The Rise of the Themed Dispensary

[Canniseur: WHEW!!! Themed dispensaries. Next thing you’ll know, there will be a dispensary themed like a deli. “Can I have a pastrami on rye with that eighth of Blue Dream please?” Or how about a baseball-themed … nope. Better not go there. If New Mexico legalizes in the next few weeks, maybe there will be a hatch chile themed dispensary! Fun story. A themed dispensary is probably coming to a corner near you if you’re in a legal state.]

In the ultra-competitive world of cannabis retail, operators are looking for new ways to stand out from the pack, and one option some have decided to go with is opening a themed dispensary with a focus on creating an “immersive” and dare-we-say “Instagrammable” experience.

The dispensary model has evolved a lot over the last decade. During the 2000s, when a handful of states only had medical marijuana laws, the user experience for cannabis consumers remained medical-centric in operators’ attempt to keep their doors from getting kicked in by the feds. Then, when Barack Obama became president and the 2013 Cole Memo helped dispensary operators relax, people started to open up a bit — maybe too soon — and the cat was out of the bag. The more regulated the marketplace, the faster this progress toward unique dispensary experiences happened.

Harborside, a dispensary in Oakland and San Jose, California founded in 2006, gave the world its first deep look into how well this new experience-centric kind of dispensary could be done. Then, in the 2010s as adult-use legalization kicked off, a wave of dispensaries modeled themselves after Apple Stores. Today, as the market matures, we’re starting to see more and more dispensaries embrace a whole new level of planned eccentricity.

Even Jay-Z is getting into the themed dispensary hype. As part of his collaboration with California cannabis company Caliva, the company has opened a new New York-themed deli dispensary in Bellflower, California, to the south of Los Angeles. While we’re not totally sure if it will carve the same kind of place in people’s hearts as Katz’s in Manhattan, it’s certainly a new twist on buying pot.

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