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For cannabis apps, the road to the app store is paved with rejection

For cannabis apps, the road to the app store is paved with rejection

When it comes to cannabis, not all apps are treated equal.

Google’s Play and Apple’s app stores are home to hundreds of cannabis-related apps, but one that aims to cut the middlemen by connecting growers with customers in California — which legalized medical marijuana in 1996 — just got yanked from the virtual shelf.

Loud Cannabis, whose app debuted on Google Play last summer, was recently kicked out of the app store. “We had no indication they were going to pull the rug out from under our feet,” Loud Cannabis founder Josh Artman said.

Google declined to comment.

Apple’s app store never approved the Loud Cannabis app and has tussled with marijuana app developers before.

In January, the National Cannabis Indusry Association with the support of dozens of marijuana businesses wrote to Apple, pushing for it to loosen restrictions on marijuana apps after MassRoots (MSRT), a social networking app targeting marijuana users got kicked out of the store.

“We are not asking for Apple to endorse cannabis-related applications or their content; we are simply requesting that Apple’s customers have the right to download marijuana apps if they so choose,” said the letter.

By the time it was kicked out, MassRoots, now two years old, had been in the app store for 14 months. Apple eventually relented and let the app back in, but the guidelines for cannabis apps are still unclear.

“We still don’t have any published rules,” MassRoots cofounder and CEO Isaac Dietrich said.

Cannabis apps aren't the only ones operating in something of a haze when it comes to app stores.

Apple last month pulled several Civil War apps from its store that included images of Confederate flags. It later reinstated some apps, telling TechCrunch that its intent was only to remove those apps that could be offensive and not apps using the flags for educational or historical purposes.

Related article: Marijuana delivery apps now bring the doctors to you — virtually and literally

Apple requires apps to “comply with all legal requirements in any location where they are made available to users,” a rule that's complicated considering recreational and medicinal marijuana has been legalized in a number of states but remains illegal at the federal level.

Google's Play store instructs developers to “Keep it legal. Don't engage in unlawful activities on this product, such as the sale of prescription drugs without a prescription.”

Both stores have approved marijuana dispensary locator apps such as Weedmaps and Leafly. But even those apps have faced steep hurdles.

Casey Eastman, a Denver-based app developer for Weedmaps, fielded more than a dozen rejections on the way to getting the dispensary directory into both Apple and Google's app stores. 

"I have at least four apps in the Apple queue, and only one has been published to the app store," he said. "As it is, it's easy to be rejected. It's frustrating."

Apple rejects about 30% of the 26,000 apps it receives for review each week, the company told a congressional committee in 2012.

But app developers' frustrations don't stop once an app makes it into the store. Each time an update is made, the app must be reviewed again. "It's never a quick thing," Eastman said. 

Eaze, the marijuana delivery app backed by investors including Snoop Dogg, has spent the past year trying to get its consumer app into Apple’s app store. 

AFP Marijuana may not be America’s largest cash crop, as was long rumored, but it’s still probably a $4 billion annual business.  As of last year, it’s also legal to grow, own, and use recreationally Colorado and Washington, with Alaska, the District of Columbia, and Oregon soon to follow. It’s approved for medical and other limited use in 18 more states. Entrepreneurs are racing to take advantage of the new laws and changing attitudes toward the drug. Here are the players and startups you need to watch. Privateer Holdings is a private equity firm that’s making big investments in marijuana startups. Its CEO is 42-year-old Yale graduate Brendan Kennedy, and it counts Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund among its investors. Source: Business Insider, Quartz Based out of Seattle, Leafly was one of the first new marijuana businesses, founded in 2010. It’s like Yelp for reviewing different strains of pot and dispensaries. This is a screenshot of the company’s periodic table of pot strains. Privateer bought the company in 2011. Leafly Marley Natural, backed by reggae star Bob Marley’s heirs and Privateer Holdings, aims to be the world’s first global cannabis company, selling smokeable weed, topical oils, and accessories. It’s based in New York. Marley Natural Eaze is a mobile app that lets you get medical marijuana delivered to your door. You have to prove you have a medical card. It was founded by Keith McCarty, who was one of the first employees at Yammer, and recently raised $10 million from several investors including rapper Snoop Dogg. Eaze Weedmaps shows you where the nearest pot dispensaries are located. It’s based in Denver. Weedmaps Meadow is another medical pot delivery service based in SF. It also recommends doctors who will issue a medical marijuana card, and has a blog with helpful info like a video on how to roll a joint. It counts startup accelerator Y Combinator as an investor. Meadow MassRoots is a “semi-anonymous” social network for pot users. It’s raised over $1 million in funding, according to Crunchbase, and is based in Denver. Massroots High There is basically like Tinder for pot users. HighThere. Grassp is another pot-delivery app. It’s based out of LA and has raised $1.5 million in funding. Grassp Arcview is a San Francisco based group that connects investors with marijuana startups. The Arcview Group Tilray is a legal provider of medical marijuana in Canada. It’s also received funding from Privateer. Tilray Canadian Cannabis Corp is another company focusing on medical distribution in Canada. It’s got $1.5 million in venture funding, according to Crunchbase. CCC But what about the other kind of green? 26 MORE tech skills worth a $100,000 salary>> Read more stories on Business Insider, Malaysian edition of the world’s fastest-growing business and technology news website.

“To understand fully what their position is you have to jump through a lot of hoops,” Jamie Feaster, head of marketing for Eaze, said describing the process of negotiating a route into Apple’s app store.

Apple has approved an enterprise app its drivers use, and Eaze already is part of the Google Play store.

“There seems to be an eagerness to work with companies in this emerging market, but the issue seems to be playing nice by federal regulations,” Feaster said, noting that delivery companies seem to face higher barriers to entry.

Still, Eaze isn’t too discouraged by Apple’s rejection. “An app isn’t necessary, but it’s sort of a nice to have,” Feaster said. “What we built for mobile web is responsive and has a lot of the same features that an app would.”

Meena Thiruvengadam writes about the marijuana business for Yahoo Finance. Follow her blog on tumblr at amsterdamamerica.tumblr.com and follow her on Twitter at @Meena_Thiru.

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