These are heady times for the marijuana industry.
The air is thick with rumors about a possible re-scheduling of marijuana. The U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) teased the industry with a comment about considering rescheduling in the first half of 2016. When July 1st came and went with no announcement, the buzz around the topic only increased.
Speculation grew wild. A hoax was circulated, claiming, “U.S. Gov’t Will Legalize Marijuana on August 1.” Statements from the DEA were less than helpful. According to DEA staff coordinator Russ Baer, the federal government is having a tough time resolving the issue of a Schedule downgrade because its agencies have yet to “identify the parts of the plant that might have benefit.” Um… maybe it’s the flower? (And what part of the tobacco plant is beneficial, again..?)
It now looks like August 22 will be the date that the DEA will announce its decision.
Meanwhile, hints of rescheduling marijuana may be responsible for the recent interest of players that would never before have considered being associated with marijuana – big, established businesses. How big? Google big.
About a month ago, Kind Financial in Los Angeles announced that it is partnering with Microsoft to develop and market seed-to-sale tracking software for federal regulation of marijuana. Shortly after, CEO John Lord, of Colorado-based LivWell Enlightened Health – one of the country’s biggest marijuana retail chains – revealed that he had been contacted by Google to “to see how it could help serve the industry. “
News that a giant like Google is setting aside cannaphobia and considering working with the marijuana industry is huge. The validation that such a move confers would give a dramatic boost to the industry.
Even more significant is the nature of the business that Google reached out to, LivWell. Previously, even those companies who were considering taking a tentative hit off the marijuana market have been quick to recoil from any association with a business that “touches” the plant. Associating with a business that actually grows, harvests, processes and sells marijuana has been considered a third-rail issue – deadly, from a corporate point of view.
But LivWell actually sells marijuana, both recreational and medical marijuana. The two previous big business firms that have gotten involved – Microsoft and the Fortune 150 company Arrow – are working with businesses that don’t “touch” the marijuana plant but instead provide cannabis-related services and products.
“Any time a gigantic corporation gets involved with a company that ‘touches’, that’s phenomenal,” said Avis Bulbulyan, a California-based industry consultant. “The more companies, the bigger the companies, the better it is for the industry.”
It’s enough to make you dizzy.
Does that mean that Google-branded pot will be the best big thing? Don’t hold your breath.
But it’s clear that the budding interest in the marijuana industry isn’t going away. There is an unmistakable smell in the air. It’s the sweet, intoxicating smell … of money.