New Video Game Navigates the Complex World of Cannabis Legislation

By Tiffany Rowe

Announced this month, Weedcraft, Inc., is a tycoon simulation game not unlike mega-popular games SimCity, Zoo Tycoon and even Stardew Valley, in which players build businesses from the ground up to international, wildly successful corporations. What makes Weedcraft, Inc., different is its digital product: cannabis.

In the game, players strive to run a profitable, weed-centric enterprise without getting into trouble with the law. Unfortunately, in the game, as in real life, legislation and regulation regarding cannabis and related products are not always easy to parse.

Conflicting Laws Everywhere

As of October 2018, nine states have legalized recreational marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Plus, 21 more states have legalized medicinal marijuana, allowing those with certain ailments to acquire weed legally as part of their treatment. Yet, despite the majority of the U.S. having some legitimate access to cannabis – and more than 64 percent of those remaining supporting legalization in some form – the federal government still considers the sale and possession of all marijuana a significant crime. Further, Attorney General Jeff Sessions notoriously hates weed and has promised a crackdown on the weed industry.

Fortunately, that crackdown isn’t defying state law, meaning the federal raids of marijuana operations across the U.S. have largely targeted networks of illegal, unlicensed growers and sellers funded with suspicious, overseas money. Still, there are plenty of instances when the federal government can meddle with legal weed merchants and customers; for example:

  • If a grower, seller or buyer acquires marijuana through legal channels in Washington (where recreational use is legal) and endeavors to take it across the border into Oregon (where recreational weed is legal), the federal government can seize the weed and arrest the person(s) for drug crime.
  • If someone acquires marijuana legally in any state where recreational or medicinal use is permitted, the border patrol might seize and arrest that person because the border patrol is a federal agency.

Worse, marijuana businesses face challenges at other turns, including acquiring funding and paying taxes. Though many financial institutions are loosening regulations as the marijuana industry becomes more legitimate, many banks still adhere to the federal government’s determination that weed-centered merchants are criminal enterprises and thus refuse to provide legal growers and sellers with business loans, accounts and more. Yet, despite this federal classification of marijuana businesses as criminal outfits, weed companies must pay taxes – and they are prohibited from deducting expenses like typical enterprises.

These kinds of contradictions – and more – are covered in Weedcraft, Inc., so the average person can get a taste for the myriad hoops involved in growing, selling and buying weed.

Legal Weed Products

Of course, not all weed-related items are difficult to sell and buy. Most long-time grass aficionados are more than familiar with head shops, which have operated for decades without legal interference. Before marijuana became legal, these stores were legally able to sell tools and paraphernalia, like rolling papers, pipes and bongs, because they could claim the equipment was intended for tobacco use.

Today, the same types of shops are available in cities where marijuana is legal medicinally and recreationally – and many have moved online. For example, interested parties can acquire high-quality bongs from DopeBoo for lower prices thanks to e-commerce, but they can be certain that their purchases will not incriminate them.

What’s more, it has long been legal to sell and buy products made with hemp, which is a different strain of cannabis lacking THC. Though the cultivation of hemp has remained largely illegal across the U.S., forcing manufacturers and merchants to utilize hemp grown in other areas of the world, legal hemp products are myriad, and include various foods and drinks, clothing and accessories, beauty and skin products, health tinctures and even manufacturing and industrial tools.

Hopefully, as recreational use increases around the country – and around the world – the buying and selling of marijuana itself will be as acceptable as the buying and selling of these products.

Weedcraft’s Narrative

Currently, only a demo version of Weedcraft, Inc., is available, and only to video game reviewers like Polygon and Kotaku. Still, the demo shows that Weedcraft, Inc., is more than a rudimentary tycoon sim; rather, it is as complex, and rich with difficult choices as is real-world weed business. In the demo, players experience the story of two brothers in Detroit growing marijuana to help their father endure cancer treatment – i.e., the illegal path through the weed industry. However, the game’s creators attest that legal paths in places like San Francisco will be available in the full game.

Part thrilling tycoon game, part lesson about the intricacies of the marijuana industry, Weedcraft, Inc., promises to be fun and enlightening – much like the product it centers around.

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