As the pro-legalization movement builds momentum across the U.S., Illinois becomes the latest state where residents can purchase marijuana legally for recreational use. It signals an exciting time for small business owners, prospective dispensary workers, and most of all marijuana users, though this exciting change brings its own set of challenges.
Today, marijuana is legal in 11 states. With a slew of new dispensaries and strains what the market needs right now is a reliable service to untangle the diverse marijuana market. Platforms like Leafly and WeedMaps are leading the charge in providing veterans and new users the tools they need to feel empowered.
Headquartered in Seattle, Leafly is the world's leading online destination to discover, rate, and review strains of marijuana and cannabis dispensaries. Since launching in 2010, the platform now boasts more than 100 million visitors every year.
The website and app help users discover marijuana retailers, brands who sell cannabis-related products as well as sift through a database of 2,9000 strains. And Leafly is branching out. Beta-testing for Leafly Pickup began in 2018. The service allows customers to reserve products from local dispensaries online before paying and picking it up in person.
“There is no industry that is more exciting or that will have more innovation over the next three to five years than cannabis,” Leafly CEO Tim Leslie told Geekwire last year. “We are at the tip of the iceberg.”
Founded in 2008 by Justin Hartfield and Keith Hoerling, Weedmaps assists users looking for local cannabis products, dispensaries, and brands. The platform also points to bargain prices and facilitates online orders.
Described as "one part Craigslist, one part Uber Eats," WeedMaps links users to businesses that can deliver anything from edibles to vaping cartridges and marijuana flowers in a matter of minutes.
In 2019, the company - whose mission is to combat the stigma associated with weed - opened the Museum of Weed in Hollywood, California. The 30,000 square foot exhibition is curated with interactive installments, historical artifacts, and Instagrammable tidbits that tickle the fancy of marijuana users while also driving advocacy and reform efforts.
While marijuana enthusiasts have welcomed both platforms, some issues regarding the legitimacy of reviews and safety have arisen. In December 2019, WeedMaps was criticized for allowing unlicensed and black-market sellers to advertise on their app. In 2016 the LA Times reported that reviews on WeedMaps were "riddled with suspicious reviews" populating from the same IP address.
Trusted marijuana platforms are few and far between, and as the market develops and grows, it is likely that WeedMaps and Leafly will face some competition in the near future.