Faces of Legal Marijuana: Unemployed Software Salesman Goes for the Green...Rush

John Walters Courtesy of Michael Guttsen

It is just after New Year's when 61-year-old unemployed software executive John Walters and I meet for coffee. We're there to discuss his interest in moving from the "straight" world of corporate enterprise software sales to the rough and tumble, still embryonic legal cannabis industry.

John, a tall bespeckled northwesterner with close cropped hair, begins by telling me about a recent holiday gathering that he and his wife attended in their Shoreline, WA, neighborhood. Recreational marijuana is legal in Washington, but the social protocols of its use remain uncertain. "Do you fire up at the party?" John ponders. "Do you offer your host a box of joints?" The nuances of integrating legal marijuana use into polite society -- and business life -- are being worked out in living rooms and board rooms across Colorado and Washington.

Walters was laid off from a corporate software sales job after 19 years with the company. At 60, he faced a choice: take early retirement, or find another gig and face the daunting challenge of trying to compete with much younger, and much less well-paid applicants.

"Frankly, they won't look at you if you're 50-plus," John laments. "I look at myself in the mirror, and I don't see some old guy."

John was burnt out on corporate sales. Hoping to rekindle some of the passions that drove success early in his career, he and his family discussed it, and it was mutually decided that he would pursue opportunities in the legal marijuana industry.

No aging hipster
Now John is no aging hipster. He is married, with grown kids, and a seemingly suburban lifestyle. Sure he still sparks up occasionally, a recreational habit that he cultivated in his teens, but John is not yet part of Washington's visible "cannabis community."

He began his job hunt on the internet, searched for "legal marijuana and software," and discovered there were indeed several small companies servicing the medical marijuana industry, which now operates in 21 states.

Late last year, after 6 months of search yielded few leads, John applied for, and was hired by BioTrackTHC, the Florida-based software company that won the contract to build the tracking system for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the governmental agency responsible for creating and managing the state's new licensed legal marijuana industry. He was in at the ground floor.

But the long distance relationship only lasted a month, and now John finds himself back on the job hunt, still eager to be a part of the Green Rush. He has made some contacts, and now regularly attends meetings of the Washington Marijuana Business Association to build his network within the tight-knit cannabis community.

As we go to press, fortunes may have begun to turn, Walters reports. He has recently begun promising discussions with an event marketing company in the marijuana space.

"I don't need to get rich," Walters notes. "I just want to be a part of this new industry."

Click through the slideshow below for more of the Faces of Legal Marijuana. These are people finding second careers in the legal cannabis industry.

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Reluctance to hire older workers for many positions is totally alive and well. Legal or not, there are HUGE advantages to a younger person in certain (but not all jobs). A big one is a free option (to use financial lingo). Someone near the beginning of their career might turn out to a superstar, rise up through management to CEO even. They probably won't, but the potential is worth something. The 60 year old isn't going to be a superstar, plus you don't have a good feel for his desired job tenure. A 25 year old might be with the company 40 years, the 60 year old 5 years.

February 07 2014 at 10:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When a little lie can cost you: Two white lies that could get your life insurance claim denied
When applying for life insurance, absolute honesty is the only smart option
1. I don't smoke
Denial or wishful thinking has no place when answering this question. Lying about your smoking habits could cause your death benefits to be reduced or even revoked right when your family is counting on them most. It's worth noting that the insurance definition of a smoker is generally a male or female who uses nicotine, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, or anti-smoking products like nicotine patches and nicotine gum. As such, just because you haven't smoked today, or are currently trying to quit smoking, doesn't make you a non-smoker. If you're currently reviewing life insurance options, be sure to ask your agent to clearly define the company's smoker policy. In most cases, in order to qualify for a preferred rate, you'll need to be smoke free for the last 12-36 months.
2. I've never done drugs
This should be a given. Lying about illegal or prescription drug use and abuse, however casual you may think it is, can easily get your life insurance denied (either after your death or even during your lifetime). However, just because you've had problems in the past doesn't mean you can't qualify for coverage. Individuals who have experienced difficult lifestyle issues, such as past alcohol and drug abuse, can still receive coverage; policy rates are typically 50% to 300% more than normal life insurance rates. Individuals who have severe lifestyle issues may find their application denied.

In cases of fraud, life insurers can typically cancel coverage and deny claims at any time.

