Last April, John Lee, a 25-year tech industry professional, was laid off from his job as director of partner integration for an on-line music and video service. In the downtrodden Silicon Valley, he had few prospects to turn to.
So Lee turned to another passion: medical marijuana.
Now he has risen again as the CEO of an on-line business-to-business network that is taking pot trading to the web. Lee's PlainView Systems bills itself as a "Compassionate Care Marketplace."
He charges annual fees of $1,200 and up for medical marijuana dispensaries, depending on their size, and $300 for patient growers to connect on-line "to purchase or trade medicine."
His site, which claims 44,000 unique page views a month, also works with cannabis businesses on invoices and tax forms.
Lee, a Sonoma County resident and a medical user, says he never sees or touches any of the product that is distributed by patients and bought by dispensaries through his site.
He says simply, "I came up with a plan to buy, trade and sell cannabis on-line that is totally acceptable."
Attorney General Jerry Brown has declared that patients with doctor's recommendations and state seller's permits can be legally compensated for labor and expenses for cultivating and providing pot to patient-run collectives - the business model for most dispensaries.
Lee seems to be in the clear for merely providing the on-line hook-up.
And he has bigger plans.
He is an emerging activist. He speaks at medical marijuana conferences and trade shows. He advocates forming regional growers' unions to allow small marijuana cultivators to survive and thrive if pot is legalized in California for all adults 21 and over.
If that happens, he is hoping to thrive as well. He envisions his new venture as the eBay of weed.