Marijuana: The pros and cons of crowd-funding pot apps

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Crowd funding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have revolutionized the way new businesses start up.

But are they ready to help combine marijuana and mobile technology? The folks behind AbacaRX and Dispensed2U hope so.

Although many people think of crowd-funding sites mainly as platforms for actors and actresses to beg their fans to finance a shitty movie, they've also proved effective in launching businesses that might still be languishing otherwise. And given the recent explosion of marijuana business, it's not surprising San Francisco-based AbacaRX would want to use this method to tell the world, "There's an app for that,.

The one created by AbacaRX is hyped as the first medical marijuana evaluation app for laptops, phones and tablets. The concept involves encrypted software and a small team of physicians ready to give evaluations in the 22 states, plus the District of Columbia, where medical marijuana is legal.

"Some people seeking advice or consultation on medical marijuana might feel uneasy talking to their family doctor," notes AbacaRX CEO Roger Proctor, corresponding via e-mail. "And some people live in such a remote rural area that going online is much easier."

According to Proctor, the company's founders have been working on the app for two years and believed they had everything covered aside from the funding to launch. But then, something went wrong.

The company's Indiegogo campaign debuted on June 9 and had reached almost half of its six-figure goal in about two days. Individuals contributed thousands of dollars and it looked like a launch party was in order.

Then Indiegogo shut it down.

"On Friday, June 13 we received a notice from Indiegogo that they had suspended our account without reason," Procter writes. "It was not until Tuesday, June 17 that we received their response requesting a copy of my photo ID, address and other information, which they had never requested in the past and was not demanded to set up the campaign."

Indiegogo wouldn't comment after numerous requests from Westword, but Procter maintains that he eventually got something of an explanation. "It appears that there was a problem with Paypal," he reveals.

Proctor admits the shutdown hurt AbacaRX's momentum, and after being assured by Indiegogo that all contributors would be refunded, he and his partners decided to pursue crowd funding through a different platform.

At least one other potential medical marijuana business, Dispensed2U, is having better luck.

Dispensed2U has developed what it describes as the first retail marijuana delivery app in legal states. The company and idea are so new that the founders haven't had any type of software developed yet, but in the opinion of CEO Tim Martin, that's what crowd-funding websites are for.

"We thought if we waited around for the funds, someone else would beat us to it," Martin says. "This is such a new industry that we wanted to be the first, but we still have to do it the right way."

Martin says for now Dispensed2U would stick to Colorado and Washington, the only states to legalize pot recreationally, because delivery laws are a "state-by-state case."

When asked about AbacaRX's unlucky shutdown, Martin seems unconcerned.

"I don't know anything about that situation," Martin allows. "But we made sure with Indiegogo that the perks you receive for contributing don't violate any laws, rules or regulations."

"Perks" are what contributors to the startup campaign receive for their assistance. For example, contributing $25 to the Dispensed2U campaign will get you a shirt that says, "I got 5 on it" and a 1-gram container for concentrates. Contribute $5,000, and you'll receive seven months of free weed at a dispensary of your choice, but only if you live in Colorado or Washington.

Dispensed2U started its sixty-day Indiegogo campaign June 18 and has raised $240 of its $125,000 goal at this writing; click for more details. In the meantime, here's the company's YouTube pitch.

More from our Marijuana archive circa June 18: "Photos: See pot edibles designs company sued by Hershey says don't violate copyright."

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