A Yelp for Colorado's Newly Legal Marijuana Industry
On Wednesday, legal recreational marijuana went on sale in Denver. How's it gone so far?
Denver officials say they haven't seen any flagrant violations of the ordinance against public consumption, and the Marijuana Enforcement Division hasn't reported any violations of the strict product labeling and tracking guidelines. Some retailers are even going beyond Amendment 64's requirements, asking shoppers to sign a "customer agreement" that outlines where you can use and who you can share with.
This also means Colorado, despite efforts to avoid the reputation, is now open for pot tourism. Shoppers from out-of-state can buy up to a quarter ounce of marijuana at a given store, and they're legally allowed to hit as many stores as they like. (Though, like Colorado residents, they cannot possess more than an ounce total).
A micro-industry has sprung up to help these out-of-towners navigate Denver's offerings. To figure out which stores are open and selling what to who, you could sign up for a Colorado High Life Tour, or plot your course using the Colorado Springs Gazette's list of licenses stores.
Or, you could use WeedMaps, which combines a Yelp-like rating system with Google Maps, all in the service of helping you get high. Justin Hartfield started WeedMaps five years ago as a way to track dispensaries in California, where legally buying pot requires only a cursory visit to a doctor's office.
Since then, the site has evolved to include detailed descriptions of the marijuana strains stores carry, as well as prices, daily deals, customer feedback, store hours and contact information. WeedMaps also just unveiled "the A-Okay symbol, so that residents and visitors alike can find the good stuff at responsible marijuana retail stores."
Thanks to a feature that allows stores to update their WeedMaps menus, potential customers can learn pretty much anything before ever leaving the house, including price per gram, 1/8, and quarter ounce. You can even learn background on certain strains. Below is a shot of the WeedMaps menu for 3D Cannabis Center in Denver:
No offense to the folks at opentable.com, but WeedMaps looks better and updates way more often (it also has a map with an easy-to-understand key). Hartfield recently told CNBC that his site brings in $30 million in annual revenue "by charging dispensaries for access to certain information, the ability to respond to reviews and getting professional photos and videos posted," and that he expects to increase revenue by $6 million in the coming year.
If legalization continues apace, it's easy to imagine WeedMaps being bought up by a bigger player. Though since they're reliant on Google Maps, they'll need to stay on Google's good side.
Top image: Denver has a lot of places to buy marijuana, but not all of them cater to recreational users (yet).