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Difference Between A Marijuana Dispensary And A Liquor Store

What is the difference between stepping inside a neighborhood weed store and retail outlets designed to cater to the alcohol consumer?

Back when cannabis advocates were first successfully moving to legalize marijuana for recreational use at the state level, one of the most popular phrases used to describe what that might look like is “in a manner similar to alcohol.” The gist of the pitch was that upon the legalization of marijuana, there would be a taxed and regulated market put into place — same as the alcohol trade — that would allow adults 21 and older to buy cannabis products close to the same way they might purchase beer at a liquor store.

Fast forward a few years and there are now pot dispensaries open in several states, with more of them set to come in 2020. But what is the difference between stepping inside a neighborhood weed store and retail outlets designed to cater to the alcohol consumer? Well, you might be surprised to learn that the two are very different.

Unlike the average liquor store, marijuana dispensaries like to make sure a person is of legal age before they ever step inside. These establishments typically have security personnel standing at the entrance to check IDs.

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You won’t see a weed buyer standing at the cash register of a cannabis dispensary patting their pockets in a panicked quest to produce a driver’s license that may or may not exist. You know the ones who might say, “I don’t know what to tell you, I guess I left my ID at home,” while trying to convince the clerk that they are indeed 21. Without proof that a person is a legal age to buy weed, they simply are not getting any further than the front door. 

Photo by Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance

Alcohol customers can walk into a liquor store and track down their beverage of choice without much social interaction. They do not need to be told where to find the Mad Dog 20/20, and they sure don’t need someone to explain to them how the beverage might make them feel. 

But a marijuana dispensary is a different beast. 

RELATED: 4 Things You Need To Know Before Visiting A Marijuana Dispensary

Rather than just the one clerk waiting up front to ring up customers, a pot dispensary has several workers on the floor that are answering customer questions and offering product recommendations. The dispensary experience is more like walking inside any retail setting where the employees work on commission than it is stopping by a liquor store for a bottle of hooch.

Even if a cannabis consumer is an old pro at shopping for legal weed at his or her favorite dispensary, the process is always the same: show ID and wait for customer service to offer some assistance. It’s not like a liquor store where a person can just run in and grab a six-pack of their favorite beer and get out within a matter of minutes. The person buying weed, even if they know what they want, is still going to spend more time inside than those folks who frequent shops where alcohol is sold. There are sometimes long lines in a dispensary, and budtenders have been known to devote 10-20 minutes with new customers to make sure they are getting what they need.

If anything, buying marijuana at a dispensary is more comparable to visiting a wine shop. Chances are, even if a customer is only going in for a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, they are going to walk out with a bottle of something else, as well, because of an interesting conversation they might have had with a salesperson about a specific product. The cannabis dispensary is a lot like that with respect to how there is always something new coming onto the scene that curious patrons might be interested in trying if they were just showed the way. Just think of the cannabis dispensary as more of an interactive experience while the liquor store is more of a place of self service.

From total marijuana legalization in Canada, to North America becoming more chilled out about its own state laws, buying your favorite green flower has never been easier and growing your own is almost as simple. 

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