Thus far the legal marijuana industry doesn’t have the look of a 21st century business. Aside from the product itself, the business model of most dispensaries fits that of a retail store in the fictional town of Mayberry, the beloved hometown of Sheriff Taylor and his boy Opie.
Todd and Dora Palmieri, husband and wife since 2011, are determined to bring the industry into the new millennium, at least in such communication matters as web chat and SMS.
The mid-20th-century pattern that dispensaries are now following imposes limits to their growth. Larger, successful dispensaries have trouble expanding their service to patients because they can’t expand their working space easily, given regulatory and zoning issues. By shifting much (not all) of the transaction online, though, they can use the allowed space more economically, calling upon cyberspace, so to speak.
A caveat to this is that payment and the verification of identification must continue to happen at the dispensary or in some situations through patient contact with a delivery driver. They cannot be shifted to cyberspace.
The Palmieris founded MJselect.com in December 2014. They describe it now as being in “early growth,” with 14 dispensaries in the trial stage.
Not a Directory Site
MJselect wants everyone to know that it is not a “directory site.” There are a number of directory sites already in the legal-marijuana world, hoping to find a niche as intermediaries leading buyers to the dispensaries that are right for them. One of them is Weedmaps. Its visitors can discover with a click where a nearby dispensary is, and with another click whether it takes credit cards, has a security guard, makes deliveries, and so forth. Another major site in much the same line is Leafly. Weedmaps has a more “dispensary” orientation, whereas Leafly is (as the name might suggest) more oriented toward the product. Its site invites visitors to “discover the right cannabis strains” for their own purposes.
But directory site, of either emphasis, is not the MJselect business model. What it does, rather, is assist dispensaries in creating their own branded online presence. If a dispensary (in San Francisco, let’s say) does business as “Golden Gate Medical Marijuana,” then it will presumably want an online presence under that name, perhaps with a logo using the initials GGMM. The idea of MJselect is to assist GGMM in maintaining that presence.
Palmieri says, “If I owned a dispensary, I wouldn’t drop off of Weedmaps because MJselect is around, or vice versa.” They are two different tools for the same purpose, to make the best of an online presence, and of the 21st century habit of shopping online.
The Background of the Palmieris
Before taking an interest in the marijuana industry, Todd Palmieri spent years at ExpenseWatch, a website he co-founded that helped (and under new ownership, still helps) companies to manage their spending, on everything from inventory to business travel. He ran the company and site until 2007, when Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, bought it.
In an interview, Todd explained that this was not a purchase by Amazon. Bezos has to be careful what he does as an individual (or through such personal vehicles as Bezos Expeditions) on the one hand and what he does in his capacity as the chief executive officer of Amazon.com, a publicly owned (Nasdaq listed) concern, on the other. The purchase of ExpenseWatch was most decidedly not by Amazon.
Still, the interest shown by an internet pioneer of Bezos’ stature in what Palmieri had created has to be considered a vindication of Palmieri’s own savvy about the web as a medium of exchange.
Dora Palmieri is an experienced litigator. She has represented both criminal defendants and tort plaintiffs. Todd described her as passionate about “helping members of the community whose voices are often not heard and whose rights are not protected.”
Together they may play a big part in determining the still-inchoate shape of this new industry.