Jetty Extracts co-founder Matt Lee says the plan that would ultimately become the Shelter Project came to him while surfing in Costa Rica two years ago.
“I had one of those Zen moments where you come out of the water feeling all good and full of ideas,” he says. “I had all the time in the world, so I went back to my little cabana and wrote up a whole business plan. When I got back to the States, I was all fired up and implemented it.”
The Shelter Project has been around for almost as long as Jetty Extracts, which was born in San Diego in 2013. The vape oil company operated out of several places across California before the founders chose Oakland for its base of operations. Lee says the city’s “historic, progressive views” on cannabis were one of the determining factors that landed Jetty in Oakland, where they’ve made a solid business out of manufacturing extracts often used in vaporizers and other paraphernalia.
The Shelter Project started with Lee and others simply giving oil to friends, friends of friends, and family suffering from various illnesses.
“At some point, we realized that, at the time, we were probably of one five companies in the state, maybe in the U.S., that had the ability to give away free oil,” Lee recalls. “A lot of people can do a lot of great things — give away money, give away food, give away clothes — but access to free cannabis oil was a pretty cool thing given the price tag. It’s not cheap, but being a manufacturer allowed us to suck up a lot of the cost.”
Word began to spread as Lee spoke to other members of the industry and placed materials on Jetty displays at dispensaries that read: “One for You, One for Cancer.” Currently. the program sends more than 400 patients a monthly care package, but Lee hopes to see that number continue to grow.
Ideally, no one would ever try to take advantage of a company’s altruistic efforts to provide cancer patients with free medicine, but Lee confides that a “few bad actors” have slipped through so far. By and large, however, the program — which does rely to a large extent on the honor system — has not been plagued with ill-intentioned oil seekers, he says. Interest in the project has inspired Lee to bring on a manager.
“Lindsey [Freeman] is awesome,” Lee enthuses. “She’s writing handwritten notes to a lot of these patients. She knows them on a personal level. They’re sending her thank you cards. These are people that are a part of her life. It’s very personal, and a tough job for her, because the outcome isn’t always pretty.”
In one instance, a patient requested a suppository form of the medicine, so Freeman went out and “made it happen,” according to Lee. “All of a sudden, we have suppositories,” he says. “We don’t sell that, that’s not our product, but we make them specifically for our patients.”
Other patients have requested oils with specific cannabidiol (CBD) ratios, which inspired Lee and Jetty to team-up with various growers and dispensaries. Recently, industry heavyweight Harborside Health Center donated six pounds of high-CBD trim, which Lee says is just the latest example of an organization welcoming the opportunity to help contribute to the project.
“All of these businesses want to help, they want to give back — they just don’t know how — but we have never been turned down,” he says. “If someone wants to grow their own medicine, we have hydroponic stores that will donate used equipment. We have consultants that will help them set up grows. With Shelter, we can fully focus on all of their individual needs.”
Jetty Extracts also recently gave back to the community in another way: by partially funding and helping to facilitate the Ghost Ship memorial mural painted by Vogue on East 12th Street between 22nd and 23rd avenues. Lee says the project “figured itself out,” with Sage Loring of Fuming Gorilla helping to coordinate Vogue, get paints donated by Montana Paints, a lift donated by the operator, and a building near the fire site willing to spare a wall.
Lee is hesitant to take any credit on Jetty’s behalf.
“I mean, of course we want to be a part of the community, but the mural was more like a side thing that I think the city needed, that the families needed. It was just a good thing to add to the city,” he says.