Three years ago, as Oakland was set to become the legal pot capital of the US, Yan Ebyam, 33, sparked up his entrepreneurial spirit. He rented a massive warehouse boasting 456 grow lights in 16 rooms and set to work growing medical marijuana. His next effort, in a 40,000 square foot building, made national news as the first pot growing operation to be unionized under the Teamsters. Just a few short years after Ebyam got into the business, the statewide marijuana legalization initiative failed and he found himself in a lawsuit over the $1.25 million sale of his first operation. Ebyam's big Oakland facility has been repeatedly burglarized and that's only some of the bad news that's plagued him. The Bay Citizen tells the story of "The Rise and Fall of an Oakland Potrepreneur":
The letters in his first name stand for “yes and no.” His last name, also the creation of hippie parents, is “maybe” spelled backward. It’s perhaps fitting, then, that Yan Ebyam came to be neck deep in the murky, quasi-legal world of Oakland’s marijuana-growing industry...
In terms of background, Ebyam seems to have been born for his profession. His parents grew marijuana to put food on the table while raising him in Willits in Mendocino County, he said. But Ebyam rebelled against his hippie upbringing, seeking his fortune instead in Silicon Valley.
“When we were little, my brother surfed and I played computer games,” Ebyam recalled.
In his early 20s, he went into the business of buying and selling computer equipment from bankrupt start-ups. His venture ended badly when he was arrested and pleaded guilty to money laundering in the sale of more than $6 million worth of stolen Sun Microsystems servers and Cisco routers. He was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison, where, he said, he became an expert chess and Scrabble player.
Ebyam showed up in Oakland as the medical marijuana bubble was inflating three years ago. He started small but quickly broadened his ambitions, becoming partners with a Los Angles lawyer named Nathan Hoffman. The plan was to grow marijuana on a large scale and sell it to patients in Los Angeles. (Ebyam said his mother was “amused” that he had gone into the business.)