How Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are
rushing to cash in on cannabis.
By Mat Honan
A clone of the Charlotte’s Web strain, developed by the Stanley brothers, crossed with another strain of industrial hemp. BENJAMIN RASMUSSEN
LIKE MANY PEOPLE in San Francisco, Sasha Robinson is working on a startup out of his home. His living room is a riot of wires, battery packs, pliers, and metal casings. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was a bomb maker. But these are just the raw materials for a new gadget he’s creating. It’s something revolutionary, he thinks, and he should know. In the 2000s, Robinson ran software development at industrial design firm Moto, where he oversaw new product development for the Flip HD camcorder. Before that he was at Juniper Systems and Silicon Graphics, two of the Valley’s foundational tech firms. His cofounder, Mark Williams, has also bounced around Valley software firms, but his main experience was at Apple, where he managed a Mac OS design team. These guys have tech cred.
They also met at a Burning Man party. “We would hang out socially and always ended up talking about ideas and inventions,” says Williams, explaining how they came up with their new product in his living room. “We were sitting on my couch in my apartment, smoking. I was over 40 then, we could really feel it in our bodies. We were social smokers, but we both felt it …”
“Wait. Are you talking about tobacco here,” I interjected.
So, officially, the Firefly is for pipe tobacco. But I didn’t try any pipe tobacco in it. You probably won’t either. I did, however, sample some marijuana, for which it’s really, really great. A personal disclosure: I’ve smoked a lot of pot. I’m no stoner, but I’ve been smoking it for more than 25 years, and in that time I’ve used all sorts of vaporizers. They’ve evolved a great deal over the years, from giant complex tabletop devices to today’s generation of e-cig-style vapes that deliver brain-hammering doses of butane-extracted cannabis oil. The Firefly does those devices one better, magically and almost instantly vaporizing actual plant material at the touch of a button. It is just wonderful.
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