Microsoft Enters the Cannabusiness

By Zachary Siegel 06/17/16

Microsoft new taboo-breaking partnership is "bringing legitimacy" to legal weed commerce. 

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Microsoft Enters the Cannabusiness

Microsoft made tech history this week with its acquisition of professional networking site LinkedIn for a whopping $26 billion. But the software giant again made headlines on Thursday for partnering with an unlikely yet infinitely more interesting industry—cannabis.  

No, Microsoft isn’t selling pot. Rather, it partnered with KIND Financial, a Los Angeles-based tech startup that helps businesses in the cannabis industry navigate and comply with the maze-like rules and regulations that vary widely between states that allow the sale of marijuana. 

KIND Financial provides what it calls “Agrisoft Seed to Sale software,” which allows growers to track their plants as they move from seedlings and clones all the way to the point of sale in bud-form. They also provide canna-businesses with resources to manage their cash inside stores. This is important, because businesses dealing in weed are still not allowed to hold their funds in federal banks, creating the conundrum of too much cash with nowhere to put it. (Note: There are worse problems to have.) 

Ahead of the announcement, David Dinenberg, KIND’s CEO, told Tom Angell at Marijuana.com how Microsoft will help their business. “We get staff at Microsoft whose sole job is to help us win government contracts,” he said. What’s in it for Microsoft? “They get increased revenue if [KIND] wins contracts and [the] software is housed on Microsoft’s Azure platform. I buy more server space from them.” 

A spokesperson for Microsoft told Angell that its Azure cloud platform offers a level of security that is HIPPA compliant, so the identities of medical marijuana users remain safeguarded. 

Though this is Microsoft’s first entry into the burgeoning cannabis industry, the partnership, however, did not come out of left field. During a 2014 interview with BuzzFeed, Bill Gates said that he voted "yes" on the legalization of marijuana in his home state of Washington. "It's an experiment, and it's probably good to have a couple states try it out to see before you make that national policy," he said. 

Many argue the experiment has yielded a net positive. For instance, excess tax dollars have gone to helping homeless families, and states with medical marijuana see lower rates of opioid overdoses than states where marijuana is not available. 

Dinenberg told Marijuana.com that he predicts more and more companies—who may currently be skeptical of the weed boom—will soon get involved. He called Microsoft’s move a “first crack in large businesses looking at the industry,” saying it “brings legitimacy” to legal weed commerce. 

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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