It’s been called “Tinder for marijuana users,” but Todd Mitchem hopes his app will be much more. Now, the founder of what may be the first social network for cannabis fans has passed a critical early hurdle–as Apple’s and Google’s own rules about the industry evolve.
When High There launched just two months ago promising to connect people for whom marijuana consumption is a key lifestyle trait, it had a key restriction in the App Store and in Android’s Google Play: the app could only be downloaded by users in states in which the cannabis industry had been made legal. Anywhere else or internationally, and High There’s geo-fencing would lock a user out.
High There still gained some early traction in New York, California and Colorado, where the company is based, attracting about 41,000 downloads in its first six weeks, with 6,000 people active on the app on any given day. But with 100,000-plus tourists expected to descend upon Denver on 4/20, a holiday for marijuana enthusiasts, the app was set to miss out on a major opportunity as potential users from other states like Texas, where the drug is still banned, might visit and download but then be unable to stay in touch in their home state.
So the fledgling app went all-in on government relations and in working with the app stores, telling anyone who would listen the app was not encouraging the actual sale of any marijuana. “I kept saying, we are a social network first,” Mitchem says. “If you are someone interested in the movement and want to meet nice, chill people, that’s what it’s about.”
High There deletes accounts that post photos of actual marijuana as their profile photos, and removes the photos themselves when they’re within the account’s picture section. It encourages any user who encounters another encouraging illegal activity to report that user to be suspended. So Mitchem made his pitch to Apple and Google: As a responsible social network, could the app at least have limited chat features enabled in prohibited states and countries?
The tech giants’ responses surprised Mitchem. “I thought we might hear back that they weren’t ready, or that local governments might not be okay with it and ready. Instead, they said we were all clear to go do it globally.”
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