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Microsoft is the first big company to say it's serving the legal marijuana trade (nytimes.com)
501 points by ghshephard on June 16, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 215 comments

I make https://weedtraqr.com/ - we are operational in Washington and Oregon - and now apparently compete with MS.

The company Microsoft is working with (Agrisoft) doesn't even operate in WA, or OR yet. And has been sold like two times in the last two years (first to Surna[0] then to Kind[1])

Additionally their "partnership" is really just Agrisoft getting free Azure hosting. The headline is very click-bait.

[0] http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/surna-inc-acquires-m...

[1] http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/kind-financial-acqui...

Microsoft may seem like a big scary competitor, but they've been dead for some time (1). If all they're doing it providing free hosting then they're not really competing with you.

(1) http://www.paulgraham.com/microsoft.html

Microsoft is nowhere near dead, not in the short to medium term anyway - and if you're a startup, that is all that matters. MS can put a 100 million dollars into a product sphere and not bat an eye if it fails within a few years (see Nokia). I wouldn't discount them anytime soon.

Yes, but startups execute faster than big companies. They also make bigger/riskier bets.

Exactly, thank you for saying this.

One possible thing to take away from this: Your competitor might have an inferior product, market share, etc, but possible has better traditional marketing/PR.

I prefer to have my customers promote my product. I'm just going to focus on their needs.

Its all about HIGH quality. Pun intended.

No doubt. Always a good strategy. :)

The system Oregon (and Colorado) uses for recreational is called METRC and is made by a company called Franwell. When I was at training, the spokes person actually asked for hands raised if anyone knew what a REST API was. Their seed-to-sale tracking system (required by law in Oregon), if used for food (just for example) would be able to tell you what corn field, and what corn plant, in Iowa, when and what fertilizer used, in a hamburger you just ate. (to draw an analogy) -- might be a little overkill but it what the current recreational law. The METRC webui I think is bootstrap based and is very nice. I haven't looked at the REST API yet, but their system integrates with RFID tags on the plant and packages itself with chain of custody style controls. http://www.metrc.com/ I am user of their system.

Cumbersome, but cam you imagine the benefits to health, if expanded to food production, when an e.coli etc. outbreak happens or mad cow, etc. Trace back the farm and know exactly which lots to pull.

This is called traceability, and it's a fundamental aspect of food quality and good manufacturing practice (GMP) throughout the food industry. The devil is in the documenting.

Understood. But as it stands now the CDC has a tough time tracing origins with certainty quickly. If they implemented something commensurate it would be a great help to food safety (and reduction of food waste by not having to overreact and dump perfectly healthy/edible foodstuffs).

I promise you, everyone is trying their best. But the food and ingredient supply chain is extremely complex and doesn't lend itself to strict structure. Tracking an ingredient through multiple vendors in multiple countries while it changes form from raw material to component ingredient to sub-product to product requires a massive effort, care, and judgment. And it's definitely a chain that's only as good as its weakest link, so one small mistake early in the chain can void all subsequent efforts, no matter how diligent. My point is, it's really hard to do well, and nigh impossible to do perfectly.

You've illustrated the complexity in foodstuffs which have complex sourcing histories. Makes sense. I do find it a little incredible how difficult it is to trace an unprocessed good like lettuce, or meat or eggs. At times it gets hard to navigate thru all the middle sellers processors, etc. to trace an unaltered good with a single source down to its source.

Cue the food industry crying about massive increase in costs (to track, but also to drop cheap ingredients sourced in PR-unfriendly ways).

I think the difference is that we're still valuing marijuana at prohibition prices, which means the producers have enough money left over they can bear the price of a system like that and still make a hefty profit. With something like corn, it takes an acre of land to net as much money as you'd get from a couple ounces of weed. [1]

[1] http://smallbusiness.chron.com/profit-margin-raising-corn-34...

It is. DNA Traceback is a huge deal in the beef industry.

If you know: Do you think it is and will be effective? Could illegal vendors, such as Mexican organized crime, find a way into the industry?

Let's not forget that organized crime has been involved in many legitimate industries.

Probably is- but if the RFID tag says a box weighs 50 pounds, and it comes in weighing 45 pounds, then you can throw up flags. Of course, there's always going to be ways around this sort of stuff, but you just have to raise the cost of getting around them just enough for it to be unprofitable.

Also, I've heard that cartel-grade MJ is terrible quality- local cultivation is probably pretty different then whatever shit they can grow.

in my neck of the woods in CA, dispensaries aren't going to buy cartel brick weed. you can't just walk in off the street and sell to a dispensary anyway, I don't think that will change with a move to recreational legalization.

cartels can't compete with local street prices anyway, never mind recreational dispensaries. when you can get an 1/8th ounce of high quality stuff for 25 dollars off-season, and an a full ounce for 100 or less during harvest season, you can barely give the low quality stuff away. it usually gets used for hash or edible baking.

cartels know where they can and can't compete, that low quality brick weed is much better off being shipped to another state where they can sell it for 100 dollars an ounce.

Based on some of the complaints (anecdotally) I've heard about public land use, I think it's a mistake to assume cartel weed is brick/low-quality weed. They're clearly engaged in growing locally, if only because you eliminate the risk of border inspections and longer transport lines.

wander too far into the woods in CA, and odds are you'll find a grow op

Can you explain to those of us who have never used nor purchased why it would be more expensive during the harvest season than the off season? Or did you get the numbers backwards?

