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Monday, June 2, 2014

Silicon Valley Isn't Doing Much to Help Marijuana Legalization in California

Posted By on Mon, Jun 2, 2014 at 3:00 PM

click to enlarge If only ...
  • If only ...

The thing about the "disruption" economy is that it isn't. The tech companies that move fast don't really break things as much as they improve on an existing model (or profit by bypassing an existing model's regulations).

The tech industry has responded to the Drug War the same way it's dealt with taxi and hotel service: by letting it be.

All marijuana legalization needed to become a reality in California this year was money -- $2 million would have done the trick. Some tech billionaires ponied up a few hundred thousand dollars that went toward the 2010 failed legalization measure, Prop. 19. But this time around, with better polling and a much better shot to, you know, do something, Silicon Valley was silent.

Internet and technology moguls are seemingly uninterested in investing in pot-related companies, the San Francisco Chronicle reported this weekend, with the risk just being too damn high. Mustn't disrupt the cash flow, after all.

Why is Silicon Valley so reticent? It doesn't want to lose their shirt, in either a harebrained weed-fueled scheme or in any sort of unsavory legal dealings with the federal government.

At least one capitalist isn't afraid to call Silicon Valley out. Justin Hartfield of the VC firm Ghost Group, which runs -- one of the few tech-weed pairings to pan out -- says Silicon Valley is "out of touch" and full of tall-talkers who "head for the hills" when "real, legal disruption" is on the table.

He has a point. The money certainly isn't there. Of $8.5 billion in venture capital that originated in the area, only $51 million went to any marijuana-related venture, The National Venture Capital Association reported.

Every investment measures risk and reward, so it could be that capitalists are simply making surer bets. In California, where capital helps write the laws, that means being stuck in Prohibition for a few more years as well.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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