Microsoft Just Endorsed Legal Marijuana in a Huge Way

stethoscope on laptopWith the exception of same-sex marriage, no issue has seen a greater shift in public opinion that marijuana legalization, and the budding industry just got a major endorsement from an unlikely source: Microsoft.

Right now, recreational and medical marijuana exists in a legal grey area, caught between states that have legalized the drug to some degree and federal law, which still treats marijuana and its derivatives as a Schedule I drug.

But this June Microsoft has entered the new marijuana compliance field. And according to Quartz, the objective is “to provide a tracking service that helps state governments keep tabs on newly legalized medical and recreational marijuana.”

Right now, there’s a patchwork of recreational and medicinal pot laws around the country. California has legalized marijuana in all but name, under the thin (very thin) veneer of “medical marijuana.” New York has a legitimate medical marijuana law, with tight regulations on the prescription of medical marijuana products. Then there’s Colorado and Washington, which just went ahead and made recreational marijuana legal, full stop.

To help states keep tabs on this new industry, Microsoft has partnered with KIND Financial. The California startup originally developed a platform that allowed pot dispensaries to accept electronic payments. Because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, most banks and financial services companies refuse to work with the industry.

But that may be changing, now that Microsoft has gotten on board. Together, Microsoft and KIND Financial are working on a “seed-to-sale” tracking system that will allow state governments to more closely monitor local marijuana businesses.

Why would Microsoft enter the marijuana industry? The computer giant is trying to increase the size of its cloud computing division, which is losing badly to Amazon. Today, at least 35% of all IT services are delivered through the cloud, and the technology is growing at an incredible rate. Or, at least, the Amazon Web Services division is.

Some tech writers have said that Microsoft is “willing to risk its reputation” to access this growth market, but with a majority of Americans now in favor of marijuana legalization, the risk might not be so great after all.

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