Justin Hartfield believes that the medical effectiveness of marijuana is going to be the big news story of this century. Hartfield’s business Weedmaps — the Yelp of weed — helps patients and recreational users find and rate marijuana dispensaries across the country.
It’s a practical and useful service in California, where Weedmaps is based, which legalized medical marijuana 20 years ago. The Los Angeles area alone has an estimated 1,800 dispensaries, more than one-third of the approximately 5,000 dispensaries nationwide.
If the pace of marijuana legalization keeps up, Weedmaps, which Hartfield says has annual revenues in excess of $30 million, will only grow. So far, four states have legalized recreational marijuana and a further 19 states have legalized medical marijuana. This year, Hartfield, 31, has positioned himself at the cutting edge of the legalization movement on the West Coast, with Weedmaps already donating $1 million toward legalizing recreational marijuana in California during the 2016 elections.
Hartfield’s motivations aren’t purely financial. He sees marijuana as a social justice issue; legalizing the drug could prevent thousands of people from being criminalized for possession. He’s also bullish about marijuana’s health benefits. Though his claim that marijuana cures cancer has yet to be proven, scientists are finding a growing number of uses for marijuana in the treatment of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and pain. There’s a selfish reason too: Hartfield, who uses marijuana every day, says his brain and body get “highly energized” when he uses marijuana. He told the Forward. “I think I’m a better version of who I am when I’m high.”