Perfection may mean different things to different people, but there’s no denying dispensaries are getting better and better. Once upon a time, computers were hobbyist machines sold in the back of speciality shops where enthusiasts hung out. Now you walk into an Apple Store and they couldn’t be more different to early retailers. For cannabis, what used to be a medical “process” has, in some states, become a purely commercial enterprise. So there’s no surprise in learning dispensaries are getting more competitive in delivering a great experience. If you’re new to visiting a dispensary, here are some things that help make a great retail establishment for cannabis.


In the days of prohibition there were two types of dealers, the kind who gave a damn what he was selling and the one who didn’t. You could tell who was passionate about cannabis itself by how much they knew about what they were selling. This is still true today in our well-lit, streamlined, highly-polished retail dispensaries. Like a server who cares about their menu, a good budtender will know their store’s offerings. While not every budtender may be a five-star sommelier, they should be patient with you and help you choose something that fits what you’re looking for, in addition to giving advice on dosage amounts. 

This extends to the store itself, as you’ll want a store that tests what it sells. This means a dispensary also stands behind what it sells, and follows the rules involving handling marijuana. That means doing boring stuff like checking your ID to make sure you can legally purchase buds, which is a sign the store is keeping your safety and its longevity a priority.

Selection and Prices

You may eventually settle in an area with numerous dispensaries at your disposal, and have the luxury of price competition, or you may only have one store in town. This will determine pricing and selection, but ideally you want the same as everyone else: value. That means having a selection that appeals to you, with prices you can afford, and helpful staff.

No dispensary can carry everything, so price shopping can also mix with your selection-shopping as well. If your friendly neighborhood dispensary doesn’t carry a line of products you like, however, try chatting up your budtender to see if they’d be open to carrying what you like and saving you the gas money of getting it elsewhere. 

At the least, a variety of strains and ways to consume them should be available. Look for a mix of sativas and indicas, perhaps with specific attributes — all of which you can look up with your smartphone before you walk in the door. Plus, there should be tinctures, edibles, concentrates, as well as flowers to give you options for partaking. Stores will try to appeal to a wide variety of clientele, which can lead to some trend-chasing, so if there’s something you really like be sure to tell them to keep stocking it. 


If your desired aesthetic tends more towards biker bar than Apple Store, note that dispensaries have to adhere to certain rules, which requires a bit of a spartan look. The trend for retail these days tends to be clean and sparse, and that’s what most dispensaries are providing. If you remember head shops with black lights and pervasive patchouli smell, you may be disappointed. The music, lighting, even staff attire all create a specific ambience that may or may not be to your liking. Of course, what matters most is selection and pricing, plus the staff, but obviously a business that is well-tended will also reflect that in the thoughtful choices it puts into the retail space design. 

Hopefully these considerations will help guide you to a great dispensary. Online reviews may not always be accurate, as negative reviews could be competitors or just annoyed first-time customers. Since you’re likely to spend a good amount of time frequenting a local dispensary, give yourself time to sample a few and find one that fits you best.


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