Legal Cannabis Creates Yet Another Spinoff Industry—Wall Street-Style Data Analytics

WASHINGTON: Washington State’s newly legal cannabis capitalists don’t tend to agree on much. Ask any one of them about any current pot-business topic—the regulation of medical marijuana, indoor versus outdoor grows, whether labs fudge pesticide and potency test results for favored clients—and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a passionate harangue. But the more you talk to them, the more they seem to agree on one refrain: However volatile our market might seem, and however much investment capital is sloshing around trying to turn itself into profit, the big bucks haven’t even shown up yet.

As Gordon Fagras of the lab Trace Analytics put it: “The big players are just standing back. They’ll be coming in slowly, picking up the pieces as other businesses fail.” Because marijuana is still federally criminalized and the market is so young, the heavyweight financiers—in big agriculture, big tobacco, big pharmaceuticals, and big alcohol—are biding their time. But when they arrive, cannabis data analysts like Brian Yauger (of the local company Tetratrak) and Jonathan Rubin (of New York–based New Leaf Data Services) will be rolling out the welcome wagon and trying to turn them into clients.

Yauger and Rubin are in the same business, but the contrasts between them are a case study in the different personalities—newcomers and longtime pros—trying to make their way in the new cannabis marketplace.

Yauger is a Texan who coached college football for decades before starting a “green” construction business in Austin that helped commercial properties meet environmental standards by filling their roofs with insulation and coating them with epoxy to reflect solar heat. Then he met, in his words, a “multi-, multi-, multi-millionaire” from the Seattle tech world who convinced him to move up here and get to work analyzing the local pot market.

His business, Tetratrak, analyzes public data and sells information to subscribers. Yauger can tell you the most popular day to buy weed in Washington (Saturday), the number of customers at recreational pot stores on July 12, 2014 (2,188), the average wholesale and retail prices of a gram that month ($15.88, $27.95), the number of customers on June 27, 2015 (21,385), the wholesale and retail prices that month ($3.74, $12.91), the most popular strains in Seattle right now (Blue Dream, Cinex, Dutch Treat), and where the highest-revenue pot shops are these days (in order: New Vansterdam and Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver, Uncle Ike’s in Seattle, Herbal Nation in Bothell).


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