By David Jackson, MBA
America may not be able to figure out its relationship to cannabis, but Silicon Valley can – and their weed industry is aiming sky-high.
While cannabis is still prohibited on a federal level, in practice, states are in charge of their own legislation on the issue. This means there is no unified cannabis policy from state to state, and an American citizen can find herself becoming a criminal, just by crossing a state line.
Federal Law & Cannabis
Cannabis is legal for recreational purposes in 8 states, meaning that the buying, selling and smoking of marijuana can happen publicly. In 13 others, its decriminalized, which allows an individual to possess a small amount without the threat of prosecution, but selling and trafficking will get you arrested.
29 states have legalized medical marijuana, but the specifics of the policy differ from state to state. In California, you can buy medical weed from a dispensary, whereas in Alaska, you can only grow your own weed for medical purposes at home.
Because of this disparate legislation, if you’re selling a vaporizer for weed, you can’t call it a weed vape. In federal law, marijuana is still a schedule 1 drug, which means any paraphernalia that aids the drugs consumption can be federally prohibited.
You can make a gadget for pot and sell it, but you can’t include its real function in any of your marketing. If you do, you risk being banned from selling in some states, making running a national operation nigh on impossible. You are also prohibited from importing any drug paraphernalia from abroad, so if you have a factory in Vietnam, your product won’t be allowed in. That’s why you’ll always read about the best dry herb vaporizer, never the best weed vaporizer.
Despite the shady legality, in the tech hub of the U.S. people are more exciting about the developing weed industry than ever before.
Silicon Valley & Weed: A Love Affair
Lots of people working in Silicon Valley cut their teeth in tech during the dot com boom. It’s hard to believe now, with the dominance of giants such as Facebook and Google, but the early days of the internet were times of great financial risk, which fueled the excitement surrounding it.
Some Silicon Valley investors are chasing the wild-west days of the early internet. They’re looking for a developing industry which still has a sense of danger about it, which offers great returns – and the new legal marijuana industry is just that. The new administration has made the future of federal legalization uncertain, but the astonishing demand for weed signals strong profits.
California is one of the biggest states to offer full legalization, and it’s no coincidence that Silicon Valley, one of California’s biggest money-makers, is getting in on the action. There’s millions of dollars to be made in providing software and ancillary services to the growing marijuana industry, and even more money to be made in developing vape-technology.
The weed industry appeals to another habit of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, which is using science and tech to disrupt areas that were formally the province of hippies and gang-lords. Some of the brightest minds in tech are seizing the opportunity to get involved with this very young and very hip industry.
Young engineers and industry experts – from companies as big as Apple and Google – are leaving their desk jobs to apply their expertise to making a breakout product in this growing industry. Just like cryptocurrency before it, Silicon Valley types are eager to quickly make leeway in this new arena. The willingness of these entrepreneurs, to risk great losses when tempted by great profits, is the heritage of a reckless streak in Californian business that can be traced back to the Gold Rush.
Silicon Valley STEM types are at an advantage when it comes to the burgeoning weed industry, because some of the developments which offer huge profits cannot be created without a background in science and tech. As with every other industry, if you can develop an app that consumers find useful, you can make a fortune.
Nowadays, there is an abundance of marijuana apps operating out of Silicon Valley. There’s WeedMaps, where you can look for weed shops in your area and see their customer ratings. There’s also Leafy, where consumer’s review and discuss different strains of pot. There’s a glut of Instagram-esque apps where people post and like different pictures of pot.
Not only can you find apps, but you’ll also find vape engineers. Some of the biggest developments in tobacco and ‘dry herb’ vaping come out of Silicon Valley. The tech-hub has become a place where people believe in pushing toward the future, so there’s less fear of new industry risks. This fearlessness, combined with tech-savvy, is about to create a lot of Silicon Valley engineers, investors and entrepreneurs, with very high bank balances.