At the time of this writing, recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia. Illinois’ newly elected governor, J.B. Pritzker, made legalizing recreational marijuana use part of his campaign.
It remains to be seen how many states will fully legalize marijuana and if the federal government will change its stance on the issue. But Chicago’s tech community isn’t known to wait for new opportunities to arise. The city is home to a handful of technology companies that are carving out a place in the budding cannabis industry. Here are five you should keep an eye on.
For evidence that the cannabis industry is big business, look no further than Green Thumb Industries. GTI is a national marijuana cultivator, processor and dispensary operator. Since launching in 2014, the company has grown to 600 employees nationally, 50 of which are based in its Chicago headquarters. The company takes a tech-driven approach to cultivation, using data-driven analytics to create strains that are designed to meet a variety of consumer needs.
Online ordering and delivery apps make buying marijuana a breeze for consumers, but the process is a lot different for dispensaries, many of which still place wholesale orders over email and even SMS. Leaf Trade’s platform is designed to streamline and simplify this process. Dispensaries can browse trending products, earn loyalty bonuses and request marketing materials and samples. For vendors, the platform helps with delivery logistics, cross-team collaboration and fulfillment and reporting. Leaf Trade was recently named in our list of 50 Chicago startups to watch in 2019.
Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, many banks are reluctant to do business with cannabis companies, which leaves dispensaries with little choice but to be cash-only businesses. CannTrac has developed an app that enables dispensaries to collect payments from buyers electronically. Users can load money onto the CannCard app through their checking account, debit card, credit card or at dispensaries. In addition to paying in-store, the app also features online ordering, with a rewards system on the way.
Investor capital can be hard to come by for startups in the cannabis industry, for obvious reasons. On the flip side, it can be hard for investors interested in the space to connect with founders in such a nascent industry. CannaFundr bridges this gap using the crowdfunding model. The platform connects entrepreneurs in need of capital with both individual investors and funds. CannFundr offers the option to syndicate deals, which gives investors with less to spend — individual investments typically range from $2,000 to $10,000 — the ability to participate in larger deals.
While cannabis is rapidly becoming more socially acceptable, not everyone wants to share their opinions on marijuana via traditional social media channels. Kannatopia was launched to give marijuana users 21 and over a safe place to connect and share reviews and guides on everything from strains to accessories and dispensaries. Businesses can also create profiles on Kannatopia to advertise and connect with consumers, which can be surprisingly difficult on larger social media sites with ever-changing user guidelines.