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Meet the Yelp for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

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This story appears in the August 2014 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

After California legalized the sale of medical marijuana, hundreds of thousands of people were left hunting down doctors willing to give them prescription cards and searching for local dispensaries--which have the habit of closing abruptly or being buried with invisible signage. One entrepreneur wondered why there wasn't a better way. 

"I realized that these dispensaries could use internet marketing," says Justin Hartfield, CEO of Weedmaps.com. "I was like, wait a minute. Yelp doesn't have any dispensaries. Why don't I make a portal for dispensaries? I could optimize it myself, get the No. 1 on Google. When people click through and see my awesome website, they'll come back next week when they want more weed."

From that half-baked idea, Irvine, Calif.-based Hartfield and partner Doug Francis, a former mortgage-industry executive who brought sales savvy to the venture, have built a company that's on course to do $25 million in sales this year--and has become one of the biggest brands in an industry that is virtually brand-nameless. All without touching marijuana, which still is classed as a Schedule 1 narcotic. It's mere pocket change, though, compared to where Hartfield sees things going. 

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