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Originally published December 24, 2013 at 8:16 PM | Page modified December 25, 2013 at 8:42 AM

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Corrected version

Pot entrepreneurs give gift of hope to family of ill boy

After Ryan Day told his story of struggling to get legal marijuana to treat his son’s severe epilepsy, some pot entrepreneurs responded with generosity, then extended their charity to help others.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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This is a holiday story you probably haven’t seen before.

After Ryan Day publicly told his story of struggling to get and grow legal marijuana to treat his son’s severe epilepsy, some pot entrepreneurs responded with generosity.

Two leaders in Seattle’s medical-marijuana industry, Alex Cooley and Ryan Kunkel, reached out to the Day family — and are expanding their charity to others in need during the holiday season.

Cooley, who runs a fully permitted growing operation in Seattle, visited Day’s Thurston County house to advise him on how to grow rare strains of pot that are low in psychoactive chemicals but high in cannabidiol, or CBD, which is believed to have therapeutic qualities.

Kunkel, owner of five Have A Heart dispensaries, had another idea. He bought from Cooley a pound of the rare strain, Sour Tsunami #3, that Day was seeking. Then he gave it to Day for his 5-year-old son, Haiden.

Kunkel’s 11-year-old daughter and a friend made a card decorated with messages of hope and kindness, Day said.

“My wife and I were driven to tears,” said Day, a former Marine. “These are not shadowy guys trying to make tons of money with guns strapped to their bodies. They really care about their community.”

When Day first bought an ounce of Sour Tsunami #3 at a Seattle dispensary, it cost $300. Day turned the dried flowers into a concentrated extract that he added to Haiden’s applesauce.

It seemed to calm Haiden’s frequent seizures. But the ounce amounted to just a week’s supply, meaning Haiden’s marijuana could cost his parents roughly $15,000 a year, out of pocket, because insurance won’t cover a federally prohibited drug.

Day invested more than $2,000 in growing lights and equipment, but his first plants died because his soil was too acidic.

Kunkel said the pound he gave the Day family has a wholesale value of more than $2,000. It should last about four months, enough time for Day to grow and harvest new plants.

Cooley and Kunkel aren’t the only entrepreneurs who stepped up to help, Day noted. Dax Colwell of New Leaf Enterprises announced last month a plan to provide low-cost or no-cost CBD concentrates to patients with severe forms of epilepsy.

Day said he got some free medicine from Colwell in concentrate form. But because Day has made his own extract and other parents don’t know how, he said he would leave Colwell’s medicine to those parents while he produces his own.

Inspired to do more, Cooley has given 2 pounds of high CBD marijuana to four dispensaries so that it can be donated to patients facing economic hardship. The dispensaries are Northwest Patient Resource Center, Fweedom Collective, Urban Healing Collective and Have A Heart.

Pot entrepreneurs are involved in other holiday giving, such as local food and toy drives, Kunkel said, but they tend not to publicize their good deeds.

John Davis, CEO of Northwest Patient Resource Center, said his and other dispensaries have provided free or low-cost products to needy patients year-round.

“I understand why some in the medical-marijuana community want to remain quiet,” Day said. “We’re just in awe of their generosity.”

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or

On Twitter: @potreporter

Information in this article, originally published December 24, 2013, was corrected December 25, 2013. The photo caption in a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the daughter of Ryan Day had made a card for Haiden Day. It should have read that the card was made by the daughter of Ryan Kunkel.

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