Legal weed is now a thing in parts of the US, and Microsoft wants in on some of the money generated by those clouds of pungent smoke. The company is partnering with a weed startup and becoming the first big corporation that’ll touch the weed industry with a proverbial bargepole.
Let’s be real: the software itself, made in partnership with an LA-based startup called Kind, is a bit boring. Microsoft still isn’t getting near the actual plants, just offering a product (part of its cloud computing business) that helps weed businesses – like dispensaries and farms – track sales and not violate government compliance laws. What’s more notable is that Microsoft would even foray into the world of weed, even if the company is based in Washington state where cannabis is legal.
Twenty states have legalised weed for medicinal use, and a further four have legalised it totally (Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska), with five more to vote on it this autumn. Weed is saving start-ups, but until now even something as bland as “government compliance software” has seemed controversial when associated with something illegal at the federal level. Matthew A. Karnes, who runs a company that provides data on the cannabis business, tells the New York Times that it’s “very telling that a company of this caliber is taking the risk of coming out” and working with such a business. He sees more partnerships on the way.
It’s likely Microsoft is able to do this because it is such a stalwart and well-established business, letting it take risks that less-established companies can’t do yet. [New York Times]