Welcome to Intriguing People 2018, our annual celebration of Las Vegas’ cultural trailblazers and social trendsetters. See more from this year’s series here.
Gabriel Allred and Michael Wagner are poised to disrupt the cannabis market in a major way. The co-founders of Tokes Platform, a cryptocurrency company, are leveraging their diverse educational and professional backgrounds to not only revolutionize the way the cannabis industry banks and takes payment from consumers, but how the industry tracks the plant from seed to sale.
Before taking on this new endeavor, Allred, the company’s chief operating officer, donned a completely different set of hats. He’s been half of DJ duo Totescity, an instructor in UNLV’s psychology department and the co-founder of accessories company Battle Born pins with his now-wife, Holly Rae Vaughn.
Wagner’s trajectory is a little more straightforward. The Tokes CEO’s background in finance, specifically investment management, made for an easy transition into cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies.
But Allred and Wagner aren’t just business partners, they’ve been friends since they were teens. Much like today, they dabbled in the technology of the era.
When they were in high school, the pair and their friends spent weekends hunkered down with their computers all in one room where they would set up a local area network so they could play games together.
“We were all sort of the nerds and social outcasts in high school. Before internet gaming was a thing and normalized, we used to do this thing called LAN partying,” Allred remembers. “The internet wasn’t fast enough and the games weren’t robust enough to get online with your friends, so we’d bring our big towers and our monitors and drink Mountain Dew until four in the morning.”
They weren’t only technologically ahead of the curve. “Our name was extremely creative. We called ourselves the LANarchists,” Wagner interjects.
Most of the LANarchists went on to some sort of tech career, but it took Tokes’ innovators a few years to catch up. A conversation during a long-distance cycling excursion would set them on a new path. “Have you heard of bitcoin?” Allred asked during the ride. Wagner, given his background, was already up on it.
“I was like, ‘I like money,’” Wagner recalls with a laugh.
From there, the pair took a dive into the cryptocurrency world headfirst.
The concept of this emerging technology isn’t brand new, but only recently has it started to hit more mainstream circles with the rise of bitcoin. “Ninety percent of the population doesn’t even know it exists,” Wagner says.
The implications for the technology spans many industries, but Tokes is starting with the one that is in the most need currently: legal cannabis.
“We realized, of all of the proposed use cases for the transactional side of crypto, cannabis made the most sense. We could make the un-bankable, bankable,” Allred says.
“We had the capability to provide a solution to a problem,” Wagner adds.
That problem lies in the fact that cannabis is still illegal on a federal level and most federally insured banks will not open accounts or hold funds for cannabis companies. This keeps these dispensaries and cultivators dealing strictly in cash.
The solution comes in the company’s three segments. First, it provides the digital currency itself, along with a blockchain (digital ledger) to record the transactions. Second, Tokes provides a full point-of-sale system that allows dispensaries to process the currency within seconds at a user-friendly kiosk. And third, it employs an embedded tracking system within the cannabis itself to document its journey from seed to sale. This part of the business, called Enterprise Resource Planning, is in partnership with TheraCann, a company that is at the forefront of the bio-tracking industry.
The first two segments are in beta testing with local dispensary Pisos (4110 S. Maryland Pkwy.) as they continue to perfect and streamline the process.
The ERP part offers a fascinating potential that can reach far beyond the cannabis industry.
“Through the TheraCann relationship, there’s a possibility for molecular bio-tracking,” Wagner says, going on to explain what that means. “On every batch of cannabis being shipped it’s included with this biological matter that’s associated with it, so there’s no way that you could introduce black market cannabis into a batch that’s being shipped.”
“This would hopefully streamline the cannabis industry, create accountability and make a better product for the consumer,” Allred reinforces.
Beyond accountability, this kind of bio-tracking could extend to the shipping industry, farm-to-table transparency and more.
“It’s all about finding ways to get out of these centralized systems that are prone to failure or breeches and put that on an encrypted blockchain,” Allred says.
Ultimately, what they’re doing stems back to their desire to really spark change and make a difference on a broader scale.
“We’re in a stage in history where the innovators and dreamers have a real opportunity to utilize emerging technology to change the world,” Wagner says. “That part, in and of itself, is exciting.”