With each passing day, technology becomes more and more ingrained in our lives. It helps us get a ride after a concert, knows when we’re running low on laundry detergent, and lets us send regrettable videos of our friends at a moment’s impulse. While there are many legitimate reasons to question our growing reliance on technology, one field that appears to be embracing the opportunity is the cannabis industry.
From cutting-edge vaporizers to digitized dispensary menus, the unlikely marriage of technology and cannabis continues to thrive. One example is Eaze, a tech company that faciliates on-demand delivery of medical marijuana by connecting customers to dispensaries.
For Sheena Shiravi, Eaze’s Head of PR, technology is a vehicle to push the cannabis industry’s momentum forward.
“I feel that tech has the power to help progress the cannabis industry, to really, bring a level of safety and understanding to it,” she says.
Shiravi points to the annual “State of Cannabis” surveys Eaze has issued to its customers for the past three years. While the 2017 results won’t be published for another month, there is plenty of intriguing wisdom to glean from the past two years’ data.
One thing that came out of the surveys was a growing preference for low-dose edibles, especially among female cannabis consumers. Shiravi says being able to provide this info to manufacturers is a perfect example of how technology can serve the cannabis industry as it expands and refines its marketplace.
“What we really want to do is help aggregate that data and pump it back into the industry,” she says, “to help elevate the industry in terms of helping product manufacturers to understand trending behaviors and transactions.”
While Eaze currently serves customers in a number of cities across California, it has run into some difficulty with municipalities where cannabis delivery has been banned. Even though Eaze never touches the product, choosing instead to pair with a single dispensary for each geographic area that, in turn, services delivery requests, they’ve been actively working with lobbyists to get the Los Angeles City Council to permit deliveries within the city.
Similar efforts with San Jose were met with victory when the city council there agreed to allow deliveries.
“Policy and compliance are very important to us,” Shiravi notes. “We actually work with a lot of regulators to help people understand. San Jose is a great example. They had temporarily banned deliveries last January, but over the course of the year, they came around to it and understood how a company like Eaze could really promote safety.”
In this case, safety is about reducing the number of deliveries being made within the illicit cannabis market and, instead, ensuring it’s regulated and held accountable.
“The illicit market is alive and thriving,” Shiravi says. “One of the biggest ways people purchase cannabis on the illicit market is through delivery, and so it’s really in the city’s best interest to regulate it. We even had the San Jose Police Department here in the office to see how Eaze works and understand the technology.”
Aside from a few minor flourishes, Eaze’s offices in downtown San Francisco resemble that of many start-ups. There are fridges full of complimentary beverages, rows of desks, and the requisite conference rooms. That those conference rooms are named for popular cannabis strains like “Maui Waui” and “Blueberry Kush” is a subtle nod to the nature of Eaze’s operations, but this is not a stoner operation.
In fact, Shiravi says that moving the needle away from stoner culture is another of Eaze’s many objectives. When the company was working to raise its Series A funding in 2014, there were some venture-capital firms that expressed concern — but then a partner at the VC firm DCM took an interest, owing to a personal story regarding cannabis.
“He understood the benefit of it and he understood the accessibility issue, and he decided to invest in Eaze,” Shiravi says.
Even the company’s current CEO — who Shravi says had never used cannabis prior to joining Eaze — has found he no longer needs to refill his Ambien prescription.
Part of Eaze’s ongoing efforts to rebrand cannabis come in the form of what Shiravi calls “reclaiming the leaf.”
“We’re doing icon education,” she adds. “We’re moving away from the indica and sativa. Instead, there’s a sun or a moon. It’s a subtle education.”
All in all, there is still a lot of skepticism over how well cannabis, with its origins in small farms and face-to-face interactions, and the faceless colossus of technology, can co-exist. As Eaze sees it, technology’s involvement in the cannabis industry indicates the latter’s continued normalization as it struggles for acceptance in the mainstream.