If you want to buy cannabis, be it for medical or recreational purposes, you should purchase it from a licensed dispensary in a state where it is legal to consume marijuana. Currently, 28 states allow medical marijuana dispensaries, and among those, eight states and the District of Columbia allow recreational dispensaries to do business. Marijuana dispensaries are safe, regulated establishments that often carry everything you need to learn about, grow, and consume cannabis.

An overview of the dispensaries operating across the United States

The first medical marijuana dispensary open to the public was the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, which began serving patients in 1992 despite the fact that cannabis was illegal at the time. Since opening it has experienced social stigmas and legal troubles that can still be an issue for dispensaries across the country, including protests and police raids, but as legalization spreads the worry over these issues dissipates. You can also visit the first recreational dispensary to open in the nation, 3D Cannabis Center, at its flagship store in Denver, CO.

You will find today's marijuana dispensaries to be clean, comfortable shops that are well-suited to help you get the best cannabis for your needs. The marijuana strains and inventories offered will range from shop to shop, and sometimes even by each visit, but you can count finding a variety of quality cannabis flowers, concentrates, topical salves, and edibles. Dispensaries also offer consumption products and seeds or clones from their own garden.

Your greatest assets at a dispensary will be the knowledgeable budtenders. They will help you decipher the displayed percentages of test results for active compounds (THC, CBD, etc.) and share their personal insights to help you determine which buds may be best for you. If you can develop a relationship with a budtender at your favorite dispensary you'll get better insights on how the cannabis you buy is grown as well as the latest in what's going on in the marijuana industry.

Of course, all of this depends on which state you live in, and as legalization spreads the laws and regulations will continue to change. If you live somewhere where cannabis is still illegal, you will need to visit a region having recreational marijuana dispensaries and consume what you purchase within that state's boundaries. Getting picked up for crossing state lines with cannabis is a total buzz kill.

Marijuana dispensaries are growing in popularity

Compared to Amsterdam, it took the Americans more than a generation to embrace the idea of setting up marijuana dispensaries. They are regulated by the local government and are generally situated inside a retail store or an office building. A person can buy marijuana as well as marijuana related items either for medical or recreational use.

The concept of marijuana dispensaries blossomed for the very first time in Amsterdam in the 1970s. They were referred to as coffee shops. Today, even if the Dutch shops allow consumption of marijuana on the site, this is forbidden in the United States (US). 

The first dispensary in the US went under the name of San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club and was founded in 1992. Washington became the second state that has developed a regulatory framework for those operating marijuana dispensaries with the aim of improving access to cannabis with regards to patients.

The first recreational patient attending the 3D Cannabis in Colorado in 2014 was Sean Azzariti, an Iraq War Veteran. Struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) but unable to obtain a medical license for his condition, he found relief at the dispensary.

Already in 2015, Americans spent more than $5 billion on legal marijuana and the trend is on the rise. Today, marijuana dispensaries are growing in popularity and more and more dispensaries are mushrooming across the country. Harborside Health Center in California is a good example of a large shop and was even featured in a reality show. Another shop to make the headlines is Kind for Cures that converted a defunct KFC.

Medical and recreational dispensaries

In a typical medical dispensary, a patient is given marijuana medication as per the doctor's recommendation. Despite federal laws, more than 23 states have regulated these dispensaries such as Washington, California, Nevada, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon and Minnesota amongst others. Certain of these states having regulated marijuana for recreational purposes equally have recreational dispensaries.

As collective gardens, dispensaries are allowed to grow their own marijuana. Medical and recreational dispensaries are regulated differently across the US. This implies that prices will automatically vary between the two.

