Saturday, September 9, 2017
Many industries have seen rapid changes in response to evolving marijuana laws. Next in line seems to be the technology sector. According to an article on the STAT medical site, venture firms and wealthy private investors in Silicon Valley are pumping money into the development of marijuana products--and not just for medicine.
VC firm Benchmark Capital recently invested $8 million in Hound Labs, a startup here in Oakland that’s developing a device for drivers — and law enforcement — to test whether they’re too buzzed to take the wheel.
And that’s just the start. Wealthy investors are pouring tens of millions into the cannabis industry in a bid to capitalize on the gold rush that’s expected when California legalizes recreational marijuana on Jan. 1. They’re backing development of new medicinal products, such as cannabis-infused skin patches; new methods for vaporizing and inhaling; and “budtender” apps like PotBot, which promises to scour 750 strains of cannabis and use lab research, including DNA analysis of each strain, to help customers find the perfect match.
Investors, in anticipation of a large increase in marijuana consumption due to the legalization of recreational marijuana on January 1st, have been rolling the dice and investing in products that incorporate the federally prohibited drug. But, as with all things, on the other end of the potentially lucrative rewards are great risks: civil and criminal liability under the Controlled Substances Act.
However, this risk is precisely what has given some of these investors the ability to step in. Because many public companies are prohibited from investing in marijuana, either contractually or by other federal law, private investors, though numerous, largely have first pick of which startups to invest in. Only time will tell if the decision to invest in the drug was a wise one.
-- Taylor Wood