What Makes a Great Dispensary?

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Colorado is in the middle of a cannabis green rush. Dispensaries are blooming like columbine in the spring. This bounty presents locals and visitors alike with a conundrum: which dispensary to make their local favorite.

We’ve run hundreds of pop-ups over the past few years and this has given us some significant behind-the-scenes insight into what makes a good Colorado dispensary great. Here’s what we look for:

Careful Product Selection

Let’s start with what’s in stock. Do they have something for every consumer (concentrates, flower, tinctures, shatters, dabs & edibles?) Does the management check what’s hitting the market and bring in new, exotic strains for you to try?

If they grow, what’s their process like? Shops like Boulder Wellness CenterNorthern Lights Cannabis Co. in Edgewater harvests fresh flower weekly, and the budtenders hand-pick the buds in front of you.

If they just ran out of your favorite edible, do they order more and then follow up with you? Do they hook you up with in-store specials? High Q in Silt, for example, runs a different deal every day. (Our favorite is “Tasty Tuesdays” — when edibles are 15% off).

Smart, Friendly Staff

The best managers and budtenders are welcoming and fun to be around. But it’s about more than people skills — they should also be enthusiasts who’ve done their homework. They know cultivation and extraction. They know strains and their terpene profiles, so when they talk cannabis, the conversation goes beyond simply “Indica or sativa?”

If they don’t have experience with a certain product, they can find you someone who does. And they can identify newcomers, who can be apprehensive about taking their first steps into the world of cannabis, and give them the personalized experience.

We also think that the best shops get creative in finding new ways to connect with the community.Silver Stem Fine Cannabis in Denver hosts Meet & Greets with local artists, andStarbudshosts an annual Toy Drive and a “Shop with a Cop” program that sends disadvantaged children on a shopping spree with law enforcement officers..1

Presentation and Feel

Some shops have a vibe to them. You enjoy spending time there — even if you end up waiting a few minutes for service. Is the atmosphere inviting, or does the shop have that black-market, underground feel? Is the dispensary cluttered, or have they used their floor space in an intuitive way? Are the buds pre-packaged, or are they displayed in jars where they have room to breathe?

Denver’sDiego Pellicer is a shop that’s done an exemplary job of branding the complete in-store experience. The place’s aesthetic was well thought-out, and the product is enshrined in clean display cases and lit softly.

Our go-to dispensaries are also easy to access. Is the shop clearly marked? And how’s the parking situation?

The X-Factor

The most memorable dispensaries are marked by a special element that gives them personality.

The Spot 420 in Pueblo comes to mind — it has a huge, vibrant mural of Bob Marley painted on its exterior. And The Doobie Sisters, in Cortez, is a fun recreational shop run by three sisters who have made cannabis the family business.

Boulder’sVillage Green Society is a charming cannaboutique operated out of an old house that was mail-ordered from a Sears catalogue and assembled on-site. The “X-Factor” could even be something as serendipitous as location.Ballpark Holistic, in Denver, is two blocks away from Coors Field, which lets you quickly stop in after a Rockies Game.

Putting it All Together

A top shop adds value to every step of the experience — from procurement, to presentation, to the moment you select the goods you’ll take home. We kept this process in mind when we set up our flagship dispensary in Alma. Have you stopped in yet? Come by and check out the full collection of all things Northern Standard.


We look forward to seeing you at a Colorado pop-up soon. And for more from Northern Standard, hit up NSMerch.com and our new line of artwork, activewear & vape accessories.

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