California’s Prop 19, the initiative that would legalize marijuana for recreational use in California, will be decided in just four days. If passed, it will make California the first state in the country to fully legalize marijuana (I was shocked to realize that Nevada hasn’t gotten on this yet). Have you had your fill of predictable pot puns? Well, get ready for some more.
With voting day looming on the horizon (November 2), marijuana-related Web domain names are the new hot commodity, the New York Times reported Thursday morning. Domain names from the standard “pot.com” to the more fringe “icecreammarijuana.com” and “marijuanapastry.com” are being bought and registered on the cheap to be sold at a later date for what many believe will be big, big bucks.
“Marijuana domain name values will fly off the charts once Prop 19 passes,” said 49-year-old California native Kevin Faler in an interview with the New York Times. Faler, a former narcotics police officer, has already registered more than 1,000 pot-themed domain names. “I’m hoping to make enough money to buy a condo in Morocco. That’s how big it’s going to be.”
Domain names can sell for big money, and several non-pot-related domain names have sold recently for very steep prices. Currently, a $13 million sale is pending for sex.com, and in June, slots.com sold for $5.5 million. Can a “pot.com” or “weed.com” see the same success? DN Journal, a publication that focuses on domain names, noted one pot-related domain name that sold this year for $2,000.
But there are other challenges facing those who want to enter the marijuana space. Even if Prop 19 passes, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. announced that the federal government plans to aggressively uphold federal marijuana laws in the state of California.
And then there’s the issue of money. “If you talk to people in this industry, they are broke, overtaxed and overregulated,” said Steph Sherer, a medical marijuana patient and founder of Americans for Safe Access, in an interview with Business Insider. “The market isn't growing as fast as the industry is growing."
Several banks refuse to accept accounts for marijuana dispensaries—even medical dispensaries, and major credit cards, like Visa and Mastercard, have wavering policies regarding transactions at medical marijuana dispensaries.
The fact remains that as long as marijuana is viewed as an illicit and immoral substance, medical marijuana will continue to be eyed suspiciously and people in legitimate need of the substance for medical use will face an uphill battle getting it. So far only 14 states in the U.S. have legalized medical marijuana (on a side note: medical marijuana can also be administered as a THC pill. Having worked with autistic children for a number of years, I've known many families whose children have been prescribed this pill).
To give some push to Prop 19, Justin Hartfield, CEO of Weedmaps.com (often described as a “Yelp for pot”), launched WeedVote.com earlier this month, a political activism site that encourages voters to vote yes on Prop 19.
“Both Attorney General Holder and the President are minorities, and I think they’ll recognize that this is an issue that affects minorities more than anyone,” said Hartfield in an interview with VatorNews. He was referring to the statistics on marijuana arrests that show that black people are arrested at double, triple, and even quadruple the levels of white people in many U.S. counties. In 2009, 62% of all marijuana arrests in California were of nonwhite suspects (additionally, 42% were under the age of 20). Such figures have prompted the NAACP to come out in support of Prop 19.
Hartfield also pointed out the fact that cannabis prohibition came about in the 1930s largely due to a desire to crack down on the tidal wave of immigrants coming into the U.S. from Mexico. Many Mexican immigrants were observed to smoke marijuana, which became the focus of U.S. lawmakers' efforts to stem the flow of incoming immigrants in the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act.
“Win or lose, this year’s ballot initiatives are just one more step toward ending the decades old war on marijuana users,” said Hartfield in a recent press release. “We began WeedMaps to help patients find the best medicine at the best price, and we are launching WeedVote.com to help them and everyone else who understands how Marijuana Prohibition threatens everyone’s rights to find personal freedom and social peace.”
Money to be made
Hartfield has seen the potential for profit in the marijuana space. In September, Weedmaps made $400,000 off of a user base of 50,000 registered members. In august it made $300,000. Compare this to Weedmaps’ earnings a year ago when it was making $20,000 a month. Whatever your opinion, you have to admit those are pretty amazing numbers for a startup in a field that isn't even fully legal yet.
Hartfield, himself, owns several thousand pot-themed domain names, including CannabisClubs.com, VapeCafe.com, MedicalMarijuanaDispensaries.com, and more. He also noted the number of profitable areas that entrepreneurs will be able to capitalize on once recreational use of marijuana is legalized. “People will be able to smoke in restaurants and coffee shops. Just like you can go into a nice restaurant and have a glass of wine with your meal, you’ll also be able to request a joint. There will be a new demand for things like vaporizers and personal devices.”
But how will popular opinion of marijuana as an immoral substance affect the profitability of the marijuana business?
“I don’t see anything wrong with helping people get access to a safe, relatively harmless substance like marijuana,” said Hartfield, noting that alcohol consumption is more harmful than marijuana use. “I also don’t think the government should be enforcing morality.” He also added that popular opinion is shifting as today’s generation is tackling this issue. Indeed, younger voters are coming out in support of Prop 19 in far greater numbers than older voters.
If Prop 19 passes, there is a lot of profit potential in the marijuana space. Estimates currently value the marijuana industry at somewhere between $10 billion and $120 billion. If Prop 19 does indeed pass, domain names will be one of many business opportunities “lighting up” the marijuana space. Ha, ha!
I pose a challenge to the Vator community: Who among you can come up with the lamest pot-themed domain names? Think BudBook.com, PotSquare.com, iWeed.com, etc. Those are pretty lame. Can you beat those?
Image source: ourweed.com