Tips before visiting a medical dispensary

  • Be fully documented regarding your ailment and needs
  • You will need a doctor's recommendation as well as a medical cannabis certification and other documentation required by your state.
  • Patients must be above 18 years but certain exceptions are made with regards to minors in debilitating conditions.
  • You will have to register yourself at the dispensary for regulatory and legal purposes.
  • A medical dispensary usually has a waiting room and a separating wall allowing privacy between customers and budtenders.
  • Most purchases are tracked by medical dispensaries for follow-up and future reference.
  • Some medical dispensaries may allow you to examine and smell the buds before buying.

Tips before visiting a recreational dispensary

  • You must be above 21 years to be able to buy from a recreational dispensary.
  • You must present a valid ID.
  • Many recreational dispensaries have menus on their websites or at the physical location itself. The menus are generally classified as per flowers, concentrates, edibles, topical, etc.
  • Budtenders at recreational dispensary do not usually have the same amount of time to dedicate to customers as a budtender at a medical dispensary would have. Recreational dispensaries are mostly viewed as grab-and-go stores, but the budtender will provide necessary information and recommendations needed.

Generally speaking, medical patients do not incur the taxes while recreational customers cannot evade from them. Budtenders are present at dispensaries to provide necessary information regarding the various types of marijuana and other products and to direct the customer to make the ideal purchase based on his condition, needs, and budget.

What products can be found in a dispensary?

Different kinds of buds and flowers are definitely going to be on display in a typical marijuana dispensary. Customers may be allowed to smell but not to touch the products. You can expect to see flowers ranging from Sativa to hybrids of all sorts. Dispensaries generally have test results to inform clients about the percentages of THC, cannabinoids, and terpenoids, and to ensure that the products are free from molds.

Other concentrated products are likely to be offered such as kief, hash oils, or edibles ranging from granola to cookies. Gums and lozenges are amongst the most popular edibles, while marijuana-infused carbonated beverages are also attracting more and more consumers. Certain dispensaries equally offer various types of tonics and salve, targeting non-smokers. Dispensaries furthermore offer marijuana related items like vape pens, glass, dabbing utensils amongst others.

Making the difference

As the legalization of marijuana is spreading across the country, manufacturers and cultivators are exploring new grounds by trying to attract eager customers through unique products. Some dispensaries may go the extra mile by proposing products that are not commonly sold.

One example is Ermont Inc., a medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts that sells cannabis-infused frozen pizzas containing 125mg of THC. This "Bar Style Cheese Pizza" has been created following the demands of customers seeking savory options rather than the typical sweet treats like brownies, cookies, spreads and more.

This dispensary expanded its variety of products by adding marijuana-infused pub cheese, peanut butter, and olive oil. The next step is to offer vegan mayonnaise, peach cobbler as well as jalapeno cornbread.

Today, lotions and balms are equally available to administer topical cannabis in order to reduce pain and inflammation in muscles and joints. It has been proven to reduce the severity of certain skin conditions and improve the elasticity of the skin.

Patches- such as Mary's Medicinals- are also being sold. Unlike lotions and balms, these patches contain carrier agents that will make the consumer feel a sense of euphoria. They generally last for about 12 hours.

Bath salts with marijuana are certainly going to leave consumers stress-free, relaxed and rejuvenated while shampoos with hemp seed oil promise to stimulate hair follicles, strengthen hair and moisturize the skin.

Marijuana has invited itself in the bedroom too. Lubricants with THC have been developed and about 15 minutes after application, female users can feel heightened sensations.

To discretely get high, you can chew on cannabis-infused toothpicks developed by Kush Creams. The effect can be felt after about 20 minutes.

Fairwinds Manufacturing, on its side, proposes coffee pods designed to brew a single-serving of cannabis coffee at a time. They are compatible with almost all Keurig coffee machines and are sold in single doses or in packs of six.

Ensuring pure products

Even if dispensaries do perform tests to define the level of THC, CBD, and terpene, it is recommended to choose your dispensary well before purchasing. After certain marijuana concentrates have been recalled because of pesticides, many dispensaries and producers are taking the matter into their own hands to ensure that the products derived are free from noxious substances. Several dispensaries are turning towards cultivations they assume clean and do their own lab testing to guarantee safe products on their shelves.