EDIT: thanks to those who replied -- I didn't notice the change in units.

The comparison was between 1/8 of an ounce for $25 ($200 per ounce) and $100 per ounce during the harvest season.

Thank you -- I need to check my reading comprehension. I didn't notice the change in units. :-)

It's less expensive in harvest season.

"a full ounce for 100 or less" -> 12.5 for an eight

Organized crime is pretty well purged from Colorado (and likely Oregon and Washington as well). Prior to retail taking effect, the DEA and Colorado law enforcement flushed out anyone with even a remote relationship with, call it, persons of interest. Since then, all participants have been subjected to background checks, where the thoroughness ranges from cursory (for, say, an hourly employee) to proctological (for a license owner). There are currently strict domesticity requirements for all "owners" (broadly defined by the state enforcement agency as anyone with "control"), i.e., at least two years of residency in the state of Colorado. Then of course there is the standard clean background check. New laws under consideration would open the market to out-of-state investors as of Jan 1 2017, but those laws are awaiting the governor's signature.

Has been and still is, probably.


> Rowe: "The segments I was most interested in doing but found the most resistance around was that of a rendering facility. ... the Mob is still involved in a surprising number of rendering facilities. Why the Mob has such a rich history in garbage-related industries and rendering-related industries is a conversation beyond my pay grade.

"100% Organic, Certified Medellín Cartel"

… Franwell … if used for food (just for example) would be able to tell you what corn field, and what corn plant … RFID tags

I wonder if people set up these logistics/telematics companies so they can make trades on all the data they are collecting before anyone else can (I guess insurance companies would want to do this, but that's less fun of a tangent)?

Also anyone out there using any cheap sensors arrays w/ beamforming techniques and picking up on random RFID tags?

Similarly I have heard that the tracking required for medical marijuana in DC is cumbersome and dispensaries are mostly using hacky custom Windows software. Might even be Access based.

There is no legal marijuana trade in the US, as all marijuana trade is criminal under federal law, and it's generally a crime to knowingly profit from a crime (and, since drug offenses are covered in RICO, it's another crime to use any profits tired to them in the operation of any business engaged in interstate commerce.)

Microsoft may be keeping distant enough not to worry (though perhaps not given their formal partnership with Kind, even if their own offering is only to governments), but Kind is basically betting it's business -- and the personal liberty of its decision makers -- on the willingness of the federal government to extend the informal prosecutorial tolerance of in-state activities related to marijuana that comply with state laws in states which have adopted some form of state legalization to larger interstate enterprises (and on that tolerance continuing at all, which it might well not under a different administration.)

> as all marijuana trade is criminal under federal law

You may be right because of the word trade; however, the Federal government itself has authorized the growing (University of Mississippi) and interstate distribution of legal marijuana since 1976 through CIND.

Not trying to split hairs, because the total patient list has probably always been under a dozen people, but it is still an interesting fact and one I only know of because I randomly represented one of the Federal patients in a corporate capacity. Each patient dosage is individualized, and the Federal government gives my client 360 joints per month.

I have to wonder, then: is the marijuana that's grown for research purposes representative of what's commonly grown and smoked today? Or is it essentially a "snapshot" of what was commonplace in 1976?

It's utterly pharmaceutical. The consumer market thinks of marijuana in terms of whole strains. The federal government, or more precisely, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which directs UM's program, thinks of marijuana in terms of constituent cannabinoids, with a special focus on THC and CBD. Their marijuana product is distributed in a homogenized form that's mixed to spec, so if you were to place an order from their menu[1], you'd ask for X marijuana cigarettes with "Medium THC / Low CBD." Of course, what NIDA considers high THC (5-10% by weight) doesn't compare all that well with today's products in the legal markets. In Colorado, 16-20% THC plant material is pretty common.

[1] https://www.drugabuse.gov/researchers/research-resources/nid...

360 joints per month? That's an absolutely insane amount of marijuana. Even if marijuana isn't inherently unhealthy, I have to imagine it can't be healthy to put that much smoke into your lungs.

Why even bother with that? Judging from jericsinger comment, if it is so precise, why not just create a pill or something?

Why bother with exposing yourself to breathing problems or lung cancer. And with smoking being banned in more and more places, it can't be easy to administer.

I remembered the # of joints, but just confirmed the amount and its 9oz/month...leave it to the federal government right?

As far as respiratory issues, I have never seen any medical record (nor would I discuss them if I did), but my Client is a public figure/activist for medical marijuana and addresses this question regularly. You can find videos online of him discussing this and many other issues if you are interested, but in short he claims no negative respiratory effects and 34 years on this dosage.

Weaker lungs is a small price to pay for not being blind and/or insane

I didn't know marijuana was a cure for blindness or psychosis (if anything I thought it was an aggravator of the latter).

very short term effectiveness for treating Glaucoma: http://www.aao.org/salud-ocular/consejos/medical-marijuana-g...

It was my understanding that the farm at University of Mississippi also provided the majority of the marijuana products for laboratory testing in the US.

You're correct. And the ordering guidelines are...extensive. https://www.drugabuse.gov/ordering-guidelines-marijuana-mari...

Is this for consumption as full cannabis products (for smoking or consumables) or for the production of marinol only?

Consumption as full cannabis products.

Not 365, but 360?

Per month, not per year. So ~12 per day.

I would get absolutely nothing done...

