As the legal marijuana industry progressively grows across America, so does the need for regulation and proper tracking so that the black market doesn’t grow along with it. Seeing the opportunity for high profits in the new industry, Microsoft has taken the leap and become the first big tech company to get involved with legal marijuana. Microsoft is joining forces with Kind Financial, a cannabis compliance company, to create an initiative called “Microsoft Health and Human Services Pod for Managed Service Providers.” The companies are working together to develop high tech “seed to sale” tracking technology.
A Parallel to the Alcohol Industry
Kind Financial is a Los Angeles based company that currently sells a marijuana tracking and compliance platform called Agrisoft Seed to Sale. The tech will now be run on Microsoft’s Azure Government Cloud. Its resulting service will allow city, county and state officials to trace and track all local marijuana sales and clients, helping governments monitor their local industry. Ultimately it is designed to stop marijuana from being sold illegally, as the focus now turns towards running cannabis as a regulated industry like alcohol. In fact, a recent paper released in Brookings by John Hudak and Johnathan Rauch entitled “Worry about bad marijuana — not Big Marijuana” predicts that as legalization and regulation continues to happen, the marijuana industry will become just like the alcohol industry.
“Coming Out” for Legal Marijuana
With the legal cannabis market on the rise, opportunities have opened in many potentially supportive industries. Startup tech companies have jumped in, providing valuable pot-related services, but bigger companies have steered clear of getting involved until now. Matthew A. Karnes, the founder of marijuana data company Green Wave Advisors, told The New York Times, “Nobody has really come out of the closet, if you will. It’s very telling that a company of this caliber is taking the risk of coming out and engaging with a company that is focused on the cannabis business.”
The Prospects of Cannabusiness
Legal marijuana has become an industry that is revitalizing the economic health of every state with which it is involved. Twenty five states have now legalized medical marijuana and 5 states (Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and D.C.) have legalized recreational cannabis. Many states are set to vote this year on marijuana-related laws. Several will be voting on legalizing medical marijuana, while some, like California and Nevada will be voting on whether to legalize recreational marijuana. Cities like Atlantic City are looking into legalization as a way of dealing with a current economic crisis. The medical and financial benefits have become too apparent to ignore.
ArcView Market Research released a report called “The State of Legal Marijuana Markets” that states, “Legal sales have been a boon for state coffers in markets like Colorado where the state was expected to generate $135 million in cannabis taxes and licenses fees in 2015, a 77 percent increase over the $76 million the state raised in 2014. In Washington, the first year of legal sales generated $70 million in tax revenues from sales of $257 million, a significant windfall even after product shortages and pricing instability plagued the program during its early months.” Legal sales, reached nationally in 2015, hit $5.7 billion. They are estimated to increase to 7.1 billion in 2016. With numbers like that, it’s an industry that can’t be ignored for too long. This seems to be the reasoning for the leap made by Microsoft as they move into the future.