If you search online for the best marijuana for your money, here's a dirty little secret about the biggest pot websites.

Marijuana is increasingly a legal industry, but not a consumer-friendly one.

Last year, The Los Angeles Times reported that most reviews of legal dispensaries are fake. And now the founder of a new “pot listing site” is accusing his established competitors of outright lying. Jake Desjarlais says Weedmaps “sell” their search results without telling people who surf their sites.

Desjarlais, 38, of Los Angeles, created his own listing website, Weedily, to give consumers honest reviews of the products they buy. His goal is to bring his experience in social media influencing and entertainment to the legal marijuana industry.

“People were paying for reviews. It was affecting the matrix of how you could find different local services, doctors and dispensaries,” Desjarlais says. “So, we took a step back and looked at it and thought it was very inauthentic, which is the opposite of what the whole industry is about.”

So what’s the problem?

The Times’ investigation revealed that over 60 percent of the comments posted on marijuana review sites are fake. They also found over 70 percent of the businesses reviewed had at least one batch from the same IP address.

IP addresses are usually associated with one device.  If one address contributes several reviews for a business, it raises suspicion of the validity of the reviews.

“Weedmaps from the beginning wanted to be the Yelp of the cannabis industry,” Desjarlais says. “They were the first big company to put the flag up in the land, so they got a lot of the early funding and big support. They have this massive evaluation. [But] at the end of the day they’re taking advantage of people.”

Fakespot, a company dedicated to identifying suspicious Yelp and Amazon reviews, also found issues with over 60 percent of their reviews, giving them an F- rating.

Weedmaps users have openly criticized the website over Reddit for deleting negative reviews. Patients who rely on medical marijuana to treat their conditions suffer from unreliable information. Receiving the wrong strand or dosage can negatively affect the treatment of the patient.

Desjarlais says this is a problem affecting the whole legal marijuana industry.

“Everyone is running around undercutting everybody and a lot of people in this industry are just chasing the highest level of THC,” the primary ingredient in marijuana, Desjarlais says.

“That creates a problem in its own right by making the marijuana industry all about it being so strong. A lot of people aren’t looking for that, a lot of patients I know just want high levels of CBD,” he explains. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound associated more with the “medical” side of medical marijuana than in providing a high.

Where do we go from here?

The legal cannabis market was estimated to be worth $6.6 billion in 2016, and is projected to be worth $24 billion by 2025.  These projections are made under the assumption that no new states will legalize medical or recreational marijuana. The industry itself is still new; Increases in demand will probably lead to further competition to focus on profits over quality of products.

“There is a race to the top for money and to the bottom for value. We’ve been involved in the industry for a while and have talked to just about everybody,” Desjarlais says.  “We just want to get people to slow down and look at the way value is integrated into a business and to make smarter choices.”

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Joe Pye

Joe Pye

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Pye is the associate editor of Debt.com.

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Article last modified on January 10, 2018 Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Bud On A Budget: Buyer Beware - AMP.