I'd sell 11 for 10 dollars a pop and get nothing done on 1 a day. 110 a day isn't bad spending money. The reality is though it would almost definitely be ridiculously hard to get away with selling government weed. Fuck if I know what I would do with that much.

As a Seattlite I had high hopes when Obama appointed Gil Kerlikowske to be Drug Czar, given that he was the police chief in a city with a very progressive approach to cannabis. But alas, as in myriad other areas of the Obama administration, hope was just that: hope.

You know, it just occurred to me: while Obama hasn't spent too much political capital on drugs, the US is closer to legalisation than it's ever been, to an extent unbelievable not that long ago. It could easily be that Obama has been quietly supporting legalisation, in politically-invisible ways (such as failing to respond in any meaningful way to the avalanch of state level legalisation).

What do you mean? Obama is the most progressive president on drug policy in decades.

We know at least one case where a state DA has gone after a software developer tied to an illegal activity (gambling, [1]) so having a middleman and limiting their customers to governments may be an unfortunate legal necessity to prevent their engineers getting strong-armed into becoming informants.

[1] https://www.wired.com/2013/01/coder-charged-for-gambling-sof...

There is no legal marijuana trade in the US,

You mean interstate trade, of course.

FDR's Supreme Court blew the Commerce Clause open such that the Feds can regulate purely intrastate commerce as well.


You don't even have to participate in commerce to participate in commerce.


in Thomas' dissent in that case, he states that the decision means that the commerce clause invalidates the 10th amendment, which is huge.

It's worse than parent makes it sound: the conduct in that case was growing grain without permission, not for sale, but to feed to chickens on the same farm.

I thought that since you can nearly always draw a connection between almost any economic activity and stove kind of effect on interstate commerce, the commerce clause isn't much of a restriction these days?

Tell that to Roscoe Filburn.

Or Angel Raich! https://www.oyez.org/cases/2004/03-1454

"The question presented in this case is whether the power vested in Congress by Article I, §8, of the Constitution '[t]o make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution' its authority to 'regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States' includes the power to prohibit the local cultivation and use of marijuana in compliance with California law." (The answer is 'yes.')

> on the willingness of the federal government to extend the informal prosecutorial tolerance of in-state activities related to marijuana that comply with state laws in states which have adopted some form of state legalization to larger interstate enterprises

The only think that is allowed Federal government to terrorist people in the name of Marijuana is it is still not a common knowledge that the laws about Marijuana are absurd. Federal government taking on MS might be a good thing for society in general.

One big issue with the "war of drugs" is that it is very easy to benefit by helping the illegal drug dealers that fighting against the regulation. If Uber can wage war on different government for de-regulating taxi business why cant a wannabe hemp company do the same? It is not happening but MS getting into this is a good sign.

It also depends on the judiciary.

First, that's the 10th amendment. Second, the Supreme Court tested the 10th Amendment vs the Commerce Clause (which grants the USFG the ability to govern interstate commerce) in Gonzales vs Raich (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzales_v._Raich) and found that the Commerce Clause could cover marijuana sales and distribution (including medical, which was legal in California).

This is totally wrong. Previous Supreme Court decisions, especially Gonzales v. Raich, have set a pretty clear precedent that the Federal Government has the authority to criminalize drugs even when their use is legal in a particular state.

Right, it depends on the judiciary.

But not anymore, because decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court are binding on all lower state and federal courts in the U.S.

only if stare decisis means nothing to them.

stare decisis is not a rule. Moreover, interpretation can and does change over time. The law is not absolute across a given timeframe.

Clarence Thomas agrees with you. The rest of SCOTUS does not.

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

I don't think this means what you think it means. A quick glance at wikipedia expands and explains:

The Ninth Amendment explicitly bars denial of unenumerated rights if the denial is based on the enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution, but this amendment does not explicitly bar denial of unenumerated rights if the denial is based on the enumeration of certain powers in the Constitution.

What unenumerated right is being infringed here?

One could suppose the right you're referring to is that of the individual states to create their own laws...except the Constitution covers that one in Article VI, clause 2:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing [sic] in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

Or the right of the states to regulate trade...

[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;


The problem is that a) weed is illegal in the United States under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (21 U.S.C. § 811) b) the President of the United States has decided not to enforce this law (in violation of Article III clause 5: "he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed"). This had led to a murky situation where the laws that apply to a local company are very very different from the laws that a multinational entity like Microsoft has to worry about. I'd be very interested to see what happens in the long run here.

I'm pretty sure there are federal laws against aspects of the marijuana industry which have been long enforced by the judiciary.

Shipping it across state lines seems like an obvious example.

This makes sense. As a big player in enterprise, Microsoft is recognizing that there's a new industry that's vastly under served.

Massively underserved. I live in Denver and have friends with ownership stakes in local dispensaries. The quality of their software solutions (mainly POS/Compliance) is laughable.

Edit: This (http://www.mjfreeway.com/) is the defacto standard. I kid you not it went down for 2 weeks ~a year ago after scheduled maintenance went wrong. At the time it had ~50% market share, this left dispensaries around the country doing all their compliance and POS by hand for weeks.

Amateur hour.

It's funny that you mention MJFreeway. Their one of our competitors.

I'm an engineer at [Greenbits][1], a marijuana POS system running on almost 50% of stores in Washington State. We were runner up finalists at [2015's Tech Crunch Disrupt][2].

