Ever since multiple states legalized either medical or recreational pot, even both, marijuana dispensaries and cannabis stores line the streets of some of America’s major cities now, such as Detroit, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. Although people use these names interchangeably, there are notable differences between the two. Knowing them is not just important as a consumer, but as an investor, as well.
Marijuana Dispensary vs. Cannabis Store
The primary difference between a marijuana dispensary and a cannabis store is that one serves the needs of medical patients treating their ailments with weed, while the other supplies consumers with recreational pot. The experiences of people using these facilities are not the same. There are a few significant variations expected from each.
Understanding a Marijuana Dispensary
Patients that visit a dispensary spend some time waiting in a waiting room, much like a doctor’s office, before ever entering the sales room. Once invited into this space, a budtender is available to discuss the different strains and products available to the patient, answering any questions he or she may have, and learning about his or her specific medical requirements.
To gain access to a marijuana dispensary, patients must have a legitimate letter of recommendation from a state-licensed physician permitting them to treat their ailments with cannabis. Dispensaries make a copy of this letter for their own records and have software to track patient-specific orders for future reference. There is very little difference between this and patient records at a doctor’s office.
A marijuana dispensary stocks fewer strains and products than a recreational outlet, but they do have a wide selection available on their menus nonetheless. You can find edibles, flowers, concentrates, vaporizers, and more as a medical patient. The dispensary will also likely have a menu available online for patients to study before they come a-visiting.
Understanding a Cannabis Store
In contrast, a cannabis store is much busier than a dispensary. Budtenders do not have the time required to attend to customers individually. Queues are long and customers often in a hurry. For this reason, most know what they want already before they come to the store, and since they are not buying for medical purposes, there is more leeway for them in the products they need.
Additionally, since there are more cannabis products available for recreational use, cannabis stores typically have much bigger menus than dispensaries do. Most also offer online menus to help customers choose before they arrive. Furthermore, retail outlets place more emphasis on product aesthetics, packaging, and branding, which they tend to display proudly to all customers upon entry.
Although both cannabis stores and marijuana dispensaries sell a variety of pot products and their derivatives, there are notable price differences between them. Dispensaries sell at much lower prices than recreational outlets do. This is because most states charge lower tax rates for medical weed. In California, for example, an excise tax is 15 percent on weed, but the state exempts medical pot entirely.
In Colorado, however, medical patients only pay a sales tax. Since Colorado charges a 27 percent total tax on marijuana products, which includes the 2.9 percent sales tax that patients pay, weed is as much as 24 percent cheaper at a dispensary. However, since patients require a doctor’s letter, which comes with a consulting fee, and a Medical Marijuana Card, which comes with an application fee, these expenses offset the price of cheaper weed somewhat.
On the other hand, because cannabis stores must pay full taxes to the state, customers ultimately foot the bill. Furthermore, most recreational outlets employ more staff than dispensaries do, which increases weed prices too. Regulations are also more stringent for retail outlets; at least they are in most of the legal states.
There is also the cost of independent laboratory testing, required by California law for all pot products. This raises prices further, along with the expenses of complying with business permits, childproof packaging, and other regulations. In fact, all these costs coupled with astonishing tax rates make legal marijuana rather pricy for most. Experts say this is why the black market continues to thrive.
Other Important Considerations
You need to be 18-years or older to buy from a marijuana dispensary legally. However, those buying recreational pot must be at least 21-years of age. There are also differing limitations on the amount of product you can buy: Medical patients can access up to eight ounces in California, for example, while recreational consumers cannot buy more than one ounce at a time.
Legitimate patients have the luxury of purchasing more pot at once, and they have access to more potent edibles and products. Cannabis stores may only sell pre-packaged weed products, none of which can contain more than a limited quantity of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This is 10 milligrams per edible serving in California, but potency differs between states for strains.
Cash is another factor to consider. You must also take identification with you. This applies to both marijuana dispensaries and cannabis stores. Because pot remains illegal at the federal level, banks do not service weed businesses. For this reason, they work exclusively in cash, but most have ATMs in store, along with a heavy security presence, most of whom carry arms.