Marijuana goes mainstream as Weedmaps, a Yelp for pot, gains in popularity

App advertises on billboards along major interstates

By Michelle Ganley - Online Editor
Headline Goes Here KPRC

Not sure what to eat tonight for dinner? There’s an app for that. Check Yelp to see what’s nearby or what kind of reviews the new place down the street is receiving.

Not sure where to buy the next batch of weed? There’s an app for that. Check Weedmaps to see what’s nearby or what kind of reviews the new place down the street is receiving.

Yes -- you read that last line correctly. Have you heard of Weedmaps?

Like we said, it’s an app -- although it's accessible on your desktop computer too, if that’s more your style -- but it’s also so much more than just another free mobile app. Some reviews online go as far as to say the Weedmaps founders revolutionized the medical marijuana industry in their home state of California.

The founders themselves have admitted they’re more into the business for the activism than the profits, at least in this stage of the game. Yet, they’ve gone global, with 200 employees in six offices around the world. In 2015, they opened in Barcelona, Spain.

Their profits aren’t exactly chump-change, either.

Not to throw too many numbers at you at once, but consider this: Within a year of the company’s founding, Weedmaps was already bringing in about $300,000 per month in ad revenue, according to The OC Weekly. The money came from storefront dispensaries, delivery services and doctor referral providers. By 2013, Weedmaps was generating $1.5 million per month. In 2014, Weedmaps was earning at least $30 million from listings, the OC Weekly said.

The company also advertises on billboards along the freeway, which is how we learned about it. One of the billboards sits near the Detroit Metro Airport.

OK then. I guess this is what 2017 looks like. The app follows the pop-up of so many hydroponics stores around town, which seemed to come out of nowhere, too -- well, depending on where you live.

The Boston Globe said in a March report that Weedmaps bought space on dozens of Clear Channel Outdoor billboards across Massachusetts. Billboards are also posted in downtown New Orleans, according to NBC affiliate WDSU. If that seems brazen, consider that Weedmaps isn’t selling marijuana. It’s just showing you all the places that sell it.

So here’s what the app entails, after clicking around for about an hour or two.

First things first, Weedmaps wants to access your location. Which makes sense, as the whole goal (see right in the name -- WeedMAPS) is to show you dispensaries in your area. Also, the app isn’t here to break any laws. If you live in a state where it’s illegal to smoke, as in, even with a medical marijuana card, you hit a dead end.

Typing in “Lincoln, Nebraska” into the search bar, Weedmaps responded with, “Bummer. This place hasn’t legalized medical or recreational marijuana. Change your location above or go to marijuana.com to learn about legalization.”

Sorry, Cornhuskers.

Searching a state that’s a little more liberal, like Colorado for example, Weedmaps' banner will say, “Recreationally legal since 2014” and present you with options, which can be sorted by brand, location, reviews or type of marijuana, such as edibles, plants or concentrates.

You can also see what dispensaries deliver (yes, you can have pot delivered), and learn almost anything you’d want to know about each place.

The dispensary pages include a description of the clinic, its hours, its reviews, contact information, an address, any deals it has going on and links to the clinic's social media accounts.

“I have gastrointestinal issues and rely on clean, quality cannabis to treat chronic nausea,” a reviewer wrote about one dispensary. “(This clinic) has the best product around.”

You can search on the app by marijuana brand or by business name.

See? Weedmaps is like a hybrid of Yelp and Google Maps. In short, people interested in buying marijuana can see where the doctors and dispensaries are located, while also accessing customer reviews and other up-to-date information.

Over the past several years, Weedmaps has definitely worked to get the company's name out there, in addition to buying billboard space. They’ve hosted Hollywood events, and at this year’s Coachella, they’ll be setting up a legal “marijuana oasis” near festival grounds.

They also own marijuana.com, and in some published reports, the founders said they wanted to end a stigma that still exists around smoking pot.

Weedmaps has competitors. A quick online search shows a similar app called Eaze, which is also California-based, and it delivers pot right to your door.

But currently, Weedmaps seems to have control of this relatively newfound market.

It seems as though the app took off around the perfect time, especially when more than half of the United States has laws in place that legalize marijuana in some form.

And it makes sense: People with medical marijuana cards who might not otherwise smoke, likely want to feel comfortable buying the product from somewhere they can trust. So when they can’t exactly window-shop or it’s weird to ask for word of mouth, this solves the problem.

There really is an app for everything, even one answering the age-old question: Who has the best pot in town?

Again, Weedmaps, which considers itself the world’s first marijuana tech and media brand, doesn’t know. It just wants to help people figure that out on their own.

Graham Media Group 2017