Originally article by Mike Richard on The Manual April 19, 2019.
Pot culture has come a long way since the days of pseudo-Rastafarian head shops, Cypress Hill’s puerile glamorization of weed in the ’90s (see also “Hits from the Bong”), and the High Times monthly centerfold. Credit the mainstreaming of marijuana and the massive influx of cash that legalization has brought to dispensaries in almost a dozen U.S. states. Now, many are pouring their profits into legit product research, high-end retail designs, and “green glove service” for a more discerning clientele. These 10 marijuana dispensaries across the United States, in particular, offer unique customer experiences to match their one-of-a-kind, designer storefronts.
The High Expedition
Two hours north of Anchorage, in the tiny mountain town of Talkeetna, Alaska (population: 876) lies The High Expedition. It’s no doubt the most remote dispensary on this list. The rustic, log-cabin storefront feels more like an old-timey general store with only a “Cannabis Purveyors” sign on the outside to hint at the building’s true nature. The building is steeped in history as it served as the home of famed mountain climber Ray Genet who perished on Everest in 1979. Today, a modest museum inside the store commemorates his life and and the mountaineering achievements of others. It’s difficult to imagine a more appropriately “Alaskan” dispensary.
Las Vegas, Nevada
It was only a matter of time before Vegas erected the largest, most over-the-top dispensary in the country. Situated a mile off The Strip, Planet 13 is a sprawling, 40,000-square-foot behemoth that’s equal parts dispensary and entertainment complex. Customers will find a dizzying array of cannabis-related wares from tinctures and topicals to edibles and extracts with 42 cash registers waiting near the exit. However, the mega-dispensary is also big on creating a multi-sensory experience to make this a destination unto itself. Massive LED-lit lotus flowers mark the entrance while motion-activated, colored flooring, otherworldly orb lighting, and a huge 3-D projection wall make the inside feel more like a contemporary art museum. In spring 2019, Planet 13 announced an expansion to include a cafe, a pizza restaurant, and a 115-foot glass wall to showcase the making of their products in the attached production facility.
Tokyo Starfish is the antidote to Planet 13’s “bigger is better” mega-dispensary ethos. The Oregon-based shop promises a boutique, small-town experience where the […] budtenders legitimately care about their clientele — enough to remember their individual preferences and tastes. What truly sets it apart, however, is that it’s likely the only dispensary in the country that operates as a “Bud and Breakfast.” Just upstairs from the retail space is a two-bedroom apartment for rent. Naturally, it’s 420-friendly.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco boasts more high-end dispensaries per capita than almost any city in America, so competition is fierce. What sets Harvest apart from its Bay Area counterparts is a design and experience that feel more like an organic grocer than a high-priced head shop. Most of the products including edibles, concentrates, topicals, and, of course, flower, are sourced from local, organic growers and producers. Plus, unlike most high-end pot shops, the products here are openly displayed throughout the store for customers to readily inspect, smell, and handle.
Denver and Seattle
The multi-state Diego Pellicer chain has long been recognized for the beauty of its storefronts — an upscale aesthetic that’s equal parts apothecary and old-school haberdashery. This emphasis on style befits the brand’s namesake, a 19th-century hemp entrepreneur. But, these shops aren’t all sizzle and no steak. They promise some of the highest-potency strains in the country with THC levels that routinely test higher than 30% (that’s very, very strong). The best part? The prices are surprisingly reasonable.
Great Barrington, Massachusetts
It’s already getting harder and harder for marijuana dispensaries to distinguish themselves from the competition. Beyond flashy designs, dirt-cheap prices, and knowledgeable staff, outlets like Theory Wellness are looking to “seed to sale” (think “farm to table” for weed) business models to attract eco-conscious, small-business-friendly customers. The rural, Berkshires-based Great Barrington location receives all of its product from a sister shop in nearby Bridgewater where the company’s entire inventory is grown, harvested, and packaged.
Om of Medicine
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Where most dispensaries lean on glossy, futuristic, Apple-inspired designs, Om of Medicine looks to keep the pot-shopping experience quirky, bold, and fun. The Ann Arbor-based shop is a blend of modern yoga studio and art gallery. The lounge area encourages customers to linger with comfortable orb chairs, a guitar for guest use, and even monthly comedy shows.
San Francisco, California
Barbary Coast Dispensary finds its way onto every list of “best marijuana dispensaries in the U.S.” and with good reason. Here, the sophisticated high-design defines the experience. It’s not the only dispensary in California to offer a customer lounge, but its lounge sets the bar for what a modern-day smoke shop experience should be. With Tiffany-inspired chandeliers, gentlemanly leather seating, and rich wood throughout, the atmosphere is equal parts speakeasy and old-school barbershop.
Dockside Cannabis SODO
Seattle’s Dockside Cannabis SODO has all the hallmarks of a modern-day pot shop including a nice, open floor plan with a bright, designer decor. But, what sets it apart is the legit cannabis museum inside. One corner of the shop is dedicated to the science and history of all things cannabis. The collection was born largely of Ohio activist Don Wirtshafter’s hoard of related memorabilia including old-school medicine bottles. The entire collection covers more than one hundred years of pre-prohibition cannabis history dating as far back as 1830. Terpene scent jars and a “feel table” round out the shop’s unique multi-sensory experience.
New England Treatment Access
While NETA’s name has all the sex appeal of a walk-in clinic, their Brookline location is stunning. Situated in a historic bank building with soaring ceilings, tall arch windows, and a beautifully restored dome ceiling, it’s no doubt the most dramatic setting of any dispensary on this list. But what sets it apart is the incredible menu. All of its vaporizer products are dosage- and strain-specific, and the list of high-end edibles includes Belgian chocolate. What’s more, the staff is among the best-trained in the state to make the best recommendations for customers’ specific needs.