Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fast Company-WeedMaps; The "411" Of Medical Cheeba-Cheeba

photo credit: Fast Company
(Story reported by Ariel Schwartz for Fast Company)

For most of the U.S., marijuana is an illicit pleasure. But in some states--California, Colorado, and Washington, to name a few--it's a legal vice, provided you have a medical marijuana card. The marijuana network can be daunting for the uninitiated, with offerings like Blue Dream, Strawberry Cough, and Green Crack on dispensary menus. How are patients supposed to navigate?

That's where comes in.

In just two years, the WeedMaps website (tagline: Find Your Bud) has grown to more than $400,000 each month in revenue and 25,000 visitors each day. The site is the brainchild of Justin Hartfield, an entrepreneur who was involved in a few failed startups before hitting the jackpot with WeedMaps. "It started in August 2008," he says. "I was a medical marijuana patient trying to find the best dispensaries close to me"--and he couldn't find resources on dispensaries in his area when he looked online.

Like many a successful entrepreneur, Hartfield realized there was a gap in the market. Dispensaries didn't know what customers wanted or how much to charge, and customers didn't know what was available and how much they should be paying. And so was born Yelp-style site, with reviews and listings for dispensaries in states where medical marijuana is legal (though a clear majority of the listings are in California).

At first, Hartfield offered dispensaries the opportunity to display listings for free. "We wanted to give dispensaries business before we asked for money," he says. "We had a tiny audience at first. One day we had 12 people, the next day we had 24. By the end of 2008, we had 1,500 people a day."

In January 2010, WeedMaps started charging for listings. Rates start at $295 per month, and climb to more than $1,000, depending on how extensive the listing is--the more you pay, the more you can list about your dispensary. It's not a cheap service, but it's well worth it for dispensaries. Hartfield says that at least 85% of all dispensaries are on WeedMaps, and for good reason; the site signs up 300 new users and receives 250 dispensary reviews each day.

A quick search for my nearest dispensary--Medithrive--yields a dizzying amount of information about the dispensary's offerings (Not So Virgin Olive Oil, anyone?) and prices. WeedMaps users have provided 121 reviews of the store, and dozens of pictures show off Medithrive's wares. With so much information available, it's not a stretch to understand why medical marijuana patients would visit WeedMaps before every trip to the dispensary.

(Click here to read the full story on the Fast Company website.)

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