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The Rise of the Marijuana Friendly Social Network

As Bob Dylan once said - "[Series of unintelligible mumblings about converting to a new religion or trying to get a toilet fixed]". He also said that the times are changing, and that adage is certainly applicable to weed, and the legality thereof. It wouldn't be a stretch to imagine that the infamous plant could be legal across the majority of the USA within the next 5-10 years, as well as most of continental Europe.

Not everyone has been entirely welcoming of this change though, legal, legal for medicinal purposes or decriminalised, some are still reluctant to regard marijuana as anything other than a harmful substance. Facebook, and by extension Instagram, fall into this category, as their administrators have been routinely removing dispensary pages and related posts, offering little to no explanation in many cases.

This has happened countless times in recent months, and if any explanation is forthcoming, it's usually some vague nod to regulations about the promotion and sale of the substance under US federal law. If marijuana is legal to sell in a particular state, it's only legal under state law. Despite many investors in and around Silicon Valley recognising that marijuana is a growth market (including PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, one of Facebook's first big backers), Facebook and Apple have both elected to play it safe and put a blanket ban on any green-fingered content on their respective platforms.

This has, understandably, put a lot of dispensaries in a difficult position as far as marketing is concerned, as well as a number of retailers which sell products related to weed, but not the weed itself. So what, then? Rely on Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest? For some, perhaps, but none of those have the same pull with marketing that Facebook does, and as the often misquoted, disembodied voice from Field of Dreams almost said: "If you build it, they will come".

As such, many bud brokers, Mary Jane merchants, ganja go-betweens, draw delegates and sativa salesmen (I could go on, and I really want to, but I won't) have started building their own social networks, entirely based around the promotion of weed and free from the looming specter of federal law.

The most prominent of these are Duby, WeedLife, Social High, Headbuzz and most prominently - MassRoots. MassRoots was founded in 2013, and initially looked for all the world like an Instagram clone, but has since expanded its features and is now more structurally similar to Facebook. Sellers are able to advertise freely on the site, as well as sharing images, following news trends and so forth, and if you're under any illusions about the appeal of such a thing - it's currently valued at $44 million and has around 3/4 of a million users.

MassRoots is easily the most popular network of its kind at the moment, they're even hoping to be listed on NASDAQ by the end of the year. Duby, which is more image based, is probably the second most popular, followed by Social High and WeedLife, and you have to imagine that the Snoop Dogg founded Merry Jane will soon start climbing up the ranks.

None of them can hope to have a reach anywhere near as broad as Facebook, but most marijuana dispensers aren't so much interested in converting people into smokers as reaching the people who already do. There are still likely plenty of people who would be interested in the content posted on MassRoots and its contemporaries, but are simply not aware of it. If sites like these continue to gain reach, and more investors back them, it might cause the Silicon Valley pantheon to rethink their stance on the issue.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @Songbird_Callum

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The Rise of the Marijuana Friendly Social Network Reviewed by Unknown on Friday, March 11, 2016 Rating: 5

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