Photo: Apothecarium

The Best Recreational Cannabis Dispensaries in America

United States Insider Guides Cannabis
by Matthew Meltzer Feb 19, 2019

Recreational cannabis is legal in 10 states, and a number of states like New York and New Jersey are in the process of legalizing. And it’s not just for the locals — cannabis tourism has shifted from something you did once while in Amsterdam to something you can do without leaving the US.

For people new to the idea of legal weed, the novelty of being able to stroll into a business and walk out with a bag of marijuana will be cool the first couple of times you do it no matter which shop you go to. But after a while, just like what happens with bars and restaurants, you’ll only settle for the best places. We turned to Sean Cooley, director of content for Weedmaps, to give us the lay of the (legal) land. He hipped us to some spots around the nation where even if you’ve never bought marijuana at a dispensary, are not sure how much an eighth is, or still can’t remember what THC and CBD do, the trusty budtenders will have you covered.

Best dispensaries in Alaska

The High Expedition

Photo: The High Expedition/Facebook

High Expedition in Talkeetna: With massive glaciers, soaring eagles, and world-class fishing, the US sometimes forgets that Alaska jumped on the legal weed train a few years ago. This charming, historic mountain town two hours north of Anchorage opened what can best be described as the country general store of dispensaries. High Expedition has a rustic little storefront with a small, wooden sign reading “Cannabis Purveyors.” The store is set in a cabin originally built for intrepid mountain climber Ray Genet who died in 1979 on Mt. Everest. Inside, you’ll find a store steeped in mountain climbing lore, with a small museum dedicated to Genet and the climbers that made Talkeetna a destination. You’ll also find enough weed to make it worth the trip from Anchorage. “I can’t think of a better Alaskan trip than smoking from an antler pipe carved by local Alaska Natives while viewing the northern lights,” Cooley says.

Great Northern Cannabis in Anchorage: The biggest name in Alaskan cannabis is Great Northern, a downtown Anchorage dispensary that recently opened a second location in the city’s thriving Dimond neighborhood. The majority of the products here are grown in Alaska, and though the state is known more for its tundra than its terroir, the indica, sativa, and hybrid strains Great Northern produces have gotten rave reviews. As the place puts out about 120 pounds of cannabis a month, and Alaska has less than 750,000 people, you’ll have plenty of inventory to try if you find yourself in Anchorage this summer.

Best dispensaries in California

Harvest off Mission, best dispensaries

Photo: Harvest off Mission/Facebook

Harvest in San Francisco: As dispensaries begin to reflect the cities they serve, Harvest might just be the most Bay Area spot to hit the market. Flower, concentrates, edibles, and topicals sourced from local growers line the open shelves, making both the Geary and Mission stores feel a bit like natural foods co-ops full of cannabis-infused goodies. The friendly staff roams the floor answering questions, and nothing is locked up behind a counter, creating a free and trusting atmosphere that feels like a throwback to pot culture of a different era.

Cookies in Los Angeles: “When the bassist for System of a Down wants to debut his new line of incredibly sticky and sweet strains, he does it at Cookies LA,” Cooley says. Cookies has a number of noted strains and products like Shavo Odadjian’s 22Red collaboration with the iconic cultivators at Wonderbrett. Be sure to try the churro cookies from the Venice Cookie Company. Cookies has parking, a rarity in LA, making this spot one of the most convenient dispensaries in Los Angeles and California as a whole.

Exhale Med Center in West Hollywood: Go past the soothing fish tanks in the lobby of this dispensary tucked into a WeHo outdoor plaza and you’ll find one of the friendliest staffs of any business in the city, pot-slinging or not. Chris Joynt (clearly his God-given name) and his colleagues can help guide you through the extensive selection of products, as well as the shop’s vast array of clones if you want to try your hand at growing your own Strawberry Cough. There’s also a rosin press in the store, so fans of cannabis concentrates can squeeze hash oil out of their new purchases. “The laid-back atmosphere makes even first-time buyers feel comfortable,” Cooley says.

Best dispensaries in Colorado

Oasis Superstore in Denver: Sometimes described as “The Walmart of Weed,” Oasis is a gargantuan superstore with over 200 strains, 180 different pre-rolled joint, and an overwhelming selection of smoking accessories and glass pipes. But unlike the retail giant to which it’s compared, Oasis has actually helpful staff who know about all of the products and can help you navigate your way through the maze of glass cabinets filled with green jars. It has two locations, Denver South and Denver Northwest, the former of which also dispenses medical marijuana. For the indecisive consumer who likes to weigh their options, this is Colorado’s best stop to get oriented.

Native Roots in multiple cities: Native Roots has won a staggering number of CannAwards, taking home the 2016 Best Adult Use Dispensary honor, as well as awards for infused products, creative marketing, and five titles at the Denver Cannabis Cup. Its success has led to more than 20 locations throughout Colorado, and while the Denver Downtown flagship store gets the preferred nod from Cooley, you can enjoy the selection and hospitality from Vail to Aspen to Longmont.

Silverpeak in Aspen: Silverpeak is the kind of store where you fully expect to turn around and see an NBA lottery pick standing at the next case. Not just because pro basketball players know where to get the best weed this side of Death Row Records but also because the place feels more like it should be selling $50,000 Rolexes, not Purple Dogbud vape cartridges. The very Aspen-feeling dispensary exudes luxury with its soft accent lamps, dark wood tables, and highly trained staff. It’s not winning any awards for low prices, but if you’re in Aspen, that’s probably not much of a consideration anyway.

