If you’ve never been to a cannabis dispensary, you may or may not be surprised. For starters, there are no cookie cutter dispensaries. You won’t find the laid out like Walgreens or CVS stores.
Except for the very few dispensaries that have several locations, you won’t find many similarities. As states break the prohibition on cannabis products, cannabis dispensaries are making their mark — perhaps not as expected.
If you want to know how to shop at a cannabis dispensary, there are some processing things you can expect but a shopping experience that differs from dispensary to dispensary.
What you can expect
♦ Medical cannabis dispensaries have more rules to follow. When you arrive, you will present your I.D. and medical marijuana card to a security guard in a waiting room. When called in, you can shop at will.
There might t-shirts and hats you can reach. There may be accessories you can handle. But, you will not touch any product or derivative without the help of a budtender. Only so many people are admitted to the store at a time and all transactions are videotaped, your connection with budtender will likely be one-on-one.
Edibles, waxes, tinctures, and flowers will be inaccessible. They will be displayed in glass-fronted counters and in glass jars beyond your reach. If you know what flower you want, the budtender will provide the product to view and smell. If you know what packaged products you want, the clerk will package them for you and collect your cash payment.
If you don’t know what you want as a novice user and customer, you must discuss your medical situation with the budtender. Budtenders cannot claim to make medical recommendations, but they may discuss the manufacturer’s recommendation on quality, contents, density, and dosage.
Budtenders can explain consumption methods and options and recommend accessories and supplies. But, they cannot guarantee medical results.
♦ Recreational dispensaries have a security process at the entrance, too. But, because the dispensaries sell recreational product and medical product, they must separate the qualified 18-year old customers from those over 21. When permitted to enter, the two groups will follow distinct paths or aisles to the product and checkout.
Customers for recreational use are typically better-informed, so they know what they want and what to order. But, they may explore a new product or sales deals with the assistance of a budtender. The customer may be interested switching strains or trying shatter or wax.
You can handle apparel and accessories, but you’ll need store help to handle anything that includes cannabis. You won’t be pressed, but it helps if you come prepared with information and cash because customers are waiting to be admitted.
The shopping experience differs from dispensary to dispensary.
As an increasing number of states legalized sales medical and/or cannabis product, advocates predicted that dispensaries would reflect their socio-economic surroundings. They pictured plush stores near Denver’s law offices, themed stores in Hollywood, and upscale décor near upper-class neighborhoods. With few exceptions, that has not materialized.
♦ The Green Solution (TGS) has developed a chain of 16 stores in Colorado, mostly in the Denver metropolitan area. They also have multiple locations in other states. Their promise reads, “Whether you're a first-time user or connoisseur, you’ll marvel at our gallery showcasing hundreds of offerings while a Retail Associate escorts you personally.”
Each TGS dispensary does have its own personality, and for a family-run business, TGS knows what it’s doing. Their stores are clean, well-lighted, and efficiently run.
♦ NuWu is exactly what you’d expect in Las Vegas. At 16,000 square feet and with its own 24-hour drive-through window, NuWu has 170 feet of displays, the largest marijuana marketplace in the world.
NuWu is owned and operated by Native Americans who lead Nevada in pioneering sales and financing. And, the dispensary is busy, modern, and heavily-staffed.
♦ The Herbal Cache in Girdwood, Alaska is only one of the many family-run dispensaries in the state. Each dispensary pretty much reflects its location and market from this rustic word cabin to the tiny Firewood Factory in Juneau.
Alaskan dispensaries have served local communities for some time, and they know what their market wants and sell much of their own grown product. Each store has a neighborhood store ambiance with many of them also selling local artwork and crafts.
♦ MedMen runs a chain of locations in California, Nevada, and New York. They’ve been called “the Apple store” of cannabis because of slick interiors and smart associates. They promote themselves, “We do not run pot shops, we manage class-leading retail stores that happen to sell marijuana and marijuana products.” But, southern California dispensaries vary a great deal, many having evolved out of their medical cannabis origins.
Take the popular Buds and Roses in Studio City. Its modern décor in shades of grey including floors and distressed words is contemporary and minimalist, a convenience to people in beach cities, West Hollywood, and downtown L.A.
♦ The Treehouse Collective is typical of collective dispensaries in Portland, Oregon, a grower patient resource center, “kindly committed to providing the highest level of medicine in a clean and safe environment.”Collectives lack budgets to spend on architecture and interior design, so they tend to be simple and utilitarian.
♦ Ruckus Recreational is typical of Seattle dispensaries. Seattle is loaded with dispensaries, but zoning and marketing have limited them to industrial and highway frontage roads. Ruckus Recreational does have a graffiti-plagued storefront location, but its location keeps it low profile.
In Tacoma, for example, the many dispensaries have muted signage and cluster around highway access to upper-class communities like Fox Island and Gig Harbor where dispensaries are prohibited. Dispensaries like Mary Jane, The Herbal Gardens, and Cannabis Oasis are very busy despite their locations on “the other side of the tracks.”
How to Shop at a Cannabis Dispensary
You should have no fears of shopping at cannabis medical and/or recreational dispensaries. Some may be found in neighborhoods that are a little dodgy after dark. But, the internet lets you explore the product, deals, locations, and service.
A little research will help you avoid the stoner’s head shop to find one that suits your needs and comfort level. Dispensaries will cooperate with and push against state controls, and the score of states just coming on line with medical cannabis legalization will either set new standards or follow established norms.