Every quarter, we do visits to stores (some of our customers and those of our competitors). It's amazing to see the state of the industry and how underserved it is. I think part of this is that everyone, retailers and regulators, are still figuring out how to run things. The problem is nuanced because of differences in taxes for recreational and medical, tracking of the product "from seed to sale", and various weird business regulations. We learn a lot of these trips and always come back with a lot of ideas on how to improve our product for our customers and do what our competitors don't.

We are visiting Denver, CO in a couple weeks. :D

Also, this is a plug, but we are starting to ramp up [hiring][3]. Currently, we only have the Engineering job posting up, but we are looking for a lot of positions and more will be posted up within the next few weeks.

[1]:https://www.greenbits.com/ [2]:https://techcrunch.com/2015/09/22/green-bits-launches-point-... [3]:https://jobs.lever.co/greenbits?lever-via=_335J-YDmj

I used to work for a startup doing regular hospitality POS (cafes, bars, etc).

It's not just MJ POS systems, it's POS systems in general. I don't know what it is about them, but they seem to attract horrible software solutions. I see you've gone with iPads, we did the same, a lot better than the industry standard touch screen monitor.

You'd think that people wouldn't like the smaller screens, but we never got any complaints about it. I guess it's about how you utilise the space. I guess there is always the option to use iPad pros if you really want the real estate, although we actually had a couple of customers using iPad minis instead, I think it was for small stalls or something.

Just asking because I saw that the engineering position listed San Jose but it seems that there are remote employees and an office in Portland, as well. Are there opportunities for remote work for the current/future hiring needs?

We do support remote. For example, I'm actually based in the Boston area. However, we are trying to build out a team in San Jose and Portland, so there is definitely a preference for people in the west coast.

for those looking for an open source option, we[0] have been doing quite well with Openbravo[1]'s POS suite.

0. http://medicalcannab.is

1. http://openbravo.com

A friend of a friend was hired as a CFO at a dispensary, and pretty much had to create an entire accounting system from scratch. Cash management consisted of employees driving around to the store and collecting the money, as the armored car firms wouldn't accept their business. So he set up a subsidiary that went out and bought some armored cars and was able to safely transport the money, staffed with former military. .. they had the cash for it, so why not?

Why is that? Even software firms don't want to deal with weed?

Not so much the software companies, it's the payment processing companies that are risk-averse.

As a customer, these shops have to jump through some amazing hoops just to provide standard POS debit/credit. One store has to process all payments as an ATM withdrawal, and must give change so the "ATM withdrawal" will round to the nearest $5.

When you buy an accounting system there's a lot of customization that goes on to set up your chart of accounts, configure check printing, etc. They were apparently running the business off an Excel spreadsheet, so even Quickbooks would have been a step up.

Hmm. I wonder how dispensaries are different than any other retail / pharmacy operation?

Can they treat the product like cold/allergy pills that have to be watched, or does there have to be legal information specific to each "SKU"/item-type???

Depending on the state, plants need to be tracked from seed to sale. That is just one aspect of it that I'm familiar with. I'm sure the compliance burdens beyond that are significant.

A combination of federal illegality (which affects banking heavily) and special compliance requirements necessitates custom industry solutions AFAIK.

But that's really no different from discrete manufacturing, where you have to track precious metals, hazardous materials, import/export regulations, etc. I wonder why the major players don't just make the minor adaptations so they can serve this market, too.

Likely federal law. Its not settled legally if providing services to recreational dispensaries can implicate your company in felony drug distribution. Its unlikely, but a risk. It may even cause issues with the bushiness main product. Things like insurance liability shifts and the like.

No "big name" company has wanted to test the waters.

Not that familiar with it, but part of the issue is that financial institutions above a certain size won't do business with them because it's still illegal at the federal level and they're afraid of the ambiguity. I wouldn't be surprised if that affected what PoS software they could use.

Large financial institutions still dont play nicely with internet porn, which really isnt that ambiguous legally. I think a lot of it is PR as well. They dont want to be associated with moraly ambiguous industries

A lot of this is a consequence of the George W Bush presidency, where the DoJ was encouraged to crack down on pornography using obscenity laws. From the histories I've read, one of the levers they used was informal pressure on financing institutions that served the distributors.


I place the blame squarely on the Obama Justice Department's Operation Choke Point. The previous task force was at least targeted towards specific, named, businesses and brought them before a court--not a blanket, de-facto ban caused by threatening financial institutions, directly.


>> Amateur hour.

Dude, when nobody wants to be affiliated with your business or be identified as someone who's supporting your business, you have to do what you have to do.

It's not like companies are clamoring to support this industry. Yes, people are falling over themselves to invest in these companies, but with federal issues hanging over these places, the cash only aspects and how society looks at these companies (yes, this is slowly changing too) they are in a tough spot to find good software support.

I think the point of the post was that software can maintain such a large market share in spite of major reliability issues due to the unwillingness for developers to serve that market. "Amateur hour" was a reference to the quality of the software, not the overall operation.

That's a fair point

Is this a problem due to not being able to buy physical/cloud infrastructure or developers with cannabis money or something else?

Why can't they use a run-of-the-mill POS? or a POS designed for pharmacies?

Microsoft might be the first to publicly announce it, but I don't think they are the only blue chip company aware of the industry. I've heard Phillip-Morris has been quietly buying out a lot of farms, anticipating federal legalization in the near future, especially since tobacco usage in the US is plummeting.

