Media outlets are saturated with the latest and greatest piece of news in the cannabis industry: Microsoft is joining the world of cannabis compliance. For those of you who have not heard, last Thursday, the Washington-based technology giant announced its partnership with KIND Financial, a Los Angeles-based startup that provides financial services to companies and regulators involved in the sale of medical and recreational cannabis in the United States. Publicized mere days after medical cannabis legalization in Ohio, Microsoft’s participation is a momentous action that further legitimizes this fast-developing industry.
While small technology companies have serviced legal dispensaries and cultivators for years, Microsoft’s association with KIND marks the first time a well-known and heretofore non-cannabis-related multinational has associated its name with the industry. Because of cannabis’s nebulous legal status outside of certain intrastate markets, established businesses have largely shied away from taking part in the cannabis industry. As a result, cannabusinesses frequently lack access to fundamental banking services, regulatory guidance, and opportunities to meet with investors.
Considering the general business community’s broad resistance to legal cannabis thus far, Microsoft’s move is an adventurous one, and its partnership with KIND appears all the more significant.
KIND aspires to become a pioneer in the cannabis financial space. The company, one of several in the financial and seed to sale space, offers services for corporate and government clients alike with an emphasis on safety, security, and compliance. Its suite of financial solutions includes consulting, seed to sale monitoring, and a mobile payment and loyalty program. Additionally, KIND manages an investment fund for cannabis industry ventures.
Microsoft will offer Agrisoft, KIND’s crop tracking platform for regulatory agencies, to government users of Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing infrastructure. Although Microsoft will not play a part in directly developing any of KIND’s technology, the two companies’ affiliation will streamline compliance processes and lend credibility to the cannabis industry as a whole.
Although this is certainly great news for KIND, I would be remiss if I did not also take the opportunity to remark upon the symbolism of this announcement. The small- and medium-sized businesses which dominate the legal cannabis market have vociferously fought—and are continuing to fight—a battle for legitimacy over the past several years. Though the sheer number of states opting to create legal cannabis programs lately demonstrates a sea change in the way our citizenry and legislators are viewing this important public health and policy debate, industry insiders recognize that a true sense of legitimacy requires more than local pockets of economic activity.
Access to banking and lending, reasonable tax laws, and regulatory consistency will come only when a large portion of the American public sees that what cannabusinesses are trying to do is to offer a much-needed product (as well as ancillary services) to patients sorely in need of the same. Microsoft may not be planning to grow or dispense cannabis, but the company’s willing association with this dynamic industry is in my view a portent of things to come.
For more information and updates from the intersection of cannabis, business, technology, and the law, visit Offit Kurman’s Medical Cannabis Practice group.
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