Weedmaps: A Review Website For Weed And Weed Accessories
Weedmaps: A Review Website For Weed And Weed Accessories
As the laws and social stigmas around marijuana have relaxed in recent years, the industry has exploded and small businesses opened across the country. Weedmaps has created a comprehensive directory of these businesses.
Weedmaps: The Highlights
- Weedmaps is an online forum and app helping people who want to learn more about marijuana and cannabis-related products
- The online community active on Weedmaps helps the user understand everything about marijuana, from its biology and cultivation to where it’s sold.
- Weedmaps is easy to use and many people get involved in the community
- Even though Weedmaps is a helpful platform for marijuana enthusiasts, there are some who criticize its presence.
- Since more and more states have legalized medicinal and recreational marijuana in recent years, it’s easy to see how Weedmaps will continue to evolve
What Is Weedmaps?
Weedmaps calls itself a:
“community where businesses and consumers can search and discover cannabis products, become educated on all things cannabis, review cannabis businesses and connect with other like-minded users.”
Originally based in Irvine, California, the company now has over 400 employees and offices in Denver, Phoenix, New York City, Toronto, Barcelona, and Berlin.
The basic features of the Weedmaps website are the business maps and reviews, marijuana brand descriptions and ratings, product deals, and educational forums.
The History of Weedmaps
Weedmaps was co-founded by Justin Hatfield and Keith Hoerling in 2008, in the wake of the so-called “marijuana wave”. It was a time when medical marijuana was becoming legalized in many states and dispensaries were opening up by the dozens.
Hatfield described the beginning of Weedmaps to Business Insider:
“In 2008 I was running a Search Engine Optimization consulting business. I got my medical marijuana card and I stumbled upon a hole in the market. I wanted to go to a dispensary but there wasn’t really a website where they all were. I decided to create this site and slowly but surely we built it up to be one day acquired by a publicly traded company.”
Hartfield and Hoerling did build the company up very quickly. Within two years, Weedmaps was making $400,000 a month and had 50,000 registered users.
It was around this time that they went through a couple of rocky years, taking the company public, and then going private again.
In more recent years, Hartfield has helped kick off other affiliated companies like “Weedvote.com” and “Weedmart.com.” His investment firm, Emerald Ocean Capital, even purchased the domain name “www.Marijuana.com,” hoping that if marijuana is ever legally sold on the internet, they will become the Amazon of the weed market.
Weedmaps Services To Customers
Weedmaps is designed to help users understand all of the different facets of marijuana, from its biology, to where it is sold. The three main services that they provide to accomplish this mission is dispensary reviews, strain and product reviews, and weed education.
The dispensary reviews on Weedmaps work a lot like the popular restaurant reviewing website Yelp.com. There is a map that displays your given region of the world. The users can click on different icons on the map that signify businesses. There are three types of businesses, each with their own icon: doctors who can prescribe for marijuana; marijuana dispensaries that deliver; and storefront marijuana dispensaries.
When a user clicks on a business on the map, it will show the hours of operation, phone number, and other basic information at the top of the page. But the really important information is below.
Weedmaps provides a full menu of marijuana brands and strains that are sold at each store. They also have a section for deals that the dispensary may have going on. Of course, there are reviews as well. Each business is given an average rating of all the reviews (out of 5 stars).
Strain and Product Reviews
Weedmaps’ product reviews are structured into different categories: flowers, concentrates, vape pens, edibles, and medical. When a user clicks on each section, it brings up dozens of different brands.
Each brand or strain will have its own menu of products, and users can rate each product individually. So, one brand might have an amazing flower product, but its edible cookie might only have 2.5 stars. Weedmaps will also show users the nearest places where they can buy each brand that is reviewed.
If users click on the “Learn” tab on Weedmaps main menu, it will bring them to the education portion of the website. Here they have all kinds of informative articles about marijuana, its legal history, the cannabis industry, and the cannabis plant itself. They even have a detailed section on the legal status of marijuana in each U.S. state and Canadian territory.
The educational articles can go into quite a bit of detail, such as explaining the difference between an “eighth” and a “dime bag” In marijuana lingo. One article is named “Why Do My Eyes Turn Red When I Smoke Weed?”
Weedmaps Reviews Come Under Scrutiny
In August of 2016 Weedmaps faced a growing company’s worst nightmare: a data breach. The Los Angeles Times wrote a feature on the data breach and analyzed the information that had been accidentally leaked. What they found is that many of the reviews on the site were suspicious.
The Times’ article stated that “reviews on the site are pseudonymous, and visitors reasonably expect that each is written by a unique customer. But data that Weedmaps mistakenly leaked suggests a large proportion of glowing remarks come from individual users leaving multiple reviews of a single business.”
When multiple reviews are left from a single user, it often means that the reviews are not reliable. While certain households may have more than one person who has visited a given business, it’s more likely that someone has been paid to leave falsely positive reviews for multiple businesses.
