May 7, 2016 8:10 AM

Marijuana to Occupy Place of Honor in Tech World

In 2012, Colorado passed a law legalizing marijuana for recreational use. It meant the implementation of a rigorous tracking system designed by the state in order to keep cannabis out of the black market. And it seemed to be a success: the crime rate has dropped, and the flow of tax revenue has reached $2 million a month. Is this the pot-friendly future many Americans are craving so much?

In fact, legal marijuana is the fastest-growing industry in the United States, even though it is allowed only in some parts of the country. If the trend spreads to the rest of the states, the cannabis market will become larger than, for example, the organic food industry.

Of course, the legal side of the operation is still pretty strict, but it does not mean that there is no money to be made. In the parlance of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, cannamarket is a classic “empty niche” with many opportunities.

Silicon-Cannabis Valley

Historically, the marijuana market has been run by gangsters and hippies, but the times are changing. More and more investors, biotechnologists, engineers, software developers, and scientists are getting close to the lucrative marijuana market. They believe that the game rules that apply to this field are the same as were used in the good old start-ups so familiar to Silicon Valley. Do you remember a commonplace about the gold rush days of San Francisco, when it was not the miners who got rich, but the people selling shovels? The entrepreneurs of the Bay Area believe that they could design better shovels.

There is a grain of truth in this. For example, WeedMaps, a crowdsourced catalog of legal dispensaries and pot shops gets an incredible annual revenue of around $30 million. And it is growing faster than the number of places vying to sell legal marijuana—exponentially.

Scanning the app's map, you may see a dazzling array of cannabis shops, most of which are dispensaries. Be sure that they are real and, moreover, are likely to be “open now.”

The medical marijuana movement is usually criticized for being supported only by stoners. In fact, it is no longer true. Most medical cannabis businesses specialize in goods that produce a non-psychoactive substance with incredibly potent medicinal properties―cannabidiol, or CBD.

Here, science and tech have joined hands in order to transform the industry. That is the reason why pharmaceutical pot businesses have been the most successful so far. Marijuana growing makes up the second largest segment. So, as you may see, marijuana is no longer about potency—it is about effectiveness.

Thriving Legal Market

Hand-held radio-frequency identification scanners track the growing of the plant; automatic trimmers cut away leaves and stems; cloud software does all the inventory management from seed to sale. There is even a prototype scissor designed to trim the harvest and help workers avoid injuries.

The weed market has not only its own infrastructure and producing tools but also consumer services such as social discovery and a check-in network called Leafly. This world's largest information resource for both recreational and medical cannabis consumers is a real pot encyclopedia.

Leafly is a California-founded resource with nearly 8 million monthly visitors and 40 million pageviewers. Two years ago, it became the first marijuana company to place its ad in the New York Times.

The topic of cannabis edibles and various supplies requires a separate discussion. Once limited to cookies and brownies with an uncertain THC content, cannabis-infused edibles have now turned into highly designed gourmet treats with clearly-defined active component levels. Ugly and awkward vaporizers were redesigned into wonderful portable devices that look so slick that they could be confused with a flash drive or a backup battery.

Although some people worry that the rapid growth of the cannabis industry is promoting teen use nationwide, the legalization and technologization have proven to contribute to more responsible, healthy, and conscious consumption.

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