A California developer recently created an online community for marijuana enthusiasts to rate their favourite type of pot. Leaf.ly's founder tells DigitalJournal.com the site helps simplify the process of buying medical marijuana.
Scott V. doesn't want to reveal his true identity. For good reason. He's the brains behind Leaf.ly, a two-month-old website allowing people to sign up and review various medicinal marijuana strains, or varieties. Scott and his business partners are tech professionals in California who want to remain anonymous, much like the many reviewers on Leaf.ly. Outing yourself as a pot user is still risky in some parts of the world.
Leaf.ly is not a social network, Scott, 29, stresses to DigitalJournal.com in an interview. "We could be considered the antithesis of a social network, we take anonymity and privacy very seriously," he says, adding the site doesn't require an email address to sign up and all data-sharing is disabled by default.
Why the secrecy? Users on Leaf.ly can rate and comment on various strains of medicinal marijuana they try, citing the effects (e.g. energy, creative, giggly), medical use (e.g. nausea, lack of appetite, pain) and activities that complement the bud (listening to music, creating art, etc.). As the website explains: "With this anonymous aggregated data we can help our users make the best purchasing decisions."
For instance, the Cracker Jack strain is defined as a "cannabis sativa strain combining Jack Herer with Green Crack to produce a potent buzz." Its main effect is listed as "energetic" and its main medical use is to curb anxiety.
Another strain called White Shark includes a user review saying, "After smoking this strain i felt happyness [sic] wash over me."
A page on Leaf.ly showing user-generated reviews of this marijuana strain
Scott says Leaf.ly includes more than 400 user reviews of around 70 strains. Although medicinal marijuana strains are emphasized throughout the website, it's uncertain if non med-pot users are also rating these strains.
The Leaf.ly blog announced in mid-August the launch of the Achievements feature, defined as "special unlockable awards that you get by completing different tasks on the site. Start unlocking the achievements just by doing the same things you are already doing on the site, such as rating and favoriting strains, linking your Twitter account, creating public profiles and more."
It seems this feature was designed to encourage more user-generated contributions. Harnessing crowdsourced information is key to the site, Scott explains. "The appeal of Leafly really lies in the data that we aggregate and not how we keep track of your social graph," he says, mentioning a term popularized by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
"Think of us as the Consumer Reports of weed and not the Facebook of weed."
A profile on Leaf.ly, a website to review various strains of medicinal marijuana
Leaf.ly has secured deals with other pot-friendly sites to syndicate their reviews, including Weed Maps and soon-to-be-launched CannaCentral. Scott didn't disclose how much money they are making from syndication but he said "we are bootstrapped and still in the red, but things are getting better."
How so? What new development are in the works?
Leaf.ly will soon develop Android and iPhone apps, Scott notes. They also want to create an iPad app to sell to med-pot dispensaries (commonly found in California and Colorado). Scot explains: "The idea is that it will sit on the counter and patients can look up information on the different strains right there so they can make an informed purchase decision. When the dispensary configures the app with what they have in stock, it will also push updates out to our site. Any visitors looking at a specific strain will be able to see where it is available in their area."
Online foodies have their recipe sites. Beer drinkers tell us what's in their pint glass at ratebeer.com. And now med-pot aficionados have a ratings site to call their own, even if they wish to remain anonymous doing so.