October 27, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) San Diego, CA — While I was speaking with a friend from Germany recently, I was surprised at how shocked he was to learn of Weedmaps, a popular U.S.-based site that serves as the largest directory of marijuana-related products on the Internet. This makes sense, considering weed is not legal in Germany like it is in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and the dozens of states with medical marijuana programs like California.
He could not believe the vast array of edibles, topicals, oils, waxes, hashes, and smoking instruments viewable to those lucky enough to live in a city served by the website.
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Justin Hartfield and Keith Hoerling founded Weedmaps in 2008. After much success, Weedmaps quickly acquired Marijuana.com, reportedly buying the domain for $4.2 million in 2011. Weedmaps, which is headquartered in Orange County, California, partnered with NORML in October of 2011. Soon after, the entrepreneurs acquired MMJMenu, the Denver-based software company specializing in backend software for the medical marijuana industry.
Along with its directory services, Weedmaps offers dispensary reviews and social networking functions. It’s like the Yelp! of weed. The website has an active forum, private messaging feature, a job board, and a Q&A forum for fellow patients.
According to Marijuana Business Daily, the majority of people — 51 percent — find their pot shops through online listing services like Weedmaps, THC Finder, and Leafly. These tools are instrumental in linking marijuana businesses with consumers.
“It’s everything for marijuana consumers because there’s very little other media out there dedicated to showing the people what they really want,” co-founder of Weedmaps, Justin Hartfield, told Anti-Media in an e-mail. “In addition the Internet gives people a level of access — to real-time tested data, pricing, and availability that no other medium can enjoy.”
Support for marijuana legalization has been hardfought. Advocacy groups invested millions into legalizing recreational and medical marijuana in states across the country. Some organizations expect more states, including Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada, are on the path to recreational marijuana legalization.
The path to legalization has been sown with advertisements on the radio, billboards, rallies and debates, made all the more effective by a general population more evolved on the topic than its government. This well-organized marijuana legalization machine has positioned itself to lead the U.S. to the end of prohibition — and the landscape continues to change rapidly.
Congress has started taking positions on marijuana, and increasing numbers of lawmakers support state medical marijuana laws. Even a Presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, discussed sweeping marijuana law reform. Commenting on marijuana and current punishments for possession, he said:
“I don’t want to promote that but I also don’t want to put people in jail who make the mistake. There are a lot of young people who do this and then later on, they get married and they quit; I don’t want to put them in jail and ruin their lives. The last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use, and it would have ruined their lives. They got lucky, but a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don’t get lucky.”
Despite growing support for marijuana reform, the federal government currently classifies marijuana as the most dangerous type of drug. This Schedule I designation deems cannabis to have “…no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Still, major marijuana reform in global laws seems to be a certainty. Every year, the law of the land changes. And over these years, Weedmaps’ purpose has evolved.
“We’ve grown into a lifestyle brand through the popularity of Weedmaps TV, but we’ve also morphed more into a political company,” Hartfield explained. “Weedmaps is a platform that exists to make other people and their products shine.” For this to be so, sensible weed laws must exist.
“The only way that happens is through smart public policy,” he said. “Weedmaps happens to be in a position to advocate for the growth of the whole cannabis industry without having to try to monopolize the situation like we’ve seen in Ohio.” Ultimately, Weedmaps hopes its work in public policy, as well as the work of others, will make the marijuana industry safe for other players.
For now, investment in the legal marijuana industry from institutional capital remains modest. “[There are] a few players now since Limited Partnership agreements at many of the big institutional capital firms preclude marijuana investing, but that’s changing rapidly,” Hartfield explained. When this changes, Weedmaps will serve as a starting point for the industry’s newest players.
“Weedmaps is a platform for the industry and we plan to expand into all aspects of the marijuana vertical as it relates to software,” Hartfield noted.
As previously mentioned, Weedmaps owns the information portal, Marijuana.com. For now, Hartfield is revamping the site for 2016, “making it more of a resource for people to learn about marijuana especially in light of all the legalization initiatives on the ballot this November.”
In an interview with FastCompany, Hartfield previously expressed a desire to make Weedmaps the Amazon of marijuana. These days, he takes a more conservative approach: “No plans to be a nationwide dispensary just yet. After Federal Prohibition on marijuana ends, who knows though?”
This article (How America Gets Its Weed) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Justin O’Connell and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Justin O’Connell began contributing articles to Anti-Media in October of 2015. He owns and operates GoldSilverBitcoin and writes for numerous publications, such as the San Diego Reader.