New kind of dating site is turning heads

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BY MARY PAPENFUSS

(Reuters) - Dinner and a movie make for a typical date night but dinner followed by a joint could raise some eyebrows or be a turn-off despite increasing acceptance of marijuana use across the United States.

So now, tuned-in stoners and users of medical pot are turning on to dating websites that cater exclusively to tokers or, at the very least, the "cannabis friendly" to avoid experiencing what they describe as all-too-frequent shock and rejection on the dating circuit.

That has worked out well for a Vietnam War veteran from Michigan who works in the automotive industry and smokes to deal with the pain caused by chemotherapy treatment for hepatitis C.

Larry, who asked to be identified only by his given name because of the legal issues surrounding marijuana use, says he is "very much enjoying" dating a woman he met on the dating website 420singles.net. The site name corresponds to a numerical code widely recognized within the cannabis subculture as a symbol for all things marijuana.

"She lives near me but we wouldn't know about our shared medical marijuana use if we hadn't connected on the site because no one discusses pot smoking in my circles," he said.

Larry's go-to website, with nearly 23,000 members, was the brainchild of 28-year-old California entrepreneur and self-described stoner Ryan Moxon of Marin County. About three years ago he dreamed up the idea for the site while yearning for the girl of his dreams: one who smokes pot.

Membership is concentrated on the U.S. West Coast but also includes international smokers and has ballooned since voters in Washington state and Colorado opted to legalize recreational marijuana use in 2012.

Voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia will vote in November on the issue, and the New York Times in July called for the repeal of the federal ban on marijuana for those over the age of 21.

"It's suddenly much cooler to come out as a toker," Moxon said of his site, which he says eliminates awkwardness about smoking.

A newer website launched several months ago "aims to connect those with a passion for cannabis," said Miguel Lozano of Los Angeles, founder of My420mate.com with some 6,200 members.

POTENTIAL INVESTORS

Lozano, a medical marijuana user who enjoys pot to ease sports injury pain, is eager to counter the image that cannabis lovers are "merely hippies," he says.

"There's a stereotype that pot smokers are lazy, isolated and lonely. They're not," he said. "They're the life of the party, they're often professionals and ambitious business people, and they make good partners."

Lozano and Moxon are hoping their sites will become ad magnets for the burgeoning number of legal marijuana dispensaries and related products. Both sites already have drawn interest from potential investors, they say.

Legal pot sales alone are expected to reach $10 billion by 2018, according to The ArcView Group, a marijuana industry investment company in San Francisco. Sales of pot-related products, from dope-infused health bars to cannabis-laced sexual lubricant, are among products expected to skyrocket.

Another man, from Missouri, is dating a woman he met on Lozano's site. He classifies himself as a "recreational to daily" pot smoker. His new love interest smokes less but "she's totally cool with that," said the man, who asked that he be identified only by his given name, Corey, because marijuana use is illegal in his state.

Although it's important to Corey that a date shares or is tolerant of his pot use, he believes would-be partners also have the personality he relates to.

"Smokers come from all walks of life but they tend to chill back," he says. "When I go out with buddies who get wasted on alcohol, it can be embarrassing. With my cannabis-smoking pals, we relax and let the creativity unroll."

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Jill Serjeant and Bill Trott)

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