The Los Angeles Times found that 70 percent of the businesses reviewed on the site had at least one review which came from a common address. This suggests that nearly all of the site’s business reviews were at least somewhat influenced by unreliable feedback. Fakespot, a website that analyses and grades products based on the reliability of their reviews, gave Weedmaps an ‘F’ score.
Weedmaps Responds to Criticism
When he was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, Chris Beals, president of Weedmaps Media Inc., downplayed the role of the reviews in the Weedmaps service, saying, “the reviews are definitely part of the picture…We don’t want to neglect anything, but to be honest, it’s critical to have an accurate menu and lab information. That’s the number one complaint.”
In response to the criticism that they faced, Weedmaps has made their policy regarding reviews much more clear. They now have a ‘review guidelines’ section that outlines who is allowed to write reviews, and how those reviews are managed. This includes rules about ‘conflict of interest,’ ‘plagiarism,’ and ‘verified accounts’.
A quick survey of recent reviews on the site suggests that there is more variety than before.
How to Use Weedmaps
Weedmaps has a beautiful, intuitive site design that is rather easy to use for anyone who is familiar with sites like Yelp or Google Maps. Here is a simple walkthrough of the site and its most essential functions.
When you first arrive on the Weedmaps homepage, you will see various features of the site are laid out simply and clearly at the top. This menu includes “Home,” “Maps,” and “Deals”. There is also a search bar where you can jump immediately to a given topic or location to look a the businesses and deals that are offered there.
Many people will use Weedmaps primarily for its map feature. It is the original and most prominent tool on the website. To use the maps feature, simply click on the “Maps” tab at the top of the main page. This will bring you to a map, not unlike Google Maps.
The Weedmaps map will have many little icons placed over a zoomable satellite view. If there are no icons on the map, it may be because you are zoomed into a location where there are no legal marijuana dispensaries. You can type a city name or zip code into the bar at the top of the page to navigate to a city that does have dispensaries.
There are three main icons on the map: car icons for delivery, stethoscope icons for doctors, and weed leaf icons for storefront dispensaries. You can also see a list of the local dispensaries by name on the left side of the site. Click on the icon or on the list to the left to go to the dispensary’s page.
Once you are on a dispensary page, you will see the name, location, and open/closed status at the top. If you scroll down, you can see the menu. This is where Weedmaps begins to look a lot like Yelp.
You can see the various menu items that the dispensary has to offer and even read individual reviews of these items (if they are available). You can also click on the dispensary menu in the middle of the page to see details about the business, reviews, and media.
The map section of the site works the same for businesses, deliveries, and doctors.
Another major offering from Weedmaps is the “Brands” tab. If you click on Brands you will be brought to a page that shows some of the major marijuana strains and brands and has reviews of those brands.
The brands are laid out by type and by ‘Featured’ and ‘Non-featured’ brands. The featured brands have paid a premium to be listed at the top of the site. If you click on a brand it will bring you to the brand page, where you can read about the various products that the brand has to offer. There are reviews of most products on each brand page.
There is a new feature on Weedmaps that’s labeled “Order Online.” While this might sound like it’s an Amazon.com-like service, it’s not. It is not legal under current U.S. law to ship weed across the country.
This service is more like GrubHub than Amazon. You can find local dispensaries that will deliver weed to you, assuming that you meet the local required laws (age, medical marijuana card, etc.). You can look at the menu online, and then place your order.
The final feature that Weedmaps offers is education. Click on the “Learn” tab on the main menu and you will be brought to a page where you can click on various themes to read well-researched, in-depth articles about marijuana law, history, and biology.
For example, if you click on the “Laws and Regulations” tab, then you will be brought to a page where you can click on any state in the U.S. to read all about their current laws and regulations surrounding the control of marijuana.
Weedmaps Services For Dispensaries
Weedmaps is not just useful for customers to find businesses. It’s also designed to help businesses find their customers. At the bottom of the site, you can find a section called “WM for Business”. Here, you can register new dispensaries, deliveries, or doctors. Doing this will help expose your business to all kinds of new clients (and, potentially, to negative reviews).
Those who really want to up their publicity efforts can contact Weedmaps about becoming a ‘featured’ brand.
Weedmaps vs Leafly
Since Weedmaps’ service is so simple and so successful, there are, of course, other competitors who are offering similar features to weed customers. The main competitor of Weedmaps’ online model is a site called Leafly.
Both Weedmaps and Leafly have a dedicated following. Weedmaps gets about 6 million visits every month, many of them on their phone app. Leafly, on the other hand, gets about 40 million page views a month.
However, it’s not clear that people are using the sites in the exact same way. Weedmaps has long been a site known for its directory of businesses, while Leafly has been known more for its reviews of marijuana strains and products.
Although both of these sites now have both features, it seems as though they are largely used for their original features.
So, Weedmaps is probably the better choice if you are trying to find a dispensary, while Leafly might be more reliable for strain reviews.
One thing to keep in mind for businesses is that it’s much cheaper to get a listing on Weedmaps. It’s been reported that “Leafly’s pricing model is geo-specific so it can range anywhere in between $600 and $4,000 a month to advertise your dispensary or delivery service on Leafly.”