With legalization comes innovation
A $1.1 trillion spending bill was approved by Congress on Friday, and one of the riders included was the Rohrabacher-Farr Medical Marijuana Amendment which prohibits the Department of Justice from funding and essentially interfering with state-legal medical marijuana conduct.
This reauthorization and ceasefire on medical marijuana from the federal government coupled with the decriminalization of marijuana possession in many states and the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana in several others opens up opportunities to niche apps catering to marijuana users.
“Foursquare for weed lovers”
The latest app currently in beta is PUFF, self-described as “a Foursquare for weed lovers” where weed lovers can check-in, review and rate cannabis strains. PUFF claims to be a completely anonymous social network, with no usernames or registration and allegedly no personal information stored by the application.
Promises anonymity, but asks for personal information
While the claim of anonymity may entice folks to try out the app, my initial concern is the validity of the claim. One of the features reported is the ability to get personal recommendations based on previous check ins.
This aspect implies predictive analysis based on data collection – how that data is stored and referenced to produce recommendations, and associated to that user is quite vague. Furthermore, if you sign up for early access, you are asked to provide your email address, name, age and experience, i.e., smoking frequency.
Three’s a crowd
Finally, the site appears to rely on MailChimp for mailing list subscription. Providing an application that is “completely anonymous” yet using a third-party email provider could be risky as it implies another data storage instance over which you do not have direct control. While MailChimp has a good security track record, I also wonder whether PUFF is considered within MailChimp’s prohibited content and industries.
This concern may seem trivial, but it is symptomatic of an application and website that does not appear well-architectured nor well-designed. PUFF’s target demographic seems to be recreational users with their catch phrase “by weed lovers, for weed lovers.”
Already a lot of competition
Existing cannabis-related niche websites and apps boast substantial communities that provide crowd-sourced data include Leafly, an information resource, and Weedmaps, a “community where medical marijuana patients find and connect with dispensaries.” Whether PUFF will be able to blaze along with other competitors remains to be seen, but I don’t have high hopes based on the PUFF web content that is lacking, even for a beta application.