DENVER MARCH 25: Pete Williams, Chief Operating Officer of Medicine Man, is in marijuana growing room. Denver, Colorado. March 25. 2014. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

Medicine Man: Family’s bonds showing strains as business evolves (series)

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Medicine Man: Family's bonds showing strains as business evolves (series)
Pete Williams, one of the founding siblings behind Medicine Man, practices his own style of sword fighting at his house in Westminster. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)

Pete acknowledges the risks. And the family learned of them through an earlier brush with reality show realities.

Last year, a video clip for a would-be Medicine Man TV program showed Pete’s daughter, Kala, saying she’s smoked since she was 13. The footage wound up in an anti-marijuana campaign.

It was not the kind of exposure Medicine Man was after.

What happened was this: Pete used to keep his stash in a locked box hidden in the garage. Kala found it and pried it open with pliers.

The second time she did it, her father caught her.

“There was lots of yelling, grounding, and distrust issues for a while,” says Kala, 24, who works as a receptionist at Medicine Man. “He takes trust very seriously and I broke his trust. He wasn’t cool with me smoking. And I was stealing from someone who had given me so much.”

She did not stop smoking weed, she said. She found other ways.

Despite being burned before, Medicine Man reached an agreement with a producer of the Fox show “24” to put together a “sizzle reel,” a short clip to shop the concept to networks.

The caveat that satisfied the skeptical Andy and Sally: Medicine Man had final editing say on the promo. A few scenes were removed as a result, but the 5-minute reel still did not ease Sally’s concerns.

In it, Medicine Man employees take turns naming marijuana strains after themselves. Pete stages a sword fight in a grow room with his 22-year-old son, Ryan, who is wearing a large costume panda head he wears out to clubs. Ryan suffered a broken tooth in the altercation.

“It’s reminiscent of nothing we do at Medicine Man,” says Sally, who started working as controller last year. “Here we are trying to legitimize a business, say it’s not a bunch of stoners, and this comes along and shows everyone stoned all the time? It’s not the truth. My brother, he doesn’t understand business. He thinks we’re going to sell a billion dollars in T-shirts because of a reality show.”

Map: Colorado medical dispensaries and recreational marijuana centers

These sharp differences help explain why Pete didn’t attend the February strategy meeting. He says his presence would have resulted in a family fight he didn’t want to have.

“I don’t think she should have been at that meeting,” he says of Sally. “She is family, but she hasn’t been there since the beginning. Andy and I know what risks can be taken better than she does.”

Kala Williams says she wishes her father’s ideas for the business were taken more seriously.

“My dad knows the community better because we are part of the community — the stoner community,” she says.

By several measures, Colorado’s great marijuana experiment is being very good to the Williams family.

Medicine Man earned $4.4 million in revenue last year when it sold only medical marijuana, Andy Williams says. That figure would have been closer to $5 million, he says, but the business plan called for intentionally selling less to stockpile for recreational sales on Jan. 1.

In January alone, Medicine Man brought in $1 million, and then $750,000 each in February and March, Andy says. He projects revenues of between $10 million and $12 million in 2014.

That does not mean the owners — Andy and Pete, who each own 40 percent, and their mother, who controls the remaining 20 percent but is not heavily involved in decision-making — are striking it rich.

More: Investment questions arise for Medicine Man

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