Just back from acquiring LinkedIn or Wand Labs, both of which are tech oriented and complies with Microsoft’s credentials in the tech field, the Redmond giant is focusing an entirely different kind of venture, one that deals with marijuana.
The company’s role though will be limited to providing the software support to LA-based pot start-up Kind Financial to allow for ‘seed to sale’ kind of tracking of the weeds. Microsoft would be providing the support via its Azure Government Cloud platform.
Kind has been a client of Microsoft’s Azure cloud since 2014. The latest move can be considered the culmination of about 9-months of negotiations that would mark the company’s inclusion into Azure Government, a separate cloud entity whose security and restrictions are in tune with the federal regulations.
“Kind agreed that Azure Government is the only cloud platform designed to meet government standards for the closely regulated cannabis compliance programs, and we look forward to working together to help our government customers launch successful regulatory programs,” said Kimberly Nelson, executive director of Microsoft’s state and local government solutions division.
That makes for a bold and possibly risky move for a company of the stature of Microsoft to be involved in something that is still considered a taboo in various parts in the US. That’s also the reason why others might have stayed clear of such business though there sure is money involved in it. Marijuana sales touched $5.7 billion in 2015 and are pegged to reach $22 billion by 2020.
The above development also comes at a time when medical usage of marijuana has already been legalized in 25 states. Its recreational use is already legal in several states, and a few more, including the state of California, will go to vote on it this fall.
Marijuana though is still considered illegal by the federal government and is hence subject to strict monitoring. That makes its sale an extremely closely guarded affair. It is also here that companies like Kind come into relevance, offering means to regulate the entire spectrum of the marijuana business, right from seeds to its processing and eventual sale, all this while complying with the state and federal regulations.
What remains to be seen though is whether other companies follows in the footsteps of Microsoft and invest in the marijuana business.