According to the New York Times, Microsoft is the first major company to offer support for software tracking for legal marijuana companies, from "seed to sale." While marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the US federal government, commercial sale and personal possession are legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state. In Washington, D.C., possession is legal, but commercial sale is not.
For the most part, banks and businesses have shied away from supporting marijuana companies, but the tide appears to be changing. Microsoft is the first big-name company to break the line and support new software developed by a Los Angeles-based start-up, Kind. With the help of Microsoft Azure, Kind's software was developed to help states where marijuana medical and non-medical use is legalized to keep track of sales and commerce to make sure every sale of marijuana is legitimate and not crossing any legal boundaries.
Kind offers number of different marijuana business products, including an ATM that dispenses marijuana instead of money. Microsoft will be working with Kind's government solutions division to offer software to state and local governments to help build compliance software to help keep track of all the marijuana sales.
Another five states will vote on legalizing marijuana for recreational use this Fall, including the third biggest state in the US, California. Twenty-five states have legalized marijuana for medical use, with the step towards recreational use not so far away.
Kimberly Nelson, executive director of state and local government solutions at Microsoft, thinks there is a good opportunity available for Microsoft by partnering with Kind and helping market the software that Kind developed:
“We do think there will be significant growth. As the industry is regulated, there will be more transactions, and we believe there will be more sophisticated requirements and tools down the road. This is an entirely new field for us. We would have to figure out which conference might be the premier conference in this space. That’s not outside the realm of possibility.”
For the pot industry, Microsoft partnering with a marijuana business like Kind is a huge step towards legitimacy for marijuana businesses. David Dinenberg, CEO, and founder of Kind, is excited about his company's partnership with Microsoft:
“Every business that works in the cannabis space, we all clamor for legitimacy. I would like to think that this is the first of many dominoes to fall.”
Microsoft is certainly turning heads these days after its recent purchase of LinkedIn. There's no telling what company or industry Microsoft will partner with next.