we obtained for a packaging idea,” Yashruti said. It will have a distinctive look and protection for the plant inside.

“I think the packaging, branding and marketing are going to be what sets us apart,” he said.

Like many in the wave of entrepreneurs licensed as recreational marijuana producers, Yashruti has previous ties with the medical cannabis community.

He grew up in Manchest-er, the son of a Palestinian doctor who emigrated from the Middle East (he met his wife, a native of Macedonia, in the U.S.) and eventually started a family and a surgical practice in Port Orchard. 

Yashruti, 39, has been a medical marijuana patient since he found cannabis provided relief for the intestinal troubles that afflicted him a couple years ago.

“Two years ago I had some massive stomach problems; I lost 30 pounds in a span of two months,” he said. When doctors were unable to come up with an effective remedy, a friend suggested medical marijuana might help him.

“I tried smoking pot for a week,” he said, and the effect on his health was “a 180 turnaround.”

Yashruti had to manage his medicinal marijuana use to not interfere with his family life — he has a young daughter — or with his senior management job at AT&T in the Seattle area. 

“I’m not a daytime smoker,” he said. “I do it once at night before I go to bed.”

He left his six-figure salary and “high-stress” corporate job to work full time on Seattle Inceptive Group’s venture.

“I’m all in,” he said. 

Getting final approval of their state licensing and all the needed county permits has been a long road, but  Yashruti expects to get their building permit soon. It will likely be late this year before the business has any its first harvested marijuana ready to sell.

Despite delays in getting started, he and his partners are convinced their investment eventually will yield a lucrative return.

“If it’s $25 a gram at retail stores, that’s better than what our projections are,” Yashruti said. “The best-case scenario for us is $4 million a year (in net profits). That’s how confident we are in this industry.”

 

 
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