NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Retail marijuana has left the underground and joined the World Wide Web.
As states push for limited legalization, Web developers are filling the gaps between seller and buyer. One benefit of the move by states to legalize such transactions is that marijuana buyers no longer have to seek out nefarious types at street corners and conduct their business in hushed tones. They can simply Internet to buy their pot.
Cannabis sites are taking their lead from other successful online consumer models, portraying their sites as the "Yelp" of pot or the "Priceline" of pot. Very catchy. Most sites are relatively new, having been created during the last five years, but their visitor numbers are growing. Plus, many of these sites have mobile apps, so cannabis consumers can get their information from their phones.
It's millennial marijuana. TheStreet has identified the top five cannabis websites for you, the newly emancipated consumer.
The Marijuana Policy Project site is the most informative Web site with regard to legal issues surrounding marijuana. Each state has its own update as to the status of legalization. The group's focus is changing marijuana laws so that cannabis is regulated like alcohol, make sure marijuana education is honest and that treatment for problem marijuana users is effective.
MPP was instrumental in the 2012 Colorado initiative to legalize recreational marijuana by providing the bulk of the funding, staff and expertise. Next on their agenda is Alaska and the group aims to have 10 more laws regulating marijuana like alcohol by 2017. This site is the "go to" source for the legal landscape on pot.
High Times is the grand-daddy of marijuana news. The magazine was founded 40 years ago in New York and went digital in 2008. Initially it was intended as one issue to lampoon Playboy and substituting pot for sex. The centerfold picture is cannabis instead of a nude woman.
The online version is geared toward smoker news and entertainment, not necessarily addressing the medicinal crowd. There are articles, videos, both informative and some curated for the purpose of watching while stoned. The site also caters to the grow it yourself crowd.
There are now 20 states where medicinal marijuana is legal and by the looks of things that number will grow even higher this year. The various types of cannabis is staggering in these shops. Gone are the days of buying pot from the busboy at the restaurant you worked at and just taking what you could get. There are now choices. Many choices. So many its a bit overwhelming. Leafly is here to solve that.
This site reviews the various strains of cannabis. You can search over 500 various strains or search by medicinal use or effect. Do you have an illness that cause you to lose weight? Leafly can help you find cannabis that makes you hungry. Energy, creativity, focus are some of the effect topics. Medical conditions range from seizures to depression. Leafly can also help you locate a dispensary if the state provides for legal medicinal marijuana.
Leafly was begun in 2010 and by 2012, the site had 2.3 million monthly visits.
Weedmaps is described as Yelp for pot. The site contains a database of over 3,000 medical marijuana dispensaries and covers 25,000 different types of pot for review. Weedmaps accepts reviews from patients in the medical marijuana states and the reviews rank the stores by stars. The site uses Google maps to help the user find a dispensary closest to their location and brings up ads for stores that are nearest to the users location. For those counting their pennies, there is a daily deal tab.
The mobile app claims to be the most widely used and downloaded marijuana app in both Google and Apple's app stores.
The site began in 2008 and has grown to roughly two million monthly views with annual revenue of $18 million.
If all these Web sites have made you decide you're in the wrong business, then here's the place to go find your career in cannabis. There are a variety of jobs from part-time to full-time and range from "bud tenders" to more traditional jobs like customers service and sales.
There aren't a huge amount of jobs on this particular site, but as more states legalize marijuana sites like this will become the headquarters for this specialized field. There are other Web sites that are similar in nature cannajobs.com, 420job.com and indeed.com that workers can check out.
Prefer to be the boss instead? Then check out www.thecannabiscareerinstitute.com. Founded in 2009, The Cannabis Career Institute provides business training like learning how to open a dispensary. They suggest that it's better to be prepared before your state goes legal.
-- Written by Debra Borchardt in New York