Villa Park native and Chapman University alum Keith McCarty knows how to start businesses. He co-founded Yammer, a Facebook for companies that Microsoft bought for $1.2 billion in 2012. With that money, McCarty decided to create Eaze, an app that markets itself as the "Uber for weed." Although patients can use the app to have marijuana delivered to their homes, Eaze doesn't deliver its own products—nor does it employ the drivers. The purpose of the platform is to function as a facilitator between patient and dispensary.
But the biggest hurdle the 30-year-old initially faced wasn't whether Eaze would be successful—it was his lack of knowledge regarding marijuana. "I saw opportunity in the [cannabis] community," says McCarty. "One being that it's the fastest growing industry in the world, and second being that the majority of Americans favor legalization. But I'm not a cannabis user, so I had to figure out for myself whether it was a façade or if the medicinal benefits were a legitimate thing."
The research, he says, was eye-opening. McCarty came across stories like that of a little girl who suffered from grand mal seizures. Doctors couldn't figure out how to make the seizures stop, and her blood tests and scans came out normal. By the time she was 5, she suffered from 300 grand mal seizures a week, and her doctors said they couldn't help her anymore. Desperate, her parents resorted to using CBD oil. It worked—her seizures stopped.
"What I realized after my research is that it's just a matter of education," says McCarty. "If you do the research, you'll find a lot of evidence showing how [marijuana] truly helps people. But the industry has a stigma attached to it, and that's a key area of focus for Eaze."
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Presenting the idea of his company to his Christian parents is what made him realize the importance of educating the public. "At first, my mom was like, 'Isn't this just a glorified drug-dealing service?' And that's when I walked her through my research," McCarty says. "After I did that, she and the rest of my family arrived at the same conclusions" and gave him their blessings.
Through Eaze, he also wants to help define the regulatory landscape. "If regulated incorrectly, there can be really adverse side effects," says McCarty. "If marijuana is too restricted or unrestricted, it pushes the industry back toward the black market—the opposite direction we want to go. We want to get the regulations right and help regulators understand our model and understand the benefits of doing delivery properly."
Eaze has relationships with dispensaries everywhere from the Bay Area to San Diego and is the largest delivery service of its kind. But with the app, expansion is as simple as a flip of a switch. "From a tech perspective, we are there," says McCarty. "We can expand as easily and as soon as tomorrow."
Also in that plan? "I definitely see drones in the future of cannabis delivery," he says. "The possibilities are endless."