February 04 2014 at 10:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Wagner

50 and seeing the age discrimination kick in ? really ? not at walmart .... Nothing like being tool and die for 22 years and training your replacement ( unknowingly ) .... weighted wages , the bosses son in law . Well I hope they have fun now since I own my patent .... Who is laughing now since I can sell to competitor .... No agreements or contracts to hinder it .... Bahaahaa !

February 02 2014 at 8:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Sparks up". These people are such losers. Congrats. You have turned your lives in apathetic puddles.

February 02 2014 at 6:33 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

I must ask the question!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
When John was originaly employed at this company what age was the person who did the job before that he replaced?
Is the old adage true in this case "what goes around comes around"
As someone who is 68yrs old and was let go at the age of 59yrs by a company I was at for 34yrs, I made no attempt to remain in the same industry (printing)
I have been employed in various jobs since and still working 15hrs a week now.
I have the advantage of a good pension that I had contributed to for 34years ,so was and still able to take positions that were not as well paid.
So if you were employed until you were 61yrs what provision did you make for old age whilst you were working
I have friends who continued to aquire debt up until they retired, then whinge at the perilous state of their financial situation
Old age is inevitable, so preparation is essential and you must cut your cloth accordingly

February 02 2014 at 6:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Frankly, they won't look at you if you're 50-plus," John laments. "I look at myself in the mirror, and I don't see some old guy."

John was burnt out on corporate sales.

nope. sorry John. they will definitely look at someone more than 50 . You are just burned out you said it yourself. So don't go blaming it on how old one is and perpetuating this ageism. people and employers might do MORE of a self fulfilling prophesy.

February 02 2014 at 5:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to nawseeya's comment

SORRY TO DISAGREE BUT....unless you are over 50 and out of work what would you know about it I ask? My husband is over 50 and due to this lovely economy to be exact....my husbands 30 plus year business took a loss in what we earned and the work about stopped for us...and when he tried to find work he found NOTHING. So give it up and shut it up coz what youa re saying is bs. Yes, it IS harder to find work when you are over 50...as many of MY friends who lost their long time jobs in their 50s will attest to as well......unless you been there do not even go there!

February 02 2014 at 5:58 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Considering the amount of people over 60 in corporate sales, I'd say you have a point.

February 02 2014 at 6:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have not made a decision regarding legalization of the marijuana industry, but since this gentleman lives in a state that has made it legal than he is entitled to do what he believes is correct. As far as the age discussion, I am also approaching the age of fifty and believe you can work at any age and would love to speak with anyone who is looking for work, especially near or over the age of fifty. I know of people who started with our company as young as 18 and as old as age 83.There are plenty of companies that are legal nationally and internationally for the older generation.

February 02 2014 at 4:52 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to certtechnologies's comment
Tawnee Cowan

It is awesome that you can remain so accepting even when it is not a choice you would make. I think part of the employment problem can be demographic. Take Seattle, big high tech, big industry. The knowledge that we have now versus even 20 years ago make it where the younger generations are more equip with their education than what someone who was not raised in the high tech age would be. I think there are a lot of factors, but one of them is looking at long term. Most employers are not willing to hire someone who might only work for them 5-6 years versus someone they can groom the next 20.

February 02 2014 at 2:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I live in Florida, & worked until I turned 72. 23 years as a purchasing professional. Continued looking for another job, with a few interviews, for about 2 years. After my unemployment ran-out, I just gave up. I knew I had 2 strikes against me...1) my age... 2) I'm have been confined to a wheelchair since my senior year of high school.
I was dependable (received an award for not missing a days work for 8 continuous years), saved my companies millions of dollars through alternate suppliers and contract negotiation. I do know about age discrimination,
and I even know more about disability discrimination. I have been a victim of 1 for more than 20 years, and the other ALL my life.

February 02 2014 at 4:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Its a shame that they have to consider marijuana to be a drug of entertainment, when I've read that there are so many medically good posibilities for this plant. The way it will be used, such as in smoking, will not be for the good, for the health of the user. However. Because it grows in abundance if left untouched, it should never be under government control. I believe that God has put it there for a reason. I've heard that you could get high by smoking dried banana peels, and there are probably other things out there as well.

February 02 2014 at 1:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Two guys in the service told me I couldn't tell if they smoked.....
I told them I could....
They asked How ????
I said when I ordered a certain other guy to do things; he always b&%*&#ed;
but when I told them to do something, they were so laid back they said "OK" !?

February 02 2014 at 1:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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