Legalized Marijuana Could Drive A New Tech Boom
The revolution to legalize marijuana is marching slowly—but steadily—forward. Half of the states in the United States plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana or cannabis for medical use, and more states are legalizing recreational use with each election cycle. In the recent election, California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine all passed ballot measures to legalize for recreational use.
Even in states where marijuana is technically illegal, law enforcement tends to look the other way for all but the most egregious offenses. The reality is that there is no common sense argument that allows for cigarettes and alcohol to be legal while marijuana is not. Both cigarettes and alcohol are verifiably more harmful than marijuana.
Those most strongly opposed to legalizing marijuana object because of money, not the health or welfare of society. The tobacco and alcohol industries lobby heavily against legalizing marijuana because it threatens their respective monopolies on our vices. Law enforcement and the prison industry are opposed to legalizing marijuana because it would impact the ability to cash in on a steady flow of inmates charged with petty possession.
Despite widespread fear mongering and dire predictions of the demise of society as we know it, Colorado has flourished since legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Retail stores, cultivation facilities, and manufacturers have popped up and employ thousands. The industry brings in over a hundred million in state taxes annually. Law enforcement can focus on more heinous crimes.
All-in-all, legalizing marijuana has been a huge success in Colorado. Many states sat on the sidelines to see what impact it would have in Colorado, but now that they see how well it’s going lawmakers are introducing legislation to capitalize on the benefits in their own states.
Along with the various production and retail businesses that spring up when marijuana is legalized, there are also a variety of tech opportunities. As marijuana becomes a bigger industry across the entire country, it could drive a boom in marijuana-related tech.
I recently had an opportunity to speak with the team at ShowGrow. David Barakett, CEO of ShowGrow, went from being the youngest owner of a Century 21 real estate office to launching a business in the medical marijuana industry. ShowGrow has 4 retail dispensaries currently, and is poised to take advantage of the growing market—in large part thanks to technology.
I spoke with Michael Simonian, co-owner of ShowGrow, and Jarrod Barakett, Chief Cultivation Officer, about the operation. Jarrod explained, “A year ago, we were forced to look at the greenhouse sector for the tools we require whereas now there are more coming online that are focused on cannabis.”
When you’re just growing a couple plants in a closet in your house, you can get your lighting from a hardware store and your tubing from an aquarium store and just sort of piecemeal something together. When you’re running a company and growing a marijuana crop at scale, however, you need to apply some technology and business intelligence or you will quickly go out of business.
Just as an IT admin can remotely monitor and manage a datacenter, Barakett is able to remotely monitor and manage his crop thanks to technology. He told me that technology enables ShowGrow to remotely monitor soil temperature, soil salinity, soil moisture, air temperature, CO2 levels, humidity, lighting, irrigation inputs, and fertilizer inputs. Using the metrics from that data, ShowGrow can automate and control the temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, lighting, irrigation, and fertilization to ensure optimal growing conditions and maximize crop output.
At a recent industry tradeshow in Nevada, ShowGrow launched a new initiative to license its model and help others get into the marijuana industry. ShowGrow can basically provide a turnkey system that can help someone launch a successful business.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. There will be other innovative solutions to emerge—new tools and platforms that refine or improve on what ShowGrow is doing as the industry matures. There will also be a spike in retail or customer-focused technology. Apps to help you find a dispensary or choose the best strains of marijuana—sort of like Untappd, but for marijuana instead of beer.
Will smoking and driving be an issue? I am sure it will to some extent—just as drinking and driving is an issue for alcohol and health issues and secondhand smoke are for cigarettes. There are down sides, but they’re minimal and manageable and don’t compare to the economic, medical, recreational and other benefits that come from legalizing marijuana. It should be interesting to watch as the industry expands and matures, and new technologies emerge.