July 23, 2024

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Cannabis Insider: Oakland’s Leviathan Building Becomes a Hub for Silicon Valley Cannabis Startups

3 min read

Field notes and gossip from a local marijuana reporter from the intersection of pot, money, and power in the epicentralized San Francisco Bay Area.


Gateway founders Carter Laren (left) and Ben Larson at the company’s VIP launch event in the Leviathan Building in Oakland. (Photo: Jennifer Leahy)

The new gateway theory

Silicon Valley elites promise to recharge the multi-billion dollar legal cannabis industry in 2016, starting in places like the Leviathan Building in Jack London Square.

The towering nautical-themed angular structure roared with a VIP swinging speakeasy mixer on December 4th to launch Gateway, a new incubator for marijuana businesses.

In a jazzy soundtrack, a wintry mix of bank vests, accountant sweaters, designer jeans, and shiny thick heel shoes enjoyed free bottles of beer and cocktails. More than 120 of Oakland’s professional cannabis class were invited, including Oaksterdam University Chancellor Dale Sky Jones and her husband Jeff Jones, and senior attorney James Anthony. Rotten Tomatoes co-founder Patrick Lee was also discovered.

For the largest tech companies, the word “marijuana” causes legal teams to break into hives, but “cannabis” is very popular with simple developers, founders, and former employees who have left the company with millions of dollars. says Carter Laren, director and mentor of the founding institute and co-founder of Gateway, along with entrepreneur evangelist Ben Larson. The two bring the incubator concept to the Leviathan Building in Oakland, the former home of Peter Thiel’s distant Seasteading Institute.

Gateway headquarters in Oakland (Photo: David Downs)

“Entrepreneurs turn to me that I would never have thought of contacting,” said Laren. “The tide turns slowly.”

People from places like Google, Oracle and Sun via Electronic Arts and Blizzard are sailing across the bay, said John Downs, executive director of MJIC, a private cannabis holding company and gateway partner.

“For each of us who come into the industry, there is a moment when you look in the mirror and say, ‘There’s no going back. It will affect everything I do. ‘It will always be part of the headline. And every time someone takes a step forward and says they are in this industry for the right reasons, it becomes easier for the next person. “

Gateway reported 30 applications in the first few days after it started. Companies receive $ 30,000 in seed capital for a six percent stake. Incubation begins in spring.


Organicann’s High Life package series includes strains from celebrities like Margaret Cho-G. (Courtesy Organicann)

Hot trend: human curation

With the Cambrian explosion in medicinal cannabis products, a new problem arises today: that of discovery and curation. Algorithms could one day pick your bud. Until then, cannabis companies are getting into the van, packing strains for delivery and gifts.

Curated by Guild’s Box of Jane, medical cannabis packages are priced at $ 125 each and come to your door in the Bay Area with a mix of hot new strains like Dosido, a contender for divine patient choice, and OGKB. Classics like Candy Jack; Extracts such as Animal Cookies Wax; pre-ground flowers for your PAX2 or joints; topical ointments; and unique foods, including infused potato chips or chewing gum. It’s all lab tested by CB Labs in Novato and tailored to your level of experience and dietary restrictions (i.e. vegan, gluten free, chocaholic – whatever your pocket, baby).

Other hot boxes: Organicann’s high life packages offer varieties from celebrities with features such as lighter and chillum. Try Margaret Cho-G, an indica-dominated variety that tastes “sweet and spicy with a pleasantly peppery finish.”


House flipping is so 2008. Dispensary flipping is more trendy. A company called Harvest raises funds to buy underperforming pharmacies and renovate them for maximum profit. The first harvest project at the legendary trashy hemp center on Geary Blvd. opens in January with a new European-style interior design. Reportedly, the rich developers at Harvest in the Bay Area are also tied to upgrades to the long-standing Bernal Heights Collective and the renovated Urban Pharm in SOMA.


On January 24th, Alameda’s Brownie Mary Democratic Club, named Club of the Year 2015 by the Alameda County’s Central Democratic Committee, will receive its first Pot Bowl benefit. The judges’ kits will be made available on January 6th.

Contact Herb Caine at Cannabis Insider at highsociety@7×7.com for announcements, tips, notes, and rumors. Herb Caine is a pseudonym for Bay Area cannabis reporter David Downs – a columnist, editor, and best-selling author. The Medical Marijuana Guide Book (Whitman) will be published in 2016.