Do you have any source on that? The only reason I ask is I've heard that rumor many times over the years. In particular I had a civics teach in high school tell me how as a student he had gone on a tour of a Phillip-Morris (or some major tobacco company) facility and supposedly was told that they were amassing equipment to make Marijuana cigarettes because they thought it was going to be legal in a few years. Seeing how the man was in his late 50s that story has been going around for a while.

Philip Morris is a pretty big company with a lot of resources. It could just be a long term strategy that they understand might be necessary in the future and spend a small amount on each year to maintain.

Salesforce has several partners offering marijuana growing management software - through a branded resale of the SFDC platform, so $CRM is definitely in it.

This is not true. It's possible, perhaps probable, that Phillip-Morris employees have invested personally in the industry, but all retail states so far have strict domesticity requirements that no national corporation could satisfy. Colorado's even contemplating a law that forbids publicly traded companies from owning stakes in a licensed entity. But even if this weren't the case, it would make zero business sense for a heavily regulated, multi-billion dollar corporation to invest resources in marijuana right now. The revenue opportunity wouldn't register on their income statement, and would never come close to justifying the additional scrutiny they'd surely receive from regulators. The reasonable strategy for them is to wait until marijuana receives federal blessing and then acquire the best companies or teams available, or try to launch new products backed by massive marketing spend.

Good. Maybe they can open a cafe on their campus to sell recreational versions so their people can test their tech and try the product.

It'd make many developers I know want to work for Microsoft.

There's a weed store about 4 blocks from the Lincoln Square and City Center (Microsoft) buildings in Bellevue. Or so I've heard.

There's a weed store about 4 blocks from any given point in Washington state.

I assume you're being glib, but if anyone was wondering this is very untrue. Restrictive zoning laws mean there are many large neighborhoods in Seattle with zero. Most of the shops are concentrated in a few non-residential neighborhoods.

Granted, that's Seattle. Pierce County is rife with them.

Technically, maybe, but if you go to one of those locator sites [1] and zoom out to where you can see Bremerton, Seattle, and Bellevue in one screen, you can see that those neighborhoods are the exception.

[1] http://weedmaps.com

these sites include medical dispensaries (there are still a ton) and delivery services so are somewhat misleading. I live and work in two different large mixed-use (residential/retail) neighborhoods and there isn't a rec shop within 20 blocks of either.

There are actually regulations limiting the number of stores and their placement in relation to other public buildings like schools.

That store uses GreenBits

FWIW, there's already a place in Kirkland - pretty close to main MS campus, and even closer to the local Google campus - that gives discounts to employees.

The biggest pothead team at Microsoft was the Internet Explorer guys. So if you want another 20 years of calculating bounding rectangles incorrectly, by all means let's get the rest of the company baked.

I would really like to believe you worked on this team at that time, and that's where you got your username from. :)

Of course, the old IE box model is what everyone else overrides the default to match nowadays. Maybe they were on to something!

A lot of old IE things were pretty nice¹. The only real problem was the abysmal support for actual standards, along with a myriad of weird bugs.

¹ See: XMLHttpRequest, innerHTML, box model, CSS filters, CSS behaviors², VML, etc

² Well, behavior: was probably a terrible idea, but it did allow hacking oldIE to support an awful lot of CSS3.

Incidentally! I thought about this the other day. Given that it's been about 15 years, is there anyone in the HN community / internet that's spoken about the design decisions with IE 6? Specifically, was it incompatible by design or simply by incompetent management?

> was it incompatible by design or simply by incompetent management?

"Have you stopped beating your wife?"

Seriously, what a dumb question. The answer is "neither": at the time of its release, IE6 was great. It was way better than its only real competition, Netscape 6, which hadn't seen updates in years. Yes, it had bugs, but all software does. If Microsoft had just given it regular updates, it would've been fine. The issue with IE6 was not that it was bad ab initio, it was that Microsoft abandoned development when they felt they had no competition, so it slipped farther and farther behind web standards.

Please don't call questions dumb. It discourages thoughtful conversation. There's a guideline somewhat related to this:

When disagreeing, please reply to the argument instead of calling names. E.g. "That is idiotic; 1 + 1 is 2, not 3" can be shortened to "1 + 1 is 2, not 3."

Unfair questions should be called out. Perhaps "dumb" isn't the most appropriate term, but I do think its fair to challenge the premise of the question. To prevent this leaves a whole rhetorical category immune from challenge.

No, there are very dumb question/statements. And it is indeed correct to call them out.

Why is it dumb? Because it packs in an assertion that is implied true, without asking.

An appropriate answer is "Mu". Or 'unask the question'.

You can use a word or words that is not offensive to express the same point. Like how you explained the use of the word.

Stupidity is offensive. Your point?

Offence is taken not given. I can understand you can feel offended or frustrated when someone behaves in a way you call stupid. However, you could give them the benefit of a doubt and assume they made a mistake or they didn't know better.

Not sure why the snark. I think it's a fair question. Since you take issue with the phrasing, I'll enlarge it to "development & management of IE up to 2006."

They did give it regular updates throughout that period; those updates just never targeted web standards. I'm honestly wondering whether that was through explicit desire (it's a valid business strategy), willful misdirection (not prioritizing "the web"), or management incompetence (inability to deliver desired standards compliance). I've never read / heard anything definitive to explain which of those happened.

There was never any team tasked with working on Trident after IE6 shipped till IE7 work restarted; as far as I'm aware, it was always the case that the IE shell was developed relatively separately to Trident, so those who did do all the work (esp. for later XP SPs) probably scarcely had any knowledge of the Trident codebase to really start trying to fix bugs.

