Here Are Boston's First Weed Startups

by OLIVIA VANNI

Almost half of our nation’s states now allow medical marijuana, while four of them also permit recreational adult use. More states are possibly warming up to the idea and are contemplating amending their laws that currently bar marijuana. So just imagine how much the pot sector will take off once its legality becomes more widespread.

On AngelList, there are currently almost 450 startups listed as getting a piece of the growing marijuana pie. As one might assume, the vast majority of these ventures are based in Colorado (where recreational marijuana is legal) and California (where medical marijuana is huge).

Which of these companies are linked to Boston? Here’s a list of startups with local liaisons.

Potbox

I’ll admit that this first one is a miniature stretch, as it’s technically based in SoCal, not Boston. However, all of Potbox’s co-founders have ties back to Boston, including links to Berklee and Bentley, so it counts.

You know those box subscriptions you’ve come to love? This startup has a new take on that model, offering monthly selections of high-quality, ethically grown cannabis delivered right to your door. Because Potbox operates in California, it can only bring its services to state residents with a prescription for medical marijuana. That being said, the startup does offer gift cards, so if you can give the gift of pot to someone in your life who would fit those two criteria. You would go down in history as the best gift-giver ever.

CannaKorp

Since marijuana has slowly become legal in parts of the U.S., there’s a movement among startups to change the perception of cannabis. Part of that entails making the purchasing and smoking processes feel refined. CannaKorp, which describes itself as the "world's first single-use, pod-based cannabis vaporizer system," is trying to change consumers’ medical marijuana experiences.

The startup based in Stoneham, Mass., has been working on CannaCloud, a machine that will alter our perceptions of vaporizers forever. The system would work with the company’s CannaKups, pods filled with a serving of marijuana for a single use. Altogether, CannaKorp essentially creating a Keurig for cannabis and it’s already raised $375,000 in funding.

Orange Photonics

As the legal marijuana market continues to grow, the need for transparency in terms of what’s actually in our country’s weed is going to increase. Everyone involved in the process of growing and selling cannabis will likely want confirmation that their product is up to snuff. At the same time, regulators will also need a method to quickly test pot to ensure all of the chemical levels are where they should be.

Orange Photonics, whose founder is a Tufts alumnus, is developing a portable, low-cost machine to measure the potency of different components within marijuana, so people know exactly what’s in the weed they’re selling. The startup’s machine will be able to measure components like THC-A, Delta-9-THC and CBD-A, allowing growers, retailers and regulators to conduct quality assurance of weed.

Orange Photonics made the Final 26 for MassChallenge this past year, although it didn’t receive cash from the organization. In addition to marijuana, the venture’s machine will be able to undergo slight alterations to be used to test the components of other products, including tobacco, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and petroleum.

As you can see, our list is on the short side now, but as marijuana becomes more legal, the call for technology in this space could drive more startups to pursue this sector. And, if recreational cannabis does become legal in Massachusetts, you can bet that an influx of pot-centric ventures will come to the area.