By Omar Sacirbey
Is global technology giant Google the latest major U.S. corporation to kick the tires of the marijuana industry?
It could be. Signs suggest the Mountain View, California-based company is exploring the opportunity to work with cannabis businesses.
An executive with Colorado-based LivWell Enlightened Health – one of the largest marijuana retail chains in the country – recently disclosed Google’s interest in the industry at an event for Congressman Jared Polis, a longtime supporter of the cannabis sector.
LivWell CEO John Lord told the audience that Google recently contacted him to see how it could help serve the industry.
According to Lord, Google reached out soon after Los Angeles-based Kind Financial announced last month that it has partnered with software giant Microsoft to offer seed-to-sale tracking systems for governments to keep track of marijuana commerce.
A LivWell spokesman confirmed the Google contact in a subsequent email to Marijuana Business Daily.
“I can confirm that Google did reach out and ask if we would be interested in speaking with them about the industry’s needs and how Google could potentially work with us to address them,” Matthew Givner, a LivWell spokesman, wrote in an email. “Beyond that there has been no communication.”
Google didn’t respond to requests for comment. It’s unclear if the tech giant has been in contact with other marijuana-related companies, why it reached out to LivWell specifically and what type of involvement it could have in the industry.
If Google were to become involved in the cannabis industry it would join a small but growing number of big corporations including Microsoft and Arrow Electronics, a Fortune 150 company that provides electronic components and services. Both have recently disclosed that they are working with cannabis-related companies.
To have a company the size and visibility of Google looking into the cannabis industry would provide a tremendous boost to marijuana businesses, according to one industry analyst.
And, in LivWell’s case, the company actually sells recreational and medical marijuana – unlike the two marijuana-related firms teamed with Microsoft and Arrow. Those two ancillary businesses 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,” California-based industry consultant Avis Bulbulyan said. “The more companies, the bigger the companies, the better it is for the industry.”
LivWell, which is headquartered in the Denver metro area, is one of the biggest marijuana retailers in Colorado, operating 14 shops around the state. It also has two cultivation sites. The company was founded in 2009.
Google’s parent, Alphabet Inc., ranks 36 on the Fortune 500 and employs more than 60,000 people. Its annual revenues total more than $70 billion.
Google is the parent company’s core unit, and is well known for web-based search, its lucrative advertising business, the Android mobile operating system, and the YouTube video network.
Google’s advertising services would be among the services that cannabis companies might find helpful.
Bulbulyan said that if Google is serious about reaching out to the cannabis industry it would certainly encourage other companies to do the same. “This will open doors for other companies to get involved,” he added
It may even reduce “cannaphobia” among big companies like Facebook and Instagram, Bulbulyan noted. Both have shut down cannabis accounts.
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft was the first major corporation to publicly disclose its involvement in the marijuana industry.
Less than a week later, MyDx – a San Diego maker of handheld chemical analyzers that allow consumers to check the potency of marijuana strains – announced that Arrow Electronics will help manufacture its line of analyzers.
While Microsoft and Arrow are partnering with specific companies, Bulbulyan wasn’t sure why Google would get involved with any one company, and speculated that its contact with LivWell was more out of a desire to help the industry.
Omar Sacirbey can be reached at [email protected]