I don't think it was purposeful. When IE6 was released, it won. It was so much better than the alternatives that MS simply didn't have to do anything, so they didn't. The antitrust thing was also in full swing, so bundling/unbundling was in question.

The web version of Outlook was one of the, if not the first AJAX application. IIRC, IE added XMLHttpRequest to support web Outlook.

There's a question on Quora with some great answers from the original team members that shows what happened with IE:


As an observer I always assumed it was purposeful. MS was _not_ a company that conformed to other people's standards. After all, they're just now putting a POSIX compliant shell in their OS. They were playing a monopoly game not trying to offer an alternative.

Agreed. One of their first tag lines was, "We Set The Standrd." It's in their DNA to avoid conforming to standards they didn't define.

IE was the centerpoint of a lot of turf wars between Jim Allchin and Brad Silverberg. Lots of tech was mishandled as nobody could agree what was personal, what was business and what was consumer. A browser had to reach all three, Microsoft tried to apply its existing technologies that talked to all three audiences in a haphazard fashion, and even the government decided it had to stick its thumb into the pie.

Really? This? Again? There's a reason tech companies don't drug test and I'd argue that flies in the face of the tired stereotype you're offering up.

edit: It's funny to watch HN's reactions to anything related to cannabis. You'd think people here watched Reefer Madness and haven't bothered to inform themselves about any actual facts or know any actual consumers of cannabis since then.

The implication that someone smoking pot in the evening would affect their ability to type a very basic mathematical expression the next day is absolutely farcical.

I personally told these numbskulls multiple times that width = x2 - x1 PLUS one. Maybe it was the weed, maybe they just sucked at coding, maybe you didn't notice that FAXes were blurry in Windows for 20 years either.

The real problem at late 90s Microsoft was cocaine. Didn't see much of that among the engineers though.

Sorry you got voted down. I thought it was funny, even if it is (or isn't?) complete fiction.

Actually? This would explain a lot.

Explains what was going on when they bought LinkedIn.


I imagined James Franco and Seth Rogan being in charge of Microsoft making that decision while laughing the way they do in movies.

Wow Microsoft is tickin' all the cool boxes under Nadella. Never seen such a radical, and it seems, effective, corpo image turnaround. Open source? Check. Ubuntu on Windows? Check. Contribute to BSD? Check. Progressive on pot? Check. Defeat the bots? Check. Gates on chickens? Check. This company is sick/dope/ice cold cool.

Microsoft has always been far more progressive on social issues than most corporations. They were a huge supporter of the gay marriage movement here in Washington State a few years ago, and that was before Nadella was CEO.

Actually, couple of things I forgot. First IMO Microsoft has always been properly credible on programming languages. Right back to MASM. There were 20 years of awful behaviour, but the languages side was always a highlight (I forgive VB but even that was okay for its use case).

Also, little things. Anybody looked at Babylon.js? Brilliant, brilliantly documented, and the sense that this Open Source "side project" by a few MS employees is really being given enthusiastic support by the parent, the feeling that it's not going to wither. Strength to strength. I love it.

Getting ratchet with the times

In case it wasn't intentional, that's not really what ratchet means. A close approximation would be trashy.

Ads delivered to your computer by Windows? Check.

I'd rather have the old Microsoft back. :/

Fuck that. The Microsoft under Ballmer was a car crash. I was running a .Net development house at the time and we seriously considered switching tech stack off the back of Microsoft's attitude to everytihng.

Now I couldn't be happier we stuck by them.

fair enough. But let's compare them to the competitors, Facebook, Google, Apple. Only the last can legitimately be said not to pollute your life with more ads than Microsoft. MS is benign by comparison with the first two.

I think it's just as legitimate to compare Microsoft's product to the previous version of itself as it is to compare it to what's offered by other companies. And that comparison doesn't make Microsoft look benign.

This is a good example of an enormous chilling effect that legal risk offers. Not just prohibition of drugs, but any large regulatory regimes where it’s hard to say what “legal” is.

Big categories of software go underdeveloped, leaving an industry in the dark ages. It’s one reason why medical software is so bad – being on the wrong side of legal risk is too dangerous.

So we will have a new metric like the ballmer peak?

You are not the only one asking. https://www.reddit.com/r/trees/comments/3nhybk/ballmer_peak_...

I have a name for that, but that’s because I did all my university course work with a guy who could not compute statistics without burning a very big one. He had 12 minutes of brain left after he was done smoking, and what I said stopped making sense to him passed that limit, like clock-work. “Sorry, gotta smoke for that conversation” was his signal he was happy to talk about improving our latest model, but… he needed psychotropic help for that.

Nadella Peak

What is the legality of marijuana on the federal level in the US? I was under the impression that even if marijuana is legal on a state level you can still get in trouble for it.

Federally, it's still illegal. However, there have been statements that they aren't prosecuting or pursuing legal action in states that have legalized it [0].

[0]: http://www.denverpost.com/2013/08/29/federal-government-wont...

Edit: For the record, it would still block you from getting a US Government security clearance, and you can still run drug tests on employees and decline them for failing.

IOW: at the federal level illegal by law, ignored for recreational amounts by executive order (and thus possibly changing when a new executive branch is elected).

Couldn't that policy be reversed by another president? For example, a President Cruz might not like the idea.

In a way, Microsoft getting involved raises the cost of changing the policy; do they want to prosecute or otherwise upset a major corporation?


