What Exactly Is a Cannabis Dispensary?

Did recreational or medicinal cannabis become legal in your state? If the answer is affirmative, there’s a high possibility that it will be sold in specialized stores. However, before you head over to the nearest cannabis dispensary, you will need to learn the difference between the recreational and medicinal shops of this type.

These two types of stores are not the same and knowing the differences between them will prepare you for your very first visit and assist you in getting the most out of your first legal THC purchase.

For that matter, we’ve decided to write down all that you need to know about cannabis dispensaries. We’ll check out the history of these shops, assist you in finding the one that’s nearest to you, and analyze the products that can be bought in them. We’ll also answer some of the most frequently asked questions concerning THC dispensaries. Read on!

These types of dispensaries came into being because of the U.S. federal law that forbids getting pot at pharmacies. So, what would a dispensary with marijuana be? It would be a local shop that specializes in selling a very specific sort of product.

In other words, a pot dispensary would be a place where one goes when he needs any sort of pot-related product. In the U.S., there are both medicinal and recreational stores, depending on which state you’re living in. Entering a recreational dispensary is a lot easier than entering a medical one – the only thing you need is the ID to prove that you’re of age.

In the following paragraphs, we’ll analyze the differences between the medical and recreational shops. This will help you get the idea of what to expect when entering one of these stores – read on if you’re planning on making a legal purchase.

What is a Marijuana Dispensary

Medical Marijuana Stores

The purpose of these types of dispensaries is to provide patients with secure locations to obtain marijuana grown to treat various diseases. These places are typically taxed and regulated differently than their recreational cousins, which is precisely why the prices vary so much between the two.

However, one of the main things that separate the medical from the recreational stores is the look – the former look a lot more like the doctor’s offices, rather than storefronts. Going to one will require you to bring all the proper documentation and necessary information concerning your illness.

Upon entering, you will have to talk with a receptionist who will ask you for the ID and your doctor’s medical cannabis recommendations. In case you’re residing in another state, you will also have to provide a proof of residency.

Recreational Marijuana Stores

The recreational stores, on the other hand, are available to everyone above the age of 21. These places allow adults to purchase pot in a completely legal way. Depending on the state you’re living in, the supply of your local recreational and medical marijuana could be nearly identical or completely separate.

The main benefit of these places is that they, unlike the medical ones, do not require you to pay for a medical cannabis recommendation. However, some states have recreational taxes that put a sizeable strain on the legal market, which is precisely why most people choose to renew their medical cannabis recommendations instead.

As we already said, entering a recreational dispensary is very simple – the only thing you need is an ID.

History of the Dispensaries Operating Across the United States

The first cannabis dispensary opened its doors to the public all the way back in 1992, in San Francisco. Its name was the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, and it sold marijuana even though the use of this plant was not legal at the time.

Since its opening, the shop has experienced legal troubles and social stigmas, and these things can still be quite problematic for the dispensaries across the United States. However, the fact that legalization is slowly spreading removes the need for worrying about police raids and protests – they will, eventually, disappear.

Right now, there are hundreds of both medical and recreational pot stores in the country – purchasing cannabis has never been easier.

What Products Can Be Found in a Dispensary?

The answer to this question largely depends on the state you’re living in. For example, the state of New York doesn’t allow these stores to sell things like smoke-able flowers – only marijuana derivatives such as vape pen cartridges and tinctures.

What Products can be found in a Dispensary?

Recreational stores typically sell marijuana in its flower form, but also in various concentrated forms, such as CO2, RSO, budder, sauce, BHO, kief, and others. Most of them also offer edibles, which are great for those who want longer highs without having to smoke. In case you’re planning to purchase regularly, remember that a medical recommendation can save you a lot of money in the long run.

How Can You Find Pot Dispensaries Near You

Due to the fact that there are more and more cannabis dispensaries with every passing year, we didn’t have to wait long to see the appearance of locating services. Nowadays, there is an abundance of locating services that can help you locate the nearest pot store, some of which are Merry Jane, Leafly, Weedmaps, Leafbuyer, Weedadvisor, and others.

For example, Leafly even publishes special lists on a monthly basis – they can tell you which the most bustling weed-selling stores in the country are. They also highlight the top performers according to parameters such as atmosphere, product quality, service, customer engagement, and other metrics. These can be of great help if you’re looking for a pot store with potent marijuana and kind staff.

What You Need to Know Before Visiting a Cannabis Dispensary

How to get weed from a dispensary? Getting pot from medical and recreational dispensaries comes with a couple of differences – here are the main ones:

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

  • You will need medical marijuana certification, the doctor’s recommendation, as well as all other documentation required by the state you’re living in.
  • You have to be 18 or older, although some states have exceptions concerning age.
  • You will probably have to register with the chosen medicinal store – it’s to keep your certification and recommendation on file for the necessary regulatory purposes.
  • Your purchases will probably be followed by the store. This is to help budtenders find products for future reference and to track effective medicine.

Recreational Marijuana Dispensaries

  • You have to be 21 or older in order to be able to purchase pot from a recreational store.
  • You will have to bring your valid and unexpired ID with you. In case you’re unable to do so, bring the passport (which also has to be valid and unexpired).
  • Many recreational stores have menus that can be organized in various ways, such as by product type. These menus are available both in-store and online.
  • Unlike the budtenders in medicinal dispensaries, the ones working in recreational stores don’t really have a lot of time to devote to each customer. These kinds of locations are “grab-and-go” and are designed with convenience and accessibility in mind.


What is the difference between a pharmacy and a dispensary?

A dispensary, on one hand, is typically found within the hospital and dispenses medicines that have been prescribed to patients. A pharmacy, on the other hand, is usually free of the hospital and does the same thing, but also allows one to get certain drugs over the counter.

A medical cannabis dispensary is quite similar to regular drug stores – it has similar looks and also requires one to bring the doctor’s recommendation.

Where are marijuana dispensaries legal?

First modeled in the Netherlands back in the 1970s, the pot dispensaries can now also be found in the United States. Unlike the “coffee shops”, which was their name in the Netherlands, today’s marijuana dispensaries in the U.S. do not allow one to consume pot on site but are much more elaborate and offer a wide variety of different marijuana-related products.

As of 2018, there are state-regulated THC stores in California, Arizona, Maryland, Connecticut, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Washington DC.

What state has the most dispensaries?

When it comes to recreational weed states, Oregon is the clear winner – there are 560+ such stores in this state. Other notable states are Colorado with 520, California with 261 and Washington with over 100 such facilities.

The situation is a bit different when it comes to medicinal stores. There are around 120 such facilities in Arizona, making it the clear winner in this category. Other notable states are Michigan with 100+ and New Mexico with 68 medicinal dispensaries.


As you can see, getting some pot has never been so easy – marijuana is becoming legal in more and more states with each passing year. However, it is still important to remember that by getting into a recreational or medical dispensary, you and your state are giving each other the trust. The state trusts you that you will use the pot in a responsible manner, and you trust the state that they’re regulating the product in a way that’s just and that protects the public health.

For that matter, it is important to learn everything you can about these facilities before making your first legal purchase. That is precisely the purpose of this article – we’re here to inform you about everything you need to know about legal weed and how to buy it. Don’t forget that the way you behave yourself while consuming pot defines the public’s perception of this young industry – use discretion, respect, and common sense while doing so.