By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Clearing the smoke: Every two weeks or so, we wander into our publisher's office and flip through copies of our company's sister papers in Denver and California, where medical marijuana is legal. "Wow, they must be raking in the ad dough," we say, looking at the advertisements for medical pot dispensaries and related businesses in those papers.
Our publisher gets a glint in her eye like a hungry woman contemplating a porterhouse steak.
"Too bad we're in Texas," we say.
And she says a dirty word.
It's not surprising that a business like the Dallas Observer, which survives on advertising and whose staff and readers include a fair proportion of tokers, would be envious of those happy, happy places where the medicinal marijuana retail business thrives. If only we could find a way to tap into that market, like the folks at Dallas-based Hub City Productions did.
Hub City, a local architecture company, found the architecture biz a little slow in this economy, so they created a lucrative sideline. It's called Encylcoweedia, an "app" for the iPhone that serves as a one-stop resource for smokers. Since its release in November, it's been one of the top 20 reference apps on Apple's site, says Hub City's Robert Romano. The $1.99 app is being downloaded about 200 times a day, he says—not bad for something created in a state that's a long, loooooong way from liberalizing its marijuana laws.
"It's blowing our minds. It's crazy," Romano says of the demand for the program.
There is a serious purpose behind Encycloweedia, Romano says. There are countless seriously ill people who aren't recreational smokers who don't know anything about marijuana and its effects, and it can be difficult for, say, an elderly cancer sufferer to find good information—unless granny subscribes to High Times, that is. "The head shops and dispensaries are just full of attitude," he says. The app "is like Pot Smoking for Dummies." For instance, it provides several recipes for cooking with grass, since your desperately ill people might not be able to tolerate harsh smoke. It includes info on strains and their effects and a FAQ about how to get permission to smoke.
About the only thing Encycloweedia doesn't do is tell you where you can buy weed (we asked), though there are apps out there that provide that info in states where medical marijuana is legal. Romano, however, says he figured dealers in Dallas wouldn't be too keen on having their info made available in Encycloweedia.
After all, even cops carry iPhones these days. –Patrick Williams