How to locate marijuana dispensaries

As marijuana dispensaries are budding at every corner, it was only natural for locating services to be created. Today, an array of locating services is available such as Weedadvisor, Leafbuyer, Weedmaps, Merry Jane, Leafly & The MJ Directory amongst others. Leafly, for example, even publishes a monthly list of the most bustling dispensaries in the US, highlighting top performers according to metrics like service, product quality, customer engagement, and atmosphere. Certain independent regional newspapers equally offer locating service or maps.

25 top rated dispensaries across the US

  • Caliva in San Jose, California is a breathtaking facility with stone floors and natural wood paneling.
  • Airfield Supply Co. in San Jose, California is a boutique-style dispensary cultivating marijuana on site and offering extensive training to staff.
  • The Jazz Club in Detroit, Michigan is known for its customer engagement.
  • Tru | Med offers an education zone to patients as well as a concentrates bar in a contemporary atmosphere.
  • Lightshade in Aurora, Colorado prides itself in its state-of-the-art growing facilities and most potent marijuana.
  • Purple Star MD in San Francisco, California has healing as its mission statement and offers additional deliveries and deals.
  • World of Weed in Tacoma, Washington puts every single product nicely on display and staff heartily provides customers with information.
  • White Mountain Health Center in Sun City, Arizona was opened after fierce opposition from the anti-marijuana community and boasts an array of historical pharmaceutical equipment as well as marijuana-themed artwork.
  • Healing Tree Wellness Center in Detroit, Michigan is well-known for its deals and stocks of varieties.
  • California Herbal remedies in Los Angeles is famous for offering over 70 strains to enhance customer satisfaction while taking into consideration the latter's needs and budget.
  • Preferred Organic Therapy in Denver, Colorado has this professional and yet intimate atmosphere where customers can easily engage with budtenders.
  • KIND Dispensary in Lansing, Michigan sees its clients as family and staff is really devoted to offering the right product to the patients.
  • Growing ReLeaf in Beaverton, Oregon is famous for its close connection to growers and boasts several premium and limited-release products.
  • Humboldt Patient Resource Center in Arcata, California is one of the oldest dispensaries and is known for its quality products and supportive staff.
  • Infinite Wellness Center in Fort Collins, Colorado attracts newcomers as well as connoisseurs with its consistency in high-quality products and well as variety in its in-house grown flowers using hydroponics.
  • The GreenHouse in Glendale, Arizona gives much attention to customer experience and engagement with its rewards program.
  • Nectar in Portland, Oregon is famous for its meticulous attention to the quality of products and its routine lab testing to ensure same.
  • Cannabis and Glass in Spokane, Washington is a recreational dispensary that aims at providing the most affordable marijuana in the region.
  • Swell Farmacy in Youngtown, Arizona lays much emphasis on veterans and active military members suffering from PTSD and tries to offer maximum education to customers.
  • Ballpark Holistic Dispensary in Denver, Colorado offers both medical and recreational marijuana and is recognized for its Denver Maple as one of the best strains at High Times 2014 Cannabis Cup.
  • House of Dank in Detroit, Michigan aims at providing safe access to marijuana in a region where the black market continues to thrive.
  • Essence Cannabis Dispensary in Las Vegas, Nevada offers products grown in a pharmaceutical-grade facility and has on-site nurses to assist patients.
  • High-Quality Compassion in Corvallis, Oregon is renowned for promoting marijuana consumption for both medical and recreational uses, and on every first Sunday of the month, it offers customers a free pre-roll joint.
  • Have a Heart in Seattle, Washington attracts many canna-tourists as it is located next to the airport, and it provides high-quality products having close ties with local growers.
  • The Grove strives to provide relief to every type of patient and accepts out-of-state medicinal marijuana cards too.

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