Call it a sign of the (high) times.
After the legalization of medical or recreational marijuana in more than 20 states, Microsoft on Thursday will announce its first-ever partnership with a software company that supports the burgeoning cannabis industry.
The collaboration involves Kind Financial, a Los Angeles-based start-up company that makes technology and tools for marijuana-related businesses to navigate the myriad rules and regulations in states across the country that allow the sale of marijuana. Kind sells what it calls "Agrisoft Seed to Sale software," that lets growers track their plants from planting to the point of sale, and it provides kiosks that cannabis businesses use for cash management inside their stores.
It's the first time Microsoft has done a marijuana industry-related partnership, a Microsoft official told CNBC on Thursday. But the company's founder, at least, is not unaware of the issue. Bill Gates told BuzzFeed in a 2014 interview that he voted "yes" on the legalization of marijuana in his home state of Washington. "It's an experiment, and it's probably good to have a couple states try it out to see before you make that national policy," he said at the time.
Now that experiment has turned into a business opportunity for the software behemoth. According to Kind, the deal announced Thursday involves Kind participating in Microsoft's newly created Microsoft health and human services pod for managed service providers. That means Kind's products will be available to customers using Microsoft's Azure government cloud product.
In a press release set to go out Thursday, Kimberly Nelson, Microsoft's executive director of state and local government solutions, said, "Kind's strategic industry positioning, experienced team and top-notch-technology running in the Microsoft Azure Government cloud, made for an easy decision to align efforts."
Kind's CEO, David Dinenberg, said "No one can predict the future of cannabis legalization, however, it is clear that legalized cannabis will always be subject to strict oversight and regulations similar to alcohol and tobacco; and, Kind is proud to offer governments and regulatory agencies the tools and technology to monitor cannabis compliance."