Federal enforcement is carried out by the DOJ, which is an agency of the Executive Branch. The DOJ serves at the pleasure of the President, so while Obama chooses not to enforce this law currently, he (or the next President) could change their minds at any moment.

In practice, Microsoft is betting on their lobbyists to ensure a stable regulatory climate.

It is indeed illegal on the federal level. Currently everyone is just an executive order away from crack down on all of it. The guidance that the Obama Administration has been using is not to enforce the law in states where it has been legalized (though they have been cracking down on cases where dispensaries open within 1000 ft of a school). That said, a new president could do whatever they wanted and a crackdown would likely result in an eventual supreme court case that the states would probably lose based on current precedent.

I think you overstate the ease with which you go about putting toothpaste back into the tube.

Yes, it's still very much illegal federally. It's still a Schedule I controlled substance. The federal banking system / IRS refuses to interact with marijuana businesses, the postal service won't mail ads for it, the DEA continues to raid growers, etc, etc.

Edit: as others have pointed out, I was incorrect in lumping in the IRS with the rest of the federal banking system. The IRS does indeed accept money from marijuana businesses. There are other parts of the federal banking system that are not so "accepting", for instance: http://www.denverpost.com/2016/01/05/judge-tosses-denver-mar...

The IRS explicitly states that you need to declare bribes and income from illegal activities [1]

"Illegal activities. Income from illegal activities, such as money from dealing illegal drugs, must be included in your income on Form 1040, line 21, or on Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) if from your self-employment activity."

[1] https://www.irs.gov/publications/p17/ch12.html

Also from stolen goods, unless you return them in the same year:

"If you steal property, you must report its fair market value in your income in the year you steal it unless in the same year, you return it to its rightful owner."

"We don't care where your income comes from, we just want our cut of it."

I wonder if one could deduct it if they return the item in the subsequent year instead :)

You can deduct business expenses for illegal activities, except for specific categories (for example, bribing public officials is not a valid deduction).

So you might actually be able to deduct that, if you could justify returning the property as a business expense.

I would have bet money that was a joke. But no.

That's just hilarious! Are you saying drug dealers actually report their income and pay taxes off it?

Of course not. This is just a clarification about another point of law that a typical drug dealer violates, which gives law enforcement yet another angle.

In some cases proving tax evasion is easier than proving other crimes. This is what got Al Capone -- because the crime was perpetrated through his organization and not by him directly, it would have been difficult to hold him directly responsible for the crimes. However, once his ledger was discovered it was straightforward to prove that he received significant income without making the required income tax payments.

For some twilight-zone stuff, check out drug tax stamps (i.e. http://www.ksrevenue.org/perstaxtypesdrug.html)

You have to buy them and place them on your drugs so if you get raided, you can prove that you paid taxes on your supply. There are even folks who collect the stamps.

It depends on your definition of "drug dealer". Companies that operate in the open under state laws that legalized weed normally do report their income and pay federal taxes on it, despite the activity being illegal on federal level.

Once drug dealers get caught, they have to pay back taxes (I saw that in a movie)

IRS refuses to interact with marijuana businesses

That's not even remotely true, as even 30 years ago the IRS happily took my money, and did so without telling anyone else where the money came from. I mean, maybe it's changed since, but when it comes to "IRS won't take my money", ima gonna have to pull the "citation needed" card.

Are you saying that you made money selling drugs, told the IRS that the money was made illegally and nothing happened? I've heard that the IRS definitely focuses on collecting tax money and not how it was made, but I thought that people technically never admitted to anything when declaring illegal income sources. It looks like the applicable part on a 1040 would be line 21, which just asks for "other sources of income".

During the course of facilitating a tax audit of a startup I worked at some years ago, I was told by the IRS agent conducting the audit that they in fact have an entire group of agents focused on compliance and audit for prostitutes. It turns out that the IRS' job is to collect money, not to make sure that rules established by other parts of the government are followed ;)

Not quite. What would happen is that people would get rung up on drug trafficking charges and then the IRS would pile on by taxing the undeclared illegal income. In the late 70s/early 80s, a case[1] made its way through the tax courts wherein a petitioner, a convicted drug dealer facing a jeopardy assessment from the IRS, filed a tax return for the prior year in which he declared income calculated net of COGS and other misc business expenses. The IRS disallowed these deductions, which if upheld meant that the petitioner would owe tax on his entire gross income. The petitioner sued and won, which established a precedent that didn't quite gibe with the political climate of the day. In response, the Senate Finance Committee promulgated a code amendment generally referred to as 280E[2], which prohibits those engaged in illegal activities from deducting ordinary and reasonable business expenses when reporting their net income to the IRS. Only COGS can be deducted, which for dispensaries and other non-manufacturing license holders, can result in an effective tax rate of 70% or more. In fact, it's quite easy to lose money and still owe taxes in the industry if you let G&A run away from you.

[1] https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=702348433062253... [2] https://newrevenue.org/2013/03/13/marijuana-tax-code-section...

> told the IRS that the money was made illegally and nothing happened

Is there a checkbox on US tax forms for "illegally earned money"? Or are you expected to put that in a free-text field?

Man, I didn't know this would get so many responses, and I wished I could remember better from 30 years ago. So I apologize for the lack of detail (and I'm not a tax accountant anyway, so do not be taking this as advice or anything but an anecdote). But as I fuzzily recall, just put it in the "other income" box, deduct cost of goods, sorted.

