Chem Tales: Army Vet Finds Second Life in Cannabis

How Socrates Rosenfeld went from piloting Apache helicopters to partnering with dispensaries.

Ask someone to envision what the “face of cannabis” might look like, and they’re probably not going to imagine Socrates Rosenfeld.

Clean-cut, tan, and muscular, he does not resemble the caricature of an aging hippie selling plastic-wrapped brownies. Thankfully, that misguided trope is beginning to fade, but it still might come as a surprise to learn that a respected military veteran serves as CEO of a cannabis-technology company.

A West Point graduate, Rosenfeld is a Boston native who served in both Korea and Iraq. Originally commissioned into the military as an Apache helicopter pilot, he later trained to be part of the U.S. Army Rangers. However, it wasn’t until Rosenfeld had left active duty to attend graduate school at MIT that he first tried cannabis.

“I was 29 the first time I consumed it,” Rosenfeld confirms. “I used cannabis for the first time ever in hopes of trying to turn down the volume of my intensity level.”

While Rosenfeld counts himself fortunate to have ended his military tenure with his health intact, he believes it’s important for people to understand that as a veteran, you don’t need to suffer from PTSD for cannabis to offer medicinal value.

“It allowed me to really find balance and presence again,” he explains. “I think, if you talk to most military veterans, they’ll tell you that what cannabis allows is the ability to connect with your own self again, outside of the uniform.”

As Rosenfeld continued to use cannabis, his education at MIT provided an irresistible opportunity to combine two passions. After spending a few years as a consultant for Silicon Valley’s McKinsey & Company, he decided to launch Jane Technologies — a company determined to become an Amazon for pot.

Almost immediately, Rosenfeld learned that the regulations surrounding cannabis would make modifying the blueprint for the world’s most dominant online marketplace insufficient.

“It ended up being a blessing in disguise that we couldn’t just copy Amazon,” Rosenfeld says. “Due to regulations, we actually had to invent a new form of e-commerce.”

In a sense, Jane is similar to cannabis delivery heavyweights Eaze in that neither company actually sells cannabis. In Jane’s case, the site allows users to reserve products for pick-up — or in states like California, with legal delivery markets — to connect with a dispensary to arrange for a drop-off.

Now operating in 19 states and working with nearly 500 dispensaries, there can be no question of Jane’s success, but what truly separates Rosenfeld’s idea from the competition is the opportunity to know what a store actually has on its shelves at a given moment.

Jane’s ability to integrate the real-time inventory of a dispensary into its marketplace means the next time you have a hankering for your favorite brand of CBD supplement or need to re-up on a beloved strain, you can check to see who actually has it in stock before leaving home. It’s the kind of convenience that we’ve come to expect in most other areas of retail.

However, perhaps more important than what Jane Technologies does is the story of the man running the show. Yes, the hippie pothead cliché is behind us, but subtler stigmas remain.

For one, there’s the idea that only the most severely afflicted military veterans stand to benefit from cannabis. Now 36, Rosenfeld is a distinguished member of the armed forces who found relief in cannabis and decided to make career of it.

“Another thing Jane provides is a platform,” Rosenfeld says. “It allows me, as a veteran, to share with the world my personal experience with cannabis, and why this medicine is so valuable to me and so many of my friends.”

The marketplace is also, in essence, a platform for users to vote with their dollars on the products they support. From parents purchasing the popular tincture known as Charlotte’s Web to alleviate their children’s epilepsy symptoms to fellow veterans with an affinity for a specific hybrid flower to treat their physical and emotional needs, Jane is focused on giving the power of choice back to the consumer.

Rosenfeld is also out to disprove the notion that the technology industry’s interest in cannabis is purely profit-driven. To be certain, for many companies that’s entirely true, but Rosenfeld is perhaps indicative of another type of entrepreneur — one who sets out to do something the right way before someone else makes a mess of things.

“My team and I don’t want to squander this opportunity by making the same mistakes as other tech companies,” he says. “In the next decade, we will all have to look back and ask ourselves what we did that directly shaped this industry. In a time like it is today, when there’s so much conflict and so much tension between different parties and demographics, one thing that seems to tie us all together is a love and need for cannabis. If we can provide access to those people in a safe, legitimate manner, man, it’s an absolute blessing and we’re really grateful for the opportunity.”

Zack Ruskin covers news, culture, and music for SF Weekly.
feedback@sfweekly.com |  @zackruskin

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