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[Editor's Note: This article originally stated that Sedo owns the domain Kush.com, but that is incorrect. The company is brokering the domain for a third party owner. We regret this error, and have updated the article accordingly]
If you were to gamble, how much would you guess it costs to purchase the web domain www.kush.com? $10,000? $100,000? Higher? After all, it's a fairly ubiquitous term throughout the cannabis world.
Formally, "Kush" indicates a strain of cannabis flower that originated in the Hindu Kush mountain range. Native to Afghanistan, Northern Pakistan, and parts of India, Kush is a landrace strain, meaning it's genetically stable and naturally resistant to certain outdoor elements, and is typically indica-dominant. In the '70s, Kush migrated to the United States, where it has since been cross-bred and co-opted by the Western weed world. Today, there are countless "Kush" strains, and the term is colloquially (and incorrectly) used to denote weed in general, not unlike "Diesel," "Sour," "dank," or "grass."
Recently, MERRY JANE received an email from Dave Evanson, a Senior Web Domain Broker at Sedo.com, which he noted was the "world's largest domain name aftermarket." He wrote that Kush.com is exclusively for sale via Sedo — who does not own the domain but is brokering it for a third party — and that "this great domain could be a strategic asset for your organization. You may wish to use it as your website or to redirect targeted visitors from it to your website." We replied, inquiring about the asking price. The response?
"Right now the asking price is $3,000,000 but there could be flexibility."
Yup, $3 million. Seven figures. Enough money to warrant one of those oversized checks that probably don't exist outside pop culture. Three. Million. Dollars.
For comparison, you could buy over 13,000 ounces of OG Kush — one of the more common Kush strains in California — with that amount of guap. You could also buy over 270,000 grams of Blackberry Kush, a hybrid of Afghan Kush and Blackberry. Hell, that's likely enough money to start your own legal grow-op and harvest your own Kush.
But is Kush.com really worth three million smackeroos?
"Kush is a very popular way of saying 'pot' and 'weed' and all that good stuff," said Evanson during a follow-up call with MERRY JANE, in which we asked him to elaborate on how Sedo came to its seven-figure asking price. "It's a one-word dot com, it's easy to say; recognized worldwide. The industry is huge and growing. If you have a good name, you're going to attract a lot of business and make a lot of money."
Easy to say when you're the one brokering the name, though. Sedo themselves are selling it for a woman who inherited the domain from her father after he passed. The site was once real estate-related, and the family's last name was Kush. Sedo would not reveal what the original owner paid for Kush.com.
To get more insight about cannabis domains, MERRY JANE spoke with Sergio Stephano, who runs an agency and consultancy called Adaptia that focuses on technology, search engine optimization (SEO), and web development. Previously he started a website called WeedWall (nicknamed the "Quora of weed"), and said he experienced a "lengthy" and tiresome process himself when acquiring the intellectual property for the brand name and domain, which someone else owned at the time. As a result, he ended up building a "small domain portfolio in the cannabis space" to protect his businesses.
When asked his thoughts on the $3 million offering for Kush.com, Stephano said he tries to stay away from the domainers, "especially SEDO and those companies." Not only does he feel like they're "squatting [on] a lot of valuable online property," but the prices themselves are very subjective.
Asked point-blank what he'd personally pay for Kush.com, Stephano said the domain was "nowhere near that $3 million offer… I'd say $100,000 or a quarter million might be in the ballpark." Why exactly? He points to Weedmap's 2011 acquisition of Marijuana.com for $4.20 million (yes, 420) as a point of comparison. If the best, most notorious word in cannabis culture sells for that much, how could a far-less common word — "Kush" — be valued by Sedo for only a million dollars less?
Stephano reiterated his skepticism by adding that kush is "most likely not trademarkable because it's too common of a word," which could create headaches for any entrepreneurs trying to use that name for business in the long-run. For example, if someone else owns the social media handles for "Kush," then you'd have to buy them separately and likely wouldn't receive any support from Instagram or Twitter, which tend to only send cease-and-desists to users sporting handles for trademarked words. (On Instagram, @Kush is claimed, private, and followed by nearly 120,000 people.)
MERRY JANE also spoke to Michael Mann, a veteran domainer known for founding Phone.com, DomainMarket.com, and SEO.com, as well as facilitating the most expensive domain sale in history — Sex.com for a reported $14 million in 2006.
"The sellers will be happy as shit if you give them $500,000 and that will be a good deal for you, good for everybody," the internet entrepreneur said when asked how much he thinks Kush.com is worth. "I'm just guessing, there's no other way to know, but I'm the most qualified person in the world... I've done more [domain] transactions than anybody, so my opinion holds a lot of weight."
According to Mann, the name is worth half a million because it will be relevant "forever," and it's "a four-letter domain that's super easy to spell and remember. There's a lot of power behind it and it will likely go up in value, so whatever price you pay now is going to be a good investment."
That said, the domainer says there are smarter investments one could make in the online cannabis space. "You have to look at the marketplace, but huge numbers and names equivalent to [Kush.com] are for sale everyday and go for $10,000, maybe $50,000."
For comparison, Mann sent MERRY JANE a list of cannabis-specific domains he's currently selling that, collectively, cost a fraction of the $3 million Sedo wants for Kush.com. The names include CaliforniaChronic.com, MarijuanaTherapy.com, DabbingOils.com, BigSpliff.com, and MedicalMarijuanaDistributors.com. He believes these domains will eventually sell for a fortune, due to how they're simultaneously specific and general, and swooping them up now will almost guarantee the investor a profit.
"I think everybody should buy a perfect domain if they're in the cannabis business; otherwise they're making a mistake," Mann said. "If you start from day one with the wrong domain, you're making fundamental branding, sales, and marketing mistakes."
To wit, Kush.com might not be that "perfect" cannabis name for nascent company. "When you're looking at the modern-day cannabis consumer, you're looking at a consumer who has higher taste; they can be tastemakers, influencers, or things like that," Stephano from WeedWall explained. "I don't know if the word 'Kush' really embodies the modern-day cannabis user. It kind of has that 'stoner' stigma around the name a little bit. We've grown past that."
MERRY JANE likely won't be buying Kush.com for $3 million anytime soon, and the domain broker knows that. Since we first started communicating, Sedo has already lowered the asking price to $1.7 million, and they might even go lower than that. On the other hand, we could dig around and see if there's a better cannabis domain we could acquire. Maybe it will be MarijuanaTherapy.com or one of the titles Michael Mann is hawking. Or maybe it will be Reefer.com, which is also for sale and is as timeless as marijuana culture itself.
"You [can] say a domain is worth something, but it's hard to really ascertain a value until purchases are made," says Stephano. "It's not a liquid market — let's put it at that."