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Joseph Hopkins, co-owner of a dispensary called The Greener Side in Eugene, Oregon, uses the data to deal with suppliers.

(For a graphic on state marijuana laws and price differences, see: tmsnrt.rs/2AFalvZ )
“Consider each state to be a different country when it comes to their laws, amount of licenses issued, what the qualifying conditions are for entry into their medical program, as well as what the political climate and current illicit market looks like,” said Nic Easley, one of New Leaf’s market consultants.

New Leaf makes money from about 350 pot proprietors and other subscribers who buy reports and custom analytics. It has raised money from investors who want exposure to the cannabis sector without the risk of breaking federal law.
“We knew this data is really invaluable for the retail business,” Bingham said. “There are people in this industry who have been in supply chains at Walmart, GNC and other mainstream operations.”
A multi-billion dollar cannabis industry has developed despite federal prohibition, but many executives, farmers and employees are still wary of federal prosecution.
The task is much harder for pot, and New Leaf’s experience stalking prices sheds light on the murky trade of what might be the fastest-growing U.S. commodity, sold legally and illegally for untold billions of dollars.
The data New Leaf collects is still fairly rough, and the marijuana market has nothing like national benchmark prices or futures contracts common to other legal commodities trades. There’s no real way for businesses to hedge, and price-setting remains largely guesswork, said Josh Richman, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Franklin BioScience, which grows cannabis and manufactures branded products, such as mints, in Colorado, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

That left Rubin and Laird puzzled on the investment value of a dispensary, a weed farm or a factory making pot-infused candy. The problem spawned a different investment: The founding of New Leaf Data Services LLC, a Stamford, Conn.-based wholesale price data service that fields reporters to take on the steep challenge of cataloguing going rates.

In 2014, as Jonathan Rubin and Ian Laird considered investing in the booming U.S. cannabis industry, they hit a problem: How to value pot start-ups with little verified data on the price of the weed itself?