IRVINE, Calif. – Online cannabis platform Weedmaps on Wednesday announced they will no longer host pages for illegal cannabis retailers.
“Weedmaps always has and will continue to advocate for a flourishing, legal cannabis market, and taking action to address social equity is integral to making that a reality,” Weedmaps chief operating officer Chris Beals told mgRetailer.
“[Wednesday’s] announcement reinforces that commitment and outlines the program we are implementing to support minority entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry. As it pertains to retail licensing and the new requirements that will be implemented to advertise on our platform, we will have more to share in the weeks ahead,” Beals added.
Some of the initiatives Weedmaps outlined in its announcement include a program to support social equity for minority entrepreneurs, as well as participants affected by the failed War on Drugs, with training, coaching, and assistance in the licensing process. Once licensed, those new vendors would also receive a one-year free listing on the Weedmaps platform.
In addition, the company said that later this year it would require vendors to display their license number on their listing. Moving forward, Weedmaps will also allow online transactions for licensed dispensaries only.
Industry advocates were quoted in several press reports praising the action.
“That is a huge win,” Ryan Kunkel told Associated Press. Kunkel is chief operating officer for Seattle-based Have a Heart dispensary chain, which also has locations in California and Oregon.
“Our biggest competitor in every jurisdiction in California is black-market Weedmaps. It’s not the tax rates, it’s not the regulations—it’s Weedmaps’ efforts to prop up unlicensed operators,” Kunkel described.
Weedmaps had been under pressure from licensed retailers and state regulators to remove unlicensed cannabis vendors from their listings. Some media reports have estimated that the black market in California could be three times the size of the legal market and continues to thrive, despite legalization.
A recent audit of California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control (CBCC) also revealed that so far in 2019 the agency has investigated nineteen illegal cannabis businesses. That is triple the amount of investigations that took place in 2018, the first year of statewide recreational legalization, but is still inadequate to deal with statewide violations.
The CBCC cited a rapid schedule for the bureau to get up to speed, while also developing regulatory policy and infrastructure. A lack of resources also may be to blame; the audit said less than half of the positions approved for the bureau have been filled, with only one field office in the state for the country’s largest cannabis market.
In an unrelated story: The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) recently said the agency is seeking tips and leads on illegal cannabis businesses. The topic was discussed on the FBI This Week podcast.