Sasquatch Glass co-founder Scott Hunter displays a glass banjo that can be used to both play music and smoke marijuana.
Sasquatch Glass co-founder Scott Hunter displays a glass banjo that can be used to both play music and smoke marijuana. (Sam Harnett/KQED)

So you’ve heard this one before: Venture capitalists are in San Francisco to hear startup pitches. Well, this time the story’s not about tech. It’s about cannabis.

The crowd at the grand ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco earlier this week could have been at any tech investment event. Everyone’s dressed in business attire and talking startup lingo. But the entrepreneurs are pitching things like a medical marijuana delivery app, gluten-free low-glycemic edibles and $20,000 glass guitars and banjos that double as bongs.

Yes, you heard that right: glass instruments from Seattle’s Sasquatch Glass that can make music or be used to smoke marijuana — potentially both at the same time. I am not sure, as I did not test one.


OK, not every startup at the Fairmont is selling a stoner’s dream. Many are agricultural companies that have found a new market in marijuana, like Nutrient Guru, which sells organic fertilizer, or Intelligent Light Source. Founder Jack Abbott says it makes energy-efficient LEDs to grow fruits, vegetables and now cannabis.

Pot, says Abbott, “is a hippie product. It has been developed in people’s backyards and in their basements. Now there is a chance to apply technology and science and really take it to another level.”

Investors hope by taking cannabis to a new, scientifically improved, corporate level they can rake in the cash.

Venture capitalists from the tech world like Peter Thiel are already investing, making the bet they can capitalize as marijuana goes legal. Call it the startup-ization of hippiedom.

Emily Paxhia, for one, has built an entire investment firm around cannabis. She thinks cannabis will be a big thing, and she doesn’t want to miss out on the opportunity.

“It’s one of those things where, when you look back at the tech industry,” she says, “you wish you could invest in the beginning of Google or in Facebook or whatever company comes to mind, but you can’t go back in time.”

A boom in the legal marijuana market could come from the efforts of those like Dale Sky Jones. She is hunting down funds for another campaign to legalize cannabis statewide.

“I’m really pitching an idea that we have an opportunity to ensure that healthy marketplace and make sure the business plan sitting in all these folks’ briefcases aren’t dead on arrival,” Jones says.

She plans to get the initiative on the state ballot in 2016.

Marijuana Startups Get Chance to Pitch VCs 28 January,2015Sam Harnett

  • Jeff deutsch

    This is a comment I’ve posted previously. I feel so strongly about this issue about this issue I hope the moderator will allow me to re-post it —

    I’m a Scientist with a strong interest in Cancer research. The evidence of the value of Marijuana as a life saving medicine is now so strong that the need to remove Marijuana from Schedule 1 has become a moral imperative.

    This weekend over 3,000 Americans will die, in pain, of Cancer. Every day after that, 1,500 more Americans will die, after suffering horribly, from it. Every single minute another American dies of Cancer. Every American Cancer patient deserves the right to have safe, legal, and economical access to Medical Marijuana. Every single one.

    Americans who need Medical Marijuana shouldn’t be used as “Political Footballs” Please call the Whitehouse comment line at (202) 456-1111 and ask that the President take immediate action to remove Marijuana from Schedule 1 so American Physicians in all 50 states can prescribe it. Go to petitions.whitehouse.gov — there are two petitions you can sign electronically there, one to take Marijuana off of Schedule 1, the other to legalize it completely.

    Oncologists have know it for more than a quarter of a Century that Marijuana is a “wonder drug” for helping Cancer patients.

    The American Society of Clinical Oncologists wants Marijuana removed from Schedule 1. So does the American Medical Association, the professional society of all Physicians. A strong majority of Americans want Physicians in all 50 states to be able to prescribe Medical Marijuana. So do their Physicians., Cancer patients can’t wait.

    The need to immediately, completely, legalize Marijuana throughout the world is one of the most pressing moral issues of our time, because of its medical benefits and because of the damage prohibition causes to America and to the world.

    Complete legalization is critical — its vital that there aren’t “strings” or “hoops” that Cancer patients and others who need Medical Marijuana are forced to jump through.

