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Priceline of Pot 

A Seattle company puts pot on auction

click to enlarge auction.jpg

The website Wikileaf.com is working to transform how you buy pot. The site's basic search function asks users how much money they're willing to spend and how far they're willing to travel for their next toke. Medicinal and recreational dispensaries within the specified area then offer how many grams can be purchased at that price point — a price comparison model called the reverse auction.

Seattle-based financial blogger and medical marijuana patient Dan Nelson founded the company in 2014. Now five employees strong, the company is strategizing for growth after a viral launch.

"I wanted to create a platform where dispensaries could compete with each other on price," Nelson says. "When dispensaries have strains that have been sitting on their shelves for 10 to 13 days, they are far more likely to liquidate it. Wikileaf highlights that inventory."

Visitors can browse almost 400 strains in the online database, selecting from 1,250 dispensaries in Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Spokane is represented by 14 dispensaries and delivery services.

Users can navigate the website in one of three ways: Visitors can compare prices and menus in their neighborhood, leave reviews in a system similar to Yelp, or research strains based on recommended time of day and medicinal benefits. For dispensaries, Wikileaf.com offers a free online profile.

"Dispensaries are using this as their business website," Nelson says. "Once we get a company's basic information and page built, we send them a login where they can go into the back end of our website and add their menus and products."

Dispensaries can receive a free basic listing through 2016, after which a monthly usage fee will be charged. Nelson says the company is scaling for extreme growth and is in negotiations with venture capitalists.

The site's traffic is steady, growing roughly 10 percent each month and averaging just over 100,000 unique visitors. Once it hits the million-user mark, the company has plans to open "dispensary outreach offices" across the country.

The reverse auction model will soon change in Washington, as unlicensed medicinal dispensaries shut down and patients can only purchase three ounces at a time.

Nelson says the company is preparing for a large drop-off of dispensaries in Washington, but is confident that growth elsewhere and ballot measures in states like Ohio will propel the website. ♦

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