Images of the High There marijuana social app
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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.”
 
Now that the smoke has cleared (or not), High There is free to connect people by the types of marijuana they prefer and the types of highs they like, wherever they are, going live today worldwide on both iOS and Android. Demand is high in the Netherlands and Spain, but also England and Australia. Mitchem expects to add tens of thousands of users during the week of 4/20 as High There is one of the leading sponsors of events across Denver. And he holds sentimental value that he can now launch in his native Ohio, another prohibited state, where his mother used marijuana to help overcome a second bout of cancer, Mitchem claims.
 
A former consultant and chief revenue officer at hash-oil maker O.penVAPE before starting High There, Mitchem says that the overall market of more than 12 million users of the substance open up a major niche opportunity for the app moving forward. “Look at FarmersOnly.com,” he says of the niche dating app for farming professionals and enthusiasts. “That’s even more niche in a way, and it’s making a lot of money.” The divorced CEO once found it hard to go on dates without the conversation revolving around his own marijuana use. Dating through the High There app can cut through that haze, though the CEO insists the app is as much for platonic connections.
 
High There plans to hire an additional street team to promote its app, new builds of which went live on Tues. alongside the news. The company recently raised a seed funding round but might look for more capital later in the year. That could prove critical in improving reviews of the app, which so far appear mixed at best (High There averages 3 out of 5 stars on Google Play and 2.5 stars on the App Store).
 
The goal is ultimately to partner with certain businesses who might see an opportunity to cater to the hungry High There community with special offers or certain deals, and maybe even score a partnership with Facebook down the road as acceptance of marijuana usage spreads.
 
“We’re promoting a mindset that you don’t even have to consume to appreciate,” Mitchem says. “There’s a lesson in having technology connect people who can go out to dinner together, who can become a fabric of like-mindedness.”
 
And Mitchem talks a big game that building a tech company around a social app–compared to say, investing directly in growing the stuff or in on-demand delivery of it–is the smartest way to capitalize on what he sees as an inevitable cultural trend. “This is a gold rush,” Mitchem argues. “We want to build the social fabric for it.”
 
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