Microsoft Enters the Marijuana Business

In a move that is a harbinger of increased corporate acceptance of and interest in marijuana legalization and the legal marijuana industry, tech giant Microsoft Thursday announced it is becoming partners with a marijuana industry software company, Kind Financial. That makes Microsoft the first major tech company to lend its name to the growing but still—in some quarters—controversial industry.

Microsoft won't be growing or selling dope, but it will work with Kind Financial on the company's "seed to sale" tracking services for marijuana cultivators. The services allow growers to track inventory, handle transactions, and navigate legal hurdles in what is becoming a highly regulated legal pot industry.

Marijuana is legal in four states and the District of Columbia, and California's wide open medical marijuana scene is already a multi-billion dollar business, and tech start-ups with dollar signs in their eyes have been flocking to the industry in hopes of raking in some of that green gold. But the big corporate players have, up until now, shied away, citing concerns about the industry's legal status and worries that stockholders will see their involvement as something shady.

"[My company ]has stayed away from investing in the cannabis industry because it’s like investing in the porn industry," Zach Bogue, a venture capital investor, told The New York Times. "I’m sure there's a lot of money to be made, but it’s just not something we want to invest in."

But now Microsoft has broken through the grass ceiling.

"Nobody has really come out of the closet, if you will," Matthew A. Karnes, the founder of marijuana data company Green Wave Advisors, told The New York Times. "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."

Microsoft and marijuana is a natural, said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. (NORML).

"If you are trying to go big macro strategy at a company like Microsoft, and you want a super diverse portfolio, and you’re located largely in a place where you can visibly see the marijuana commerce happening, and of course maybe your employees and others are engaged in that commerce, why wouldn’t the company invest in it?” he told The Washington Post.

What's next? General Motors getting behind a hempmobile? Stay tuned as marijuana goes mainstream. 

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