Did you know that U.S. retail sales of medical and recreational cannabis are expected to reach between $8 to $10 billion this year, doubling last year’s sales? This is in the wake of 29 states legalizing marijuana for medical use and 9 states legalizing it for recreational use. The question for entrepreneurs, Angel investors, cannabis companies, VCs, etc. is, how can you effectively tap into this market? And one major opportunity is through cannabis app design and development services.

The story of marijuana legality in the U.S.

First, let’s take a quick look at the evolution of marijuana laws in our country.

  • 1911: States began banning marijuana use
  • 1933: 29 states had criminalized marijuana use
  • 1970: Full prohibition of marijuana at the federal level was enacted
  • 1973: Oregon decriminalized marijuana use
  • 1996: States began legalizing marijuana for medical use
  • 2012: States began legalizing marijuana for recreational use
  • 2018: 29 states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and nine states plus Washington D.C. have legalized (or are in the process of legalizing) marijuana for recreational use

The legality of marijuana use has been a hot topic of debate over the past century. Now, 60% of Americans can legally obtain marijuana in one way or another, one in three claims to have used it at some point in their life, and 64% reportedly believe that it should be legalized. (source)

As more and more states jump on the bandwagon, the market is continuing to expand.

App development in the cannabis industry

When an industry rapidly grows as the cannabis industry has, many new opportunities arise. The demand is high, producers, distributors, and retailers scramble to provide the supply, and everyone tries to work efficiently while navigating a new space. Let’s explore how technology is offering solutions through the strategic development of applications.

Consumer-facing apps

Mobile apps are an integral part of daily life in the U.S. and around the globe. Being so, it’s not surprising to see them catering to the growing number of cannabis consumers.

Cannabis Shopping Interaction Design Concept – by Brightscout Creative Director Charles Haggas

A content analysis examined 59 of the top mobile apps related to cannabis and found the following insights:

  • The most popular cannabis apps provided strain classification, facts, and games
  • The top apps on the Google Play store had been downloaded at least 100,000 times
  • The top apps for iPhone provided information or served an educational purpose while the top apps for Android tended to be primarily for entertainment
  • Notably absent from the most popular apps were those addressing cannabis addiction or negative health effects
  • Cannabis apps were generally free and highly-rated

In summary, the apps were found to be popular with audiences that wanted information and entertainment. Here are a few examples of consumer-facing cannabis apps:


Leafly is an informative app that helps users identify the strain of marijuana that will best suit their mood or medical need. It features comprehensive reviews which list strength, flavor, and effects. Once a product is identified, users can search for nearby prescribing doctors, dispensaries, clinics, and delivery services that carry it. It also offers special offers and deals.


HelloMD aims to build the largest medical cannabis community online through its digital healthcare platform which is fully compliant with State laws and HIPAA guidelines. The platform connects doctors and patients using Telehealth technology and can complete the process in under 20 minutes.

As someone looking to tap into the industry, you could create an app to serve the needs of cannabis consumers. Further, owners of cannabis businesses that serve consumers can create apps for their brands. Why leave your customers to search and find other apps, when you can offer it and keep them engaged with your brand? A brand app could:

  • Inform: Help customers find the right products for their needs with features such as strain identification, FAQ, forums, etc.
  • Offer delivery service: Allow customers to easily place orders, track deliveries, chat, and provide feedback.
  • Upsell: Market new products and services through an app to create new revenue opportunities.
  • Create loyalty: Offer rewards and incentives to loyal customers
  • Provide audience insights: Data provides insights about customers and their behavior
  • Facilitate socialization: Create a space for socializing about cannabis (news, original content, chat)
  • Entertain: Offer cannabis related games to engage users

Business owners can open up a new channel of communication and give customers all the information they could want about their product.

Industry apps

Apps have also been developed to support internal operations such as cultivation, inventory management, sales, ordering, legal compliance, and more. Here are a few examples:


Leaflink provides a centralized platform for the cannabis industry that brings together retailers and brands/distributors. Retailers can shop the marketplace, discover new products, request samples, manage inventory, easily reorder products, and track delivery statuses. Brands and distributors gain 24/7 access to hundreds of dispensaries helping to generate more sales. So far there are over 450 vendors and over 2,000 retailers using the platform.


Simplifya offers the cannabis industry’s leading compliance solution. It’s a cloud-based application for licensed owners of cannabis businesses which allows them to audit themselves for compliance with state and local regulations.


GrowBuddy is built by growers for growers. It offers:

  • A journal to track and measure your garden’s growth
  • A marketplace where you can buy products for growing such as nutrients, lights, portable grow rooms, seeds, etc.
  • A Q&A forum to find specific information about your garden

This can be a helpful resource for growers looking for a way to optimize their product development.

Want to see more? Check out over 1,000 marijuana startups with an average valuation of $4.1 million here. There are many pieces that make up the cannabis industry, and helping any part to work better can be a very profitable venture in our current time.

Have an App Idea that Could Help the Cannabis Industry?

Brightscout is a team of IT experts that can help you to develop an app for the cannabis industry. We have worked in this space and understand the goldmine that is waiting to be tapped. Whether you own a marijuana dispensary, work in wholesale, or just have a great idea, contact us today and let’s bring it to life!

[contact-form to=”sales@brightscout.com” subject=”Blog Contact Alert!”][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”1″][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”1″][contact-field label=”Website” type=”text”][contact-field label=”Message” type=”textarea” required=”1″][/contact-form]

(States where marijuana is legal for medical use: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia

States where marijuana is legal for recreational use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont)