Startups Are Poised to Cash In On Legalized Marijuana

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Marijuana Plants and Buds
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By Matt Rosoff

Marijuana may not be America's largest cash crop, as was long rumored, but it's still probably a $4 billion annual business.

As of last year, it's also legal to grow, own and use recreationally Colorado and Washington, with Alaska, the District of Columbia and Oregon soon to follow. It's approved for medical and other limited use in 18 more states. Entrepreneurs are racing to take advantage of the new laws and changing attitudes toward the drug. Here are the players and startups you need to watch:

Privateer and Its Connections
  • Privateer Holdings is a private equity firm that's making big investments in marijuana startups. Its CEO is 42-year-old Yale graduate Brendan Kennedy, and it counts Peter Thiel's Founders Fund among its investors.
  • Based out of Seattle, Leafly was one of the first new marijuana businesses, founded in 2010. It's like Yelp for reviewing strains of pot and dispensaries. Privateer bought the company in 2011.
  • Marley Natural, backed by reggae star Bob Marley's heirs and Privateer Holdings, aims to be the world's first global cannabis company, selling smokeable weed, topical oils and accessories. It's based in New York.
  • Tilray is a legal provider of medical marijuana in Canada. It's also received funding from Privateer.
Apps and Other Startups
  • Eaze is a mobile app that lets you get medical marijuana delivered to your door. You have to prove you have a medical card. It was founded by Keith McCarty, who was one of the first employees at Yammer, and it recently raised $10 million from several investors including rapper Snoop Dogg.
  • Weedmaps shows you the nearest pot dispensaries. It's based in Denver.
  • Meadow is another medical pot delivery service based in San Francisco. It recommends doctors who will issue a medical marijuana card, and its blog has helpful info like a video on how to roll a joint. It counts startup accelerator Y Combinator as an investor.
  • MassRoots is a "semi-anonymous" social network for pot users. It's raised over $1 million in funding, according to Crunchbase, and is based in Denver.
  • HighThere is basically like Tinder for pot users.
  • Grassp is a pot-delivery app based in Los Angeles that has raised $1.5 million in funding.
  • The ArcView Group is a San Francisco group that connects investors with marijuana startups.
  • Canadian Cannabis is another company focusing on medical distribution in Canada. It has $1.5 million in venture funding, according to Crunchbase.
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