Buying Pot Could Soon Be As Simple As Clicking A Button

By McCarton Ackerman 11/19/15

Several online marijuana businesses have been sprouting up on the Internet.

woman clicking mouse.jpg

Marijuana entrepreneurs are now using the Internet to help those seeking pot to bypass a painfully slow process to get the drug they want.

With a handful of states expected to vote next year on measures surrounding marijuana legalization, millions of new customers could potentially enter the marketplace. Several companies based out of Silicon Valley are now looking to cash in on the trend, which could be another tech boom for the area.

One of the most talked-about new marijuana ventures on the Internet is HelloMD, which lets customers get a diagnosis from a doctor over the Internet that they’re a qualified candidate for medical marijuana. A reporter from the New York Times recently paid a $50 consultation fee to use the site and get connected  with a pediatrician, who informed her after just three minutes that her heartburn made her a candidate for the drug.

The reporter was then emailed a “medical recommendation,” the online equivalent of a medical marijuana prescription. Using an app called Weedmaps, she then found a dispensary in her area that would deliver marijuana directly to her home.

“What we see is moms, dads, professionals, old people, everyone wanting access to cannabis,” said Mark Hadfield, founder of HelloMD. “The old type of experience—go to a crummy doctor’s office, wait in line—was not going to appeal to the market that we were after, which is everyday Americans, a market that, by the way, is much larger than the old market of—I don’t want to call them stoners, but let’s say, ‘recreationally minded young people.’”

Seattle-based Privateer Holdings manages several of these emerging marijuana businesses on the Internet. Among them are Leafly, an app and website that offers news and reviews of various marijuana products, and Meadow, which recently announced they will be rolling out software that allows medical marijuana supply chains to operate their business digitally.

“After looking into the industry, we quickly realized that this is no longer, and hasn’t been for years, a countercultural product,” said Brendan Kennedy, one of the founders of Privateer.

But unlike standard Silicon Valley businesses, marijuana-based Internet startups have plenty of hoops to jump through. Funding typically comes from private individuals because many organizations are still leery about having their brand associated with pot businesses. And the fact that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level can cause a headache in how these businesses are forced to operate.

“Things that would be check-the-box items for any Silicon Valley technology company, like opening a bank account or hiring a marketing firm or finding a lawyer to represent you, become a three- or four-month project,” said Kennedy. “Everything in this industry is harder.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.