    “Charlottes web” is NOT the solution. Cancer patients and people who suffer from chronic pain need THC, not just CBD. The “Berkeley study”, where 96% of stage 4 Cancer patients who had a wide variety of Cancers achieved remission, used high dose Medical Marijuana oil, 72% THC, 28% CBD, 1 gram/day (oral) over a 90 day course of treatment. It was a small study, and not placebo controlled, but those kinds of results are clearly remarkable, have been widely reported on in the press, and demand the need for immediate large scale clinical trials.

    More and more present and former members of law enforcement agree about the need to end prohibition, and have formed a rapidly expanding group of current and former undercover cops, FBI, DEA, prosecutors and Judges, from all over the world, called

    LEAP — Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

    because they’ve seen the damage prohibition causes to America and the world.

    See http://www.leap.cc/

    I’m a Scientist. Not a politician, not a cop.

    But as a Scientist with a strong interest in Cancer research, I feel even more strongly about the need to ensure that no Cancer patient is denied it, because I’m so impressed with its benefits for Cancer patients.

    I urge everyone reading this to PLEASE call and email the Attorney General, the press, Congress and the President today.

    Medical Marijuana helps with Alzheimer’s, Autism, Cancer, seizures, PTSD and chronic pain, and has helped many Americans, including many veterans, stop using Alcohol, and hard drugs, both legal and illegal ones.

    Every minute an American dies of Cancer.

    Every 19 minutes an American dies of a prescription drug overdose.

    Many vets become addicted to prescription opiates and die from them.

    NOBODY has ever died from smoking too much pot.

    Cancer patients are seeing remarkable results using high dose Medical Marijuana oil, in many cases achieving complete remission, even for stage 4 cancers — there are many excellent articles on the web, and videos on youtube with patient’s personal stories about their experiences with it — and every Cancer patient that uses Marijuana to ease their suffering benefits greatly from doing so.

    It is immoral to leave Marijuana illegal, for anyone, for even a second longer.

    For Cancer patients, its a matter of life and death.

    Cancer patients can’t wait.

    Medical Marijuana has an unmatched safety profile, and for people who suffer from so many diseases, of so many kinds, its a medical miracle — and the scientific evidence behind it is rock solid.

    For Cancer patients, Medical Marijuana encourages apoptosis and autophagy of Cancer cells, while leaving normal cells untouched, is anti-angigogenic, anti-proliferative, and is anti-angiogenic.

    Its also synergistic with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, making both more effective.

    For many Cancer patients its meant the difference between life and death.

    For everyone else, its a far safer alternative to Alcohol, and infinitely safer than Cigarettes.

    Either take them off the market too, or legalize Marijuana right now.

    2016 is too far away, Its too long to wait. Every year we lose more Americans to Cancer than died in WWII.

    Between now and the 2016 elections, roughly 1 MILLION Americans will die of Cancer.

    And Its a horrible way to die.

  • Brian Kelly

    There is absolutely no doubt now that the majority of Americans want to completely legalize marijuana nationwide. Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

    The prohibitionist view on marijuana is the viewpoint of a minority of Americans.. It is based upon decades of lies and propaganda.

    Each and every tired old lie they have propagated has been thoroughly proven false by both science and society.

    Their tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity. The majority of Americans have seen through the sham of marijuana prohibition in this day and age. The number of prohibitionists left shrinks on a daily basis.

    With their credibility shattered, and their not so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, what’s left for a marijuana prohibitionist to do?

    Maybe, just come to terms with the fact that Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think, and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

    Legalize Nationwide!…and Support All Marijuana Legalization Efforts!

Author

Sam Harnett

Sam Harnett is a reporter who covers tech and work at KQED. For the last five years he has been reporting on how technology and capitalism are changing the way we think about ourselves and what it means to work. He is the co-creator of The World According to Sound, a 90-second podcast that features different sounds and the stories behind them.

Before coming to KQED, Sam worked as an independent reporter who contributed regularly to The California Report, Marketplace, The World and NPR. In 2013, he launched a podcast called Driving With Strangers. In 2014, he was selected by the International Center for Journalists for a reporting fellowship in Japan, where he covered the legacy of the Fukushima disaster.

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