There are few organizations anywhere in the world that have enjoyed a rise as meteoric as Leafly. At the time of writing, Leafly is the biggest marijuana website on Earth, with nearly 13 million monthly visitors and up to 40 million monthly page views. First and foremost, the online publication provides users with an incredible amount of information on weed. By 2015, the site offered access to over 270,000 marijuana strains!
One of the great things about Leafly is that it allows online readers to write reviews of marijuana strains they have tried or dispensaries they have used. For example, one can rate a strain based on its attributes and desirable effects. Meanwhile, you can also rank dispensaries based on atmosphere, service, and available medication.
In many ways, Leafly has become the “Google of marijuana.” If you need to know anything about a strain you’re interested in, just check out Leafly. The site’s “Explore” tool enables you to search for thousands of strains and filter them by flavors, medical uses, effects, and much more. Leafly even helps you locate dispensaries in the area, and of course, there are full reviews including star-ratings from fellow consumers.
Leafly also likes to keep its finger on the weed pulse, and provides helpful guides on a variety of topics including finding discreet vaporizers, information on induction heating in vapes, great deals on marijuana products, and much more.
Leafly Makes its Mark: 2010 – 2014
A trio of Orange County engineers named Cy Scott, Brian Wansolich, and Scott Vickers founded Leafly in June of 2010. At the time, they worked as web developers but launched the site as a side project because they realized that there wasn’t an adequate weed resource online. The organization was acquired by Privateer Holdings in 2012, while the founders left to create a new marijuana business intelligence platform named Headset in 2015.
Leafly began to thrive under the ownership of Privateer, although it obviously had a very solid platform to build off of. The site had a monthly growth rate of 30% and already had 180,000 unique visitors by July 2011. Within nine months, the site had grown exponentially and received 2.3 million monthly visitors along with 50,000 mobile app downloads every month.
The Leafly “Digital Weed Conquest”: 2014 – 2015
August 2, 2014 was a momentous day not just for Leafly, but for the entire marijuana industry. This was the day when Leafly became the first weed organization to have an advertisement placed in the New York Times. The full-page ad almost seemed like a ‘legitimization’ of cannabis; after decades in the underground, weed was finally in the mainstream — and Leafly never looked back.
According to the CEO of Leafly at the time, Brendan Kennedy, the company had the ad in the works for two years. It saw its opportunity after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Assembly Bill 6357 into law on July 7, 2014, which legalized medical marijuana in the state of New York. The genie was out of the proverbial bottle, and Leafly was not about to let the opportunity go to waste.
Interest in the website exploded, and by June 2015 Leafly received six million unique visitors a month and 31 million-page views — over a million a day! Although it is still the world’s leading source of information on specific cannabis strains and reviews on dispensaries, Leafly has recognized the need for diversity.
Leafly Brand Expansion: 2015 – Present
Even at the inception of the company back in 2010, the founders knew that there was an increasing acceptance of medicinal marijuana and it aimed to target a mainstream audience. As a result, Leafly focused on visual representation with strains depicted on the site like elements on the periodic table.
Before long, Leafly recognized the importance of adding video content to the site and began producing videos to help educate people about the herb. It did, however, face numerous challenges. For example it was unable to advertise on social media platforms, so it had to find alternative ways of spreading the “weed word.”
One of its most significant additions was Leafly News, which sought to rival publications such as High Times Magazine in terms of offering the latest information about marijuana legalization. With stories ranging from lifestyle pieces on the joys of smoking weed (without fear of arrest), to cannabis-themed décor in hotels, there is something for everyone as Leafly effortlessly moves from serious to “chic.”
Another important innovation has been Leafly Events, which has helped the site expand globally. In 2016, for example, the brand sponsored and hosted a comedy tour throughout North America that was so successful it repeated the feat in 2017 with the basic purpose of celebrating 420 Day.
Leafly left for European shores in 2017 when it sponsored the marijuana legalization festival Hanfparade (Hemp Parade)on August 13, 2016. The parade took place in Berlin, and involved a peaceful demonstration to legalize cannabis. Leafly stole the show with a 40-ton float which featured weed experts from around the world and some prominent musicians.
Is Leafly “Global Domination” Next?
You could argue that Leafly is already on top of the world but its owner, Privateer, seems to have some pretty big plans in the works. It hasn’t stopped pushing the Leafly brand since it took over in 2012, and has been putting its money where its mouth is for just as long.
Back in 2015, for example, it closed on $75 million worth of funding which was used to create new cannabis lines. For Privateer, this is only the start as marijuana begins to become legalized in various states and nations around the world.
When Leafly was founded in 2010, marijuana was only legal in 15 states, and only 29% of people had access to it. Today, 30 states legalize the herb in some form or another, and the vast majority of America now has access. Most of Leafly’s unique visitors come from the United States, but that too could be set to change with Canada legalizing marijuana in late 2018, and the United Kingdom announcing plans for limited medical marijuana legalization.
Simply put, Leafly is in pole position to become the Coca-Cola of the cannabis industry.