The port city of Seattle is rife with dilapidated buildings, which gives it a unique industrial funk in stark contrast to the gleaming tech hub high-rises. The remaining rusted corrugated shells of a bygone era that relied heavily on timber, railroads and manufacturing, appear unkempt and vacant. However, stepping into the crisp Pacific Northwest breeze reveals a distinctly sweet and sticky aroma in the air.
Upon invitation, I stepped inside one such chain-linked warehouse within walking distance of the Seahawks’ iconic CenturyLink Field. It revealed a world of vast ceilings, overhead industrial cranes, grimy transom windows, massive riveted steel beams, and a maze of balconies and catwalks reminiscent of New York City’s SoHo district 20 years ago. Perhaps that is why Josh Kirby, a hoody-wearing native New Yorker, and founder of OAKOR™, seems so relaxed in this accidentally hip environment where a creative alchemy of young like-minded startups are forging the new legal marijuana industry in Washington state.
Kirby’s OAKOR manufactures cannabis-infused medicated breath slips in a diminutive loft studio. Each slip is a tiny square of gel similar to a Listerine Breath Strip; however, these slips are placed under the tongue for optimal sublingual absorption. Kirby is the embodiment of an entrepreneur: inventive, dedicated and working with tight financial resources. Articulate and casual, he explained the genesis of his product development, a sensation at the recent Seattle Cannabis Cup, where he garnered second place in the edible category and personally distributed 3,000 samples of his peppermint curiosities, explaining “enhanced bioavailability” of THC to festival attendees.
Is this the face of a future heavy hitter in the world of legal cannabis? Kirby is hopeful. He is contemplating expansion opportunities into other medical marijuana states via licensing agreements and recently partnered with Mary’s Medicinals, another innovative marijuana products manufacturer of a medicated transdermal patch. Dare I call it a “stop smoking patch”? Placed on the skin much like a Band-aid, it delivers marijuana through the dermis.
When asked why he created a sublingual cannabis “Breath Slip” product, Kirby explained that after a year of research he realized that bioavailability optimization was fast, effective and discreet. OAKOR recently began purveying their infused products to medical marijuana access points in Washington.
Kirby’s company has also applied for a license under the new adult recreational marketplace, a heavily regulated process taking longer than anticipated by many applicants. However, there is little doubt that the burgeoning marijuana industry is having a profound effect on the future of business in Seattle and perhaps the nation.