As cannabis reform takes hold across the nation, the East Coast is brimming with opportunities for small businesses, but without legal framework for recreational sales, cities like Washington, D.C. — who already have medical marijuana, are stuck in a cannabis limbo where gifting and trading is legal, but selling recreationally is not.
This strange regulatory system in the District has become a fertile ground for a company like LeafedIn, to create its own niche.
Anonymous and free, LeafedIn, also known as LeafedIn.org, is available nationwide as a cannabis networking app focused on the niche market of connecting people to people within the cannabis industry. It’s a map-based weed app (accessible on any mobile or desktop device by going to www.leafedin.org) that connects individual members of the cannabis community in real-time through a messaging service. Users are segmented into four major cannabis related groups: Vendors, Buyers, Employers, and Skilled Labor.
The exclusive interview is from The Marijuana Times:
For the first time, in an exclusive interview with The Marijuana Times, the founder of LeafedIn speaks about his vision for the future of cannabis networking. He goes by the name of Oho Herer, and he says his app fills a niche created by the lack of framework in the green space. He’s also a true ganjapreneur who admits that he would rather take a chance like this, in a budding industry, than “live in mediocracy”.
The Marijuana Times: How does your app work, exactly?
Oho: At its foundation it is just a networking solution, executed in a manner different than anything in the marijuana industry. While all other tools are focused on business to business type models, we basically aim to provide a networking platform that can meet any product or employment need for anyone in the industry — without any fees or facilitating any transactions. We focus on individuals connecting to individuals, people to people directly, and we are the first to encourage such a model in the industry. It doesn’t mean we also don’t have business to business and business to consumer networking, but our uniqueness comes from our focus on all individual participants in the cannabis industry.
The Marijuana Times: As your app grows, do you see any legal issues getting in your way?
Oho: I see us causing a stir, but we are just a networking service like Tinder and Craigslist. The precedent is already there for companies that do not facilitate any transactions. I believe we are, 100 percent, a networking tool, not a dispensary trying to sell product. The government should like that there are private companies like mine making it easier for small businesses.
However, with the right government framework in place, this product wouldn’t even be needed. The tool is needed because of the inefficiencies in the markets. People think of marijuana employment as a trimmer or grow room builder, but when you have a mind like mine, it’s more mainstream than that. Cannabis businesses will need accounting and project managers like any other business. We have vendors, suppliers, skilled labor, and buyers on our app and I plan on growing my app to evolve into the niches that develop as legalization goes forward in more and more states.
The Marijuana Times: If cannabis laws are a state-by-state issue, how did you decide on the fundamentals of your app?
Oho: I’m based on the West Coast but the East Coast, specifically Washington, D.C. was a HUGE consideration of mine. When I was going through the mission and fundamentals of the app, the District was a huge focus. It’s close to my heart because it exemplifies the situation of the broader state of cannabis prohibition and how even when cannabis is legalized — it can still be complicated. D.C. is an example of what people have to go through — it’s legal, but so hard to see what you can and cannot do, and things are changing. It’s the gray economy and gray community, in a sense. It’s a limbo, purgatory almost. The point of legalization is to bring the gray and black market to light, but right now you have legitimate people trying to follow the law, but they don’t know how because it keeps changing so often.
The Marijuana Times: Were you always an entrepreneur?
Oho: I’m really an entrepreneur at heart; when I was younger I would resell textbooks throughout college. Besides LeafedIn, I’m also working on other cannabis and non-cannabis related projects.
When it comes to my businesses, I say, that even if I fail and become dirt poor, I rather take the chance and give it my all and make something of myself, by myself. I don’t want to live in mediocracy.
The Marijuana Times: Are you nervous about working in an industry that is not federally legal?
Oho: I believe 100 percent that even at a federal level, our service is completely legal because fundamentally, we are a technology product. That said, you never know what could happen. Donald Trump could become president, and out of the blue say marijuana won’t make America great again. You’re always walking on thin ice because there can always be a crackdown.
The Marijuana Times: What about safety concerns when it comes to meeting people online?
Oho: Just like any other online networking solution where you have anonymity — for instance craigslist, there is only so much we as a company can do because in the end, we do not control how they use and physically connect through our network. Therefore, just as with any tool, we advise our users to always use caution, meet in public places, and use common sense. On our end, we try to do whatever we can to promote a safe environment. For instance, we focused heavily on making a user review system for users to have tools to leave feedback, and make more informed choices on their networking choices.
The Marijuana Times: How is LeafedIn different than other marijuana apps out there?
Oho: We are creating community based solutions. LeafedIn isn’t just buyers and vendors, it’s also for trade, skilled labor, and small mom-and-pop businesses. It’s for the guy who wants to legally donate or trade an eighth of marijuana, or the collective in California that wants to find a local farmer for a higher quality product. I also built this platform for the family-run business who needs trimmers, accountants, and even electrical contractors. We focus on the individuals and help them see themselves as legitimate entities, especially in this climate where it’s taking time for the industry to assimilate into the mainstream.
The Marijuana Times: What skills are in your wheelhouse? Were you in technology before this venture?
Oho: I come from a technology background, I’ve been working in the tech world for almost a decade now. I’ve worked on a wide variety of big projects but started as an intern in a startup in San Francisco. I worked in product management, enhancing products by talking to the client and engineer to help translate the needs and wants of both and I think that shows in my LeafedIn app.
The Marijuana Times: How popular is your app right now? Can you tell us how many people are currently using it?
Oho: We are big on company privacy so I can’t give out too much information except to say that we are very happy with our progress so far.
The Marijuana Times: Do you recommend other ganjapreneurs get in on the cannabis tech industry?
Oho: Yes! The opportunities are endless! There aren’t a lot of technology and business experts in the industry. Same goes for marketing and communications. I see a lack of legitimate people with knowledge of business, technology and infrastructure working with the people that have cannabis knowledge.
Chloe Sommers is the Executive Editor of the Never Daunted Radio Network, she’s also a contributor to The Marijuana Times and Leafly. You can reach her on Twitter@ChloeCannaNews