When the Yelp of the marijuana industry comes under criticism, this has a ripple effect for marketshare in this directory industry. Being that all the mainstream search engines do not treat marijuana dispensaries the same as a traditional business, anyone operating in the medical or recreational space has had to use Weedmaps or Leafly. Customers nationwide use Weedmaps and this has put their business in the spotlight, for all the reasons. This staggering report says that over 60% of the reviews are completely fake. In a review driven society, should we not have better policing when it comes to verified reviews?
Millions of consumers treat Weedmaps like the Yelp for pot, relying on the Irvine company as their definitive guide to marijuana dispensaries, varieties and doctors.
But a key feature — user reviews of pot businesses — may be tainted by thousands of potentially fraudulent comments, a flaw in the company’s software revealed.
Reviews on the site are pseudonymous, and visitors reasonably expect that each is written by a unique customer. But data that Weedmaps mistakenly leaked suggests a large proportion of a glowing remarks come from individual users leaving multiple reviews of a single business.
Of 598 businesses examined by the Los Angeles Times and a software developer, 70% had at least one batch of reviews originating from the same IP address.
A separate analysis looking at the text in reviews estimates that 62% of all dispensary comments on Weedmaps are fake.
Beals said that the percentage of problematic reviews is much lower and that the company will catch more questionable submissions as it develops automated tools to help its 15 moderators.
“The foundation cracked, but they kept building,” said the person, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Now, “trying to fix the foundation with a house on top of it is a huge undertaking.”
Launched eight years ago by a marijuana advocate paired with a young, pot-smoking software programmer, Weedmaps is crucial for marketing medicinal and recreational marijuana operations. Facebook and Google ban ads that promote drugs. Yelp allows dispensary ads, but doesn’t yet have features tailored to them, a spokeswoman said. That leaves 6-year-old Seattle start-up Leafly as Weedmaps’ chief rival.
Weedmaps has long been controversial. Co-founder and Chairman Justin Hartfield once called the medical marijuana industry a “farce” in which he was complicit. In regions with regulatory gray areas, Weedmaps maintains listings of unlicensed businesses, causing a mix of delight and frustration for dispensaries.