One should also note that (as far as I can tell) the IRS does little more than a cursory glance at most returns to make sure the numbers add up, especially back then. Point being is that it's entirely possible one could have put "income from trafficking under-aged children into white slavery", deducted the cost of acquiring said children, and never gotten flagged because the numbers add up and it doesn't hit the "trying to weasel out of paying what's owed" flag in the computer. Dunno, I'm just relaying an anecdote with a lot of details left out, you sure as hell don't want to take this as tax advice.

In the mid-80s, you reported income to the IRS as coming from a marijuana business?

Bold move.

Is there a statutory prohibition on the IRS sharing this info with other law enforcement agencies? Where is the line, i.e. would you expect confidentiality if you reported proceeds from your work as a hitman?

In the mid-80s, you reported income to the IRS as coming from a marijuana business? Bold move.

In the mid-80s I had income that would not ordinarily go on a W2 or a 1099. I had reason to take them at their word and file. All I'm saying is that the IRS doesn't care where the money comes from, as long as they get their cut, and I have experience to back this up.

All it takes is one story to the contrary to turn this into urban legend, and the IRS doesn't get as much money anymore. They're a debt collection agency, I had/have little reason to doubt that they just want their money.

Of a sort. Other agencies can get that data from IRS, but they need to initiate the process, and they need a court order for that. So if they have a reasonable suspicion that someone is committing the crime, they can check that person's tax records; but they can't just trawl the tax return database and see who reported illegal activity.

The IRS doesn't refuse to interact with anyone. They want their money no matter how you made the income, and if you're in the country legally or not.

Remember, what they ultimately got Al Capone on wasn't racketeering, bootlegging or murder, it was tax evasion.

The absurd thing is that while marijuana being a schedule I drug which in the DEA's own words:

>> Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.[0]

Cocaine and methamphetamine are both schedule II.

Now I understand the difference is that Schedule II means there are some medical uses but to lump marijuana in with "the most dangerous" but not meth? That just seems ridiculous.


Methamphetamine is routinely prescribed for ADHD under the brand name Desoxyn, it absolutely has medical use.

But it's manifold more dangerous than cannabis

Alcohol and tobacco are several orders of magnitude more dangerous than anything currently scheduled.

They kill more people simply because they're more popular. I don't think they're more dangerous per dose.

Think again!!! http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4311234/ Alcohol is incredibly bad for your body dose by dose compared to marijuana.

Sidenote (not from this study): Mushrooms are supposedly the least harmful to the human body... Who'da thought?

I wasn't talking about marijana or musrooms. I was talking about for example heroin, which is schedule 1.

Fentanyl is scheduled, so that's really not true.

Cocaine and its related metabolites have accepted medical use. Particularly by ENTs and such.

Schedule I drugs have no known medical use and high abuse potential, which marijuana currently falls under. Whether or not you agree with that classification is an entirely seperate issue.

I really can't stand when objective issues of science and medicine are framed as something to "agree" or "disagree" with.

The scheduling of cannabis is crap, and literally everybody knows it. The DEA has to embarrassingly dodge the question whenever it's brought up.

What is objective here? The only objective truth is biological determinism. The rest is political garbage that I have no interest in discussing.

> IRS refuses to interact with marijuana businesses

What does that mean? Surely the IRS still wants their money? It would seem to put the IRS and marijuana businesses in an awkward position...

Pretty sure the IRS is more than willing to deal with MJ businesses - they have an entire setup to let you report "illegal" gains and even keep that secret long before the recent legalization efforts.

Banks, now that's a different story.

You couldn't pay us[0] to use a microsoft product. We'll stick with OpenBravo[1] and OpenAG Initiative[2] to handle all our enterprise resource needs from seed to customer.

0. http://medicalcannab.is

1. http://www.openbravo.com/

2. https://github.com/OpenAgInitiative

Regardless of actual amount of effort Microsoft is putting here, just putting their feet in the water and showing interest is a very smart move. Marijuana is poised to become a multibillion dollar industry, and Microsoft (being based in WA) is in a unique position among the tech giants to capitalize.

Imagine not getting in early on tobacco or alcohol markets. That created tons of wealth.

Companies are smart to hop on the end of another prohibition that will be quite lucrative. It is an immense blue ocean.

I think they do it because they can. Smaller companies are too afraid, MS is too big and they are not going away if someone won't like it.

Good to hear, nevertheless.

Gives a whole new meaning to Cloud Computing.

What a cumbersome, wasteful, unnecessary regulatory system.

It says a lot about the US that the food they eat does not have this level of monitoring and regulation (to track outbreaks like E. Coli) but marijuana does, despite not killing anyone.

This seems to be a pretty certain thing that they know what the decision will be about re-classifying pot. Not to mention the legalization of it nationally. I would hope.

Pretty sure that distinction goes to Taco Bell...

This is more like "Kind becomes Microsoft Certified Solution Provider". Not really big news.

I'm still hoping for Apple to release macOS Weed someday.

Did somebody make a joke about "the cloud" yet?

well then the chatbots are going to get much better ;]

Job interviews be like: "How often do you smoke marijuana?"

Maybe that is why the forced the latest update?

Accidental or purposeful "weed" in the photo behind the knee of the guy on the main pic?

Purposeful. It's a play on the Hollywood, California sign. google "Hollyweed"

So, they'll be plugging in the TVs^H^H^H Monitors for some of the more out of it customers???

(with apologies to Cheech & Chong)

Green Screen of Somnolence???

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