Best dispensary in Massachusetts

NETA Northampton in Northampton: The highly medical sounding New England Treatment Access (or just NETA) was one of the two original recreational dispensaries to open up in Massachusetts in November. But it’s not just a lack of competition that makes this one of the best shops in America. This store in downtown Northampton is vertically integrated with a grow facility in nearby Franklin, offering more than 50 strains and an impressive array of products, whether you’re looking for a kief-rolled joint or a Rubi vape pen. The interior is done up in light woods and track lighting, providing a relaxing, professional shopping atmosphere. Even as competitors plan to open in droves over the next few years, this original is well positioned to outlast them all.

Best dispensaries in Nevada

Planet 13 Las Vegas, best dispensaries

Photo: Planet 13 Las Vegas/Facebook

Planet 13 in Las Vegas: It didn’t take long for Las Vegas to build the biggest, busiest, and most multi-sensory dispensary on Earth. Planet 13 spans a massive 40,000 square feet, beginning with 15-foot LED lotus flowers on the roof that change colors depending on the whim of visitors on the ground. The light show continues with an LED water feature that’s sort of like the Bellagio of pot shops, visible from 65,000 hotel rooms around Sin City. It also has light-up LED floors, orb shows, and 16,500-square feet of cannabis retail space with 42 open registers. “I’d recommend picking up a few grams of Blue Dream from Green & Gold and thereby exponentially improving your Blue Man Group experience,” Cooley says.

Essence Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas: Nothing in Vegas is going to top Planet 13 for a full-on dispensary show. But for convenience, quality, and service, Essence is the best option for tourists on the strip. Set in the shadow of the towering Stratosphere, this big, bright dispensary looks a little like a cross between an art gallery and a luxury car dealer’s service department, and it has Vegas’s best selection of products outside the superstore. The strip location is the only dispensary along that famous stretch of neon and sin, and Essence also has locations in Henderson and Tropicana West.

Best dispensaries in Oregon

Tokyo Starfish dispensary products

Photo: Tokyo Starfish/Facebook

Tokyo Starfish in Bend: This three-location dispensary has quickly become a favorite of locals and visitors alike in the funky, high-desert town of Bend. For locals, the staff is the sort of small-town friendly where everyone remembers not only your name but also your preferences and questions from past visits. For visitors, Tokyo Starfish offers what is, to our knowledge, the world’s only “Bud and Breakfast,” a two-bedroom apartment set atop the store’s Westside location that’s available for rent. The bud and breakfast is conveniently close to downtown, the Deschutes River, and the Les Schwab Amphitheater, and it’s completely weed-friendly if you want to supply yourself downstairs.

Kings of Canna in Portland: Perhaps because Portland, Oregon, is a city that’s never quick to choose big business over the corner store, it’s been slow to get into the mega-dispensary game. The highest-quality dispensary in the city, however, is Kings of Canna, which calls itself a “canniboutique” and fills its store with wood-and-glass cases set under cleverly exposed grating. Inside the cases, you’ll find Portland’s best selection of products with over 35 strains, edibles, oils, and anything else you can think of. While it’s not on the scale of some of the Colorado and California superstores, for small business-friendly Portland it’s just about perfect.

Best dispensaries in Washington

Lux Pot Shop in Seattle: A two-store chain in Ballard and Lake City, both of which are sleek and high tech. The stores are brightly lit, and neon-clad shops where staff kindly welcome both cannabis vets and newcomers. The selection is on par with anywhere you’ll find in Seattle, but what sets this place apart is the high-functioning staff, who receive extensive training both in service and product knowledge.

Best multi-state dispensaries in the US

Apothecarium in San Francisco and Las Vegas: At first glance, the sleek white and grey countertops make this Bay Area dispensary look a little like a kitchen furnishings store. Only, instead of Sub-Zero, you’re buying a pack of Henry’s Starry Night pre-rolled joints. Apothecarium has been selling marijuana since 2011 when it started as a full-service medicinal dispensary specializing in customer education and community events. With the legalization of recreational pot, the business expanded to three locations in San Francisco and a third in Las Vegas.

Diego Pellicer in Denver and Seattle: While some dispensaries opt to go with an old-school apothecary motif and others try to be like a less-addictive Apple store, Diego Pellicer has gone all-in as a sweet-smelling cigar shop. Deep woods and green plants fill the stores while rich glass cases contain high-end pot products and masterfully rolled joints. “It’s one of the few places you’ll see rolled products displayed in wooden boxes lined with velvet as if Winston Churchill was about to stroll in to toke up,” Cooley says. For a high-class dispensary experience, Diego Pellicer is best in the nation.

Have a Heart in Hawaii, California, Iowa, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington: If there’s such thing as a big, brand-name dispensary in the US, it’s Have a Heart. The company runs medicinal and adult-use shops in six states and offers frequent-buyer discounts to its best customers. It’s already built brand loyalty in a space where many Americans know no brand names, offering frequent sales and beating most other dispensaries on price. It’s positioned itself in medicinal-only states like Iowa and Ohio, so people know where to go when recreational weed comes. If you see a sign for one in a weed-legal state, it’s probably the safest bet for a quality experience.

MedMen in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, and New York: As the name might imply, MedMen rooted its business on the medicinal side, forming an operation that stretches from New York to LA with stores on both the recreational and medical sides. Every location has the sleek, high-tech look of a modern electronics store with a knowledgeable staff and perhaps the most recognizable brand name in the industry. Though mom-and-pop pot stores, such as they are, tend to sneer when the name MedMen gets brought up, it’s remained a popular choice in California and has a reliable selection of top name brands like Lowell Smokes, Lord Jones gummies, and Papa & Barkley body products.

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