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Property search engine will serve budding pot industry

By January 16, 2015 One Comment

A new start-up has ambitions of becoming the Zillow of property search for marijuana growers and landlords who are willing to rent their properties to people in the budding industry.

The new service, HerbFront, will offer zoning maps to identify areas that are legal for farming marijuana, warehousing and retail services. Tight zoning regulations that rule out locations near schools, parks and other facilities mean 95 percent of properties can’t host pot-related businesses, HerbFront founder Matt Chapdelaine tells Crain’s Chicago Business.

HerbFront will deliver “verified property reports” to help landlords “boost their listings” by confirming that properties meets local zoning laws, along with custom zoning maps and market forecasts.

After enrollment kicks off Feb. 1, HerbFront will charge landlords and property owners $50 per listing. It will charge users who want to search for properties $100 a month. Access to maps and market research will cost $1,000 a month.

The Chicago-based startup also offers a free subscription to its monthly newsletter with news and insight into “legal” cannabis properties, and provides consulting services for $250 an hour.

Twenty-three states now allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes and Colorado has legalized it for recreational use.

Investors and entrepreneurs are eying the marijuana market. A research firm for the marijuana industry Greenwave Advisors says revenues for the industry could reach $35 billion by 2020 if the federal government legalizes pot.

Until that happens, marijuana-related businesses may meet state and local laws, but still face action from the feds. In California, federal prosecutors have tried to shut down pot dispensaries by sending letters to property owners threatening civil forfeiture of their property if they continued to allow it to be used to further a federal crime.

PayPal founder Peter Thiel, through his $2 billion Founders Fund, invested in Privateer Holdings, a marijuana business that peddles several brands of pot.

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