Dispensaries aren’t just weed shops. They are an invaluable resource within the community.

People seek out dispensaries for a variety of reasons, some more severe than others. But the one thing all dispensary customers have in common is the desire to medicate, treat or heal an issue without the use of conventional, and oftentimes harmful, pharmaceuticals. Patrons who rely on the services and products provided by dispensaries have been able to reclaim their lives, find much needed comfort, regained control, save themselves from life-threatening disease, and have brought peace to their pets.


Despite the current legal climate, it looks like the dispensary is here to stay. Not only are they here to stay, they are bound to thrive. But what will the dispensary industry become? What will it evolve into? Will it remain the one-stop weed shop, so to speak? Or will it transform into a more sophisticated and well rounded facility? This grey-market industry is growing faster than anything we have seen, and the potential to grow even more so is exponential.


We at CannaReps have big dreams, bigger goals, and high hopes for the dispensary industry. We foresee great possibilities for the industry to evolve and become a much more valuable institution in the community, more so than it is already! Here is a list of our grounded, yet optimistic hopes for the dispensary. Of course, assuming that legal regulation doesn’t hinder the holistic development. But we want to stay positive, so here goes!


1- Staff Training and Education


Walk into any dispensary and ask your budtender about the flower they have in stock and chances are they will only be able to give you a few vague details about the strain. They might be enthusiastic about cannabis but not necessarily the most informed. Hopefully in the future we will see an improvement in the level of budtender product knowledge. Dispensary workers will need to become true experts in their field with a strong understanding of the plant from cultivation, curing, and its variety of effects. Currently many dispensaries are staffed with very passionate people, but they usually rely on what the grower or owner tells them, which is not always accurate either.

We envision the dispensary industry adopting standardized training in the realms of medicinal cannabis use, dosing methods, and treatable conditions. Coupling this practical understanding with a greater insight into cannabis cultivation can transform the dispensary from being  just a dispensary, to becoming a reputable resource for medicinal cannabis knowledge. A place whereby customers can trust their budtenders to provide contextualized information with a sense of confidence and compassion. As long as there remains an attitude of grounded-ness and humility, informed dispensaries can become as important within the community as the walk-in clinic or pharmacy.


2- Educating the Consumer


Along with more advanced training for budtenders, we believe the dispensary can spread knowledge to their customers by providing cannabis education within the dispensary setting. Perhaps they can host information workshops, or provide credible and verified literature in the form of books or brochures. Informed consumers make better choices. With the power of information customers can make purchasing decisions that are best for them with comfort and ease of mind.


By educating the public, the user, and the budtender, we can eventually achieve widespread public awareness of medicinal cannabis. This will mitigate the risks of the substance being misused or given to the wrong person for the wrong reason. Ultimately education is the answer, and both sides of the industry can benefit greatly from more of it.


3-Data Collection


The dispensary is the frontline of the medicinal cannabis industry, and budtenders are the first to notice improvements in the conditions of their customers. If dispensaries were to take this information, with the permission of the patient, and collect it in a scientific matter, the face of cannabis research could advance very quickly. By applying a methodical and scientific perspective to the dispensing service, the simple act of recording the product brand/category and condition it is chosen to treat could provide a wealth of information for academics and scientists to analyze.


Dispensaries have the benefit of engaging with real customers since data shows that people prefer visiting brick-and-mortar dispensaries over online ones. By seizing this opportunity to collect statistically valid information, dispensaries can show academics where to look since they lack the funding and support to begin their own cannabis research initiatives. Here lies the chance to bridge the gap between the academic community and the cannabis consuming public.


4- An Approach to Overall Wellness


Many dispensary customers seek medicinal cannabis to treat serious issues such as drug addiction, dependencies, and autoimmune diseases. The decision to treat these kinds of conditions in a holistic, manner by utilizing natural forms of medicine, is a difficult and personal one. Oftentimes there is very little support for those choosing unconventional methods of treatment. The dispensary is the safehaven for these people. It is a safe space where everyone understand the value of a natural approach to wellness.


In order to give these customers the greatest chance at success on their healing journey, the dispensary could provide other services that address lifestyle, nutrition and mental well-being.

Perhaps integrating a certified nutritionist, counsellor or life coach into the staff to provide services to those looking to regain overall wellness. Staff can provide the social support and counselling necessary to help inspire and encourage lifestyle changes aimed to improve the conditions the customer is trying to treat. This personal touch can be the difference between someone aimlessly self-medicating, and someone with a strategic plan on how to conquer their disease.


Dispensaries could also provide other non-cannabis health products that can be used in conjunction with medicinal cannabis to help reclaim health and vitality. People suffering from autoimmune diseases or addictions could benefit greatly from micronutrient supplementation. So carrying an array of high-quality vitamins and supplements, along with the trained staff to recommend them, would provide a higher level of service. Customers will be able to obtain everything they need from one location, under the guidance of certified experts. This takes the stress and confusion out of the already painful journey of healing.


One example of a dispensary that utilizes a holistic philosophy is The Village. They initially consult with customers to see if there are other options besides cannabis that can help treat their conditions. This allows both parties to be certain that cannabis is indeed the best, or only, option and ensures that other methods have been explored first. This might seem counter-intuitive to some. You might think it’s strange for a  business to first try to dissuade a potential customer from purchasing their products. However, it just shows that the staff of The Village are wholly dedicated to helping people achieve health and wellness, even if it means not using their products. Their integrity shines through and ultimately creates a stronger relationship of trust between them and their customers.


5- Clean Dispensary Branding


The future of the dispensary industry involves a journey of refinement. Since this industry is so incredibly new, it is still finding its groove. It will take time for the industry to find its voice and image. We foresee a shift away from the iconic marijuana leaf. Not because it isn’t an apt symbol. It is definitely a beautiful and unique plant with a leaf that also happens to fit wonderfully on the Canadian flag! But patriotism and symbolism aside, the leaf is everywhere, and its association is one that not everyone wants a connection to.


The marijuana leaf will always exist as a symbol of cannabis culture, and it has every right to! However, once the dispensary industry matures, it is likely that we will see less of it. In order to achieve an image that everyone can relate to, dispensaries and brands will want to appeal to the largest possible demographic. Not just their group of friends. Discretion and sophistication are key to a clean brand and dispensary identity. Professionals are often turned off from walking into dispensaries that are plastered with cannabis imagery out of fear of association. They may be very interested in trying cannabis products but because of the “pothead” stereotype, they seek more refined shops and sources.


The dispensary of the future, in our eyes, is one that is clean, welcoming, and appeals to all. It isn’t as cold and sterile as a pharmacy, but rather a warm and inviting place where people feel safe to explore.


The Future is Exciting


The dispensary industry has time to grow, and impending legalization will definitely play its role. There is much excitement and suspense regarding the future of cannabis. What do predict or wish to see for the future of the dispensary industry? How do you think they can evolve to become an integral part of the community? We would love to hear your thoughts!