Getting The Word Out To Cannabis Users: A Chat With BudgetWeed CEO Marlon Fuller

Benzinga

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BudgetWeed.com is a Charlotte, North Carolina-based cannabis industry product and service locater.

The website, according to its founder and CEO Dr. Marlon Fuller is “a fusion between Yelp and Priceline,” where users will be able to search business listings and get information about their products and services.

BudgetWeed also took part in the first annual Weedstock conference earlier this month in Denver.

Why is there a need for BudgetWeed.com?

As a pharmacist, I found that there was something that was lacking in the market; there was a niche that wasn't being met. And when you talk of barriers to patient care, barriers to healthcare, price is usually one of those big factors. What I wanted to do was to provide a service that would help [medical marijuana] patients locate not only the physicians more efficiently, but for them to search in their price point.

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And the same thing when you're talking about dispensaries, where they can get the product. There is also a need based on the business, so not only can the patient find the product [and] the service that's in their price point, but the businesses themselves [can] find a cheaper price point for them.

What does it take to get a company like yours set up?

It's been a year in the making. And I've put in about $200,000 into the project so far, and there's still more to put in, if you're talking about advertising. It will probably end up being close to $300,000 or $400,000 over the next year or so, when you're looking at advertising and payroll. Right now I'm hiring in six different areas.

I think the biggest challenge is to get the business' ear. There's a lot of noise and a lot of other sites out there. And I think the same holds true for the user that goes on the website – so what I wanted to do is create content. So not just have the dispensary and the locator and review part of it, but also have ancillary services that would help create traction.

So on BudgetWeed, we have about 40 cannabis-infused recipes; we'll end up having about 200 over the next couple of months. We also have a web store that sells some accessory items like vaporizers and pins. And then we're eventually going to be getting into cannabis-based tours and cannabis-based events like shows and different kinds of outings.

Does North Carolina have legalized medical marijuana?

No, and that's why I'm focused mainly on Washington and Colorado now. But whether it's recreational or medical, any place that there's a dispensary, that's where we want to be.

Given that about 23 states now have some form of legalized marijuana, where do you see this going?

I think in next five years you'll see the majority of states, I would say 40 to 45, with medical marijuana laws on the books. And slowly but surely I believe that the recreational part will phase in.

It's kind of like [presidential] elections, I imagine – you get some key states like New York, Ohio, Florida to come on board, California [to legalize] recreational, you get a couple of these big, key states and they're showing the revenue potential and the benefit to the tax-payers, and on and on like that, and benefit to the patients who are actually using it for legitimate purposes.

Once you see all of those things, the tide will slowly change. When you look at it, there are other things that are more destructive, like alcohol and cigarettes, that are legal now. And they cause way more costs to the healthcare system and in loss of lives, compared to marijuana. But I eventually see this as something you'll probably be able to get at any pharmacy.

Related Link: Disruptive Business, Wisconsin Housewives & Cannabis: A Talk With Leslie Bocskor

What's been the biggest surprise in setting up your business?

The networking opportunities that exist out in the industry. The industry is still in its infancy. And right now, everyone is looking to find a place. So there's quite a bit of partnerships and alliances being made – and this is just on the barter system, not necessarily a monetary exchange.

I don't know that this is something that is normally out there. I've been in different businesses, and never seen this kind of collaboration before, the willingness to help out others in the community. As a small business we're all growing together, so everyone's been really helpful.

Some people say this isn't just a business but a cultural movement. Are you finding that, as well?

Yeah, I believe it's both. There's a cultural component to it; people just want the freedom to do what they want to do, you have that sector. But then you also have the business component, where there's tons of money to be made, and eventually the pharmaceutical companies.

And you have a few, one big one is GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: GWPH), that are marketing some cannabinoid-based research. But there's a huge business side and the cultural side. And I think the business side is going to be a lot bigger once the federal government steps in [for national legalization].

That's when you'll see the tobacco companies and everybody else enter into the market, and that's when it's really going to take off.

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