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High-Design Dispensaries Are Redefining the Way We Buy Weed

A boutique hotel-style reception desk to welcome you. Products beautifully displayed in brightly lit glass cases. Leather lounge chairs to relax in while you shop and sample items. You may feel like you’ve stepped into Hermès. It’s actually your neighborhood marijuana dispensary.

As recreational cannabis is becoming more acceptable, decriminalized, and even legalized, across the United States, dispensaries are working hard to elevate the industry as it goes legitimate.

Forgoing the dark, and frankly sketchy, head shops of days past, dispensaries are teaming up with design firms to be sure their stores are bright, welcoming, and seriously stylish. Which is lucky for us, because with the current COVID-19 outbreak, one of the only places we can still head to is the neighborhood dispensary. With the shops being deemed “essential” businesses, it’s a welcome and needed relief from the anxiety the pandemic has induced. Luckily, the decor of these shops makes the experience just as relaxing as the product itself.

Here’s a look at three dispensaries that are putting as much thought into the design of their spaces as in the quality of their product.

Barbary Coast Dispensary


While recreational marijuana may be decriminalized at the state level, federally it is still a banned substance. With this in mind, and as a nod to San Francisco’s famous red-light district of the early 1900s, Barbary Coast Dispensary has a speakeasy vibe. Originally opened in 2013 as a medical marijuana dispensary, Barbary Coast expanded in 2017 to include a swanky, two-room lounge where you can dab or vape. Relax with your product of choice in tufted leather high-back banquets, lit by Tiffany-inspired stained glass chandeliers. With thoughtful touches like the dark wood coffered ceiling and red-flocked velvet damask wallpaper, Barbary Coast’s lounge takes you back in time to an old boys’ club, while indulging in their extensive menu of products.



Oregon had a head start on the rest of the country when it comes to dispensaries. It was the first state to decriminalize recreational marijuana back in 1973 (eventually legalizing recreational cannabis in 2014). Since then, Portland has led the way in the new look for dispensaries, pioneering the sleek, bright, trendy style typically reserved for Apple stores.

From the outside, Serra in downtown Portland could be just another shop, but inside, it’s a brightly lit space with product carefully displayed in custom cases. The name Serra is Italian for “greenhouse” and this theme plays throughout the shop. From the shape of the display cases to the living wall that adds a pop of green to the otherwise white walls, the entire space feels like a minimalist garden for ganja. Complimenting the greenhouse vibes are trendy touches like painted brick walls, exposed black steel ceiling beams, and geometric tile flooring. It all makes for a very “Portland” shopping experience.

For a closer look at Serra, check out our full profile on the place.

Dockside Cannabis


Dockside Cannabis is one of Seattle’s trendiest dispensaries. Now with four locations throughout the city, the company offers a variety of recreational marijuana products. For the newly opened fourth location, Dockside turned to Graham Baba Architects to create a design that felt tranquil and welcoming, allowing for a soothing shopping experience.

Bright and airy like Serra, Dockside Cannabis’s Ballard location feels more like heading out into nature rather than into the greenhouse. Skylights that flood the shop with natural light, displays of glass cloches on top of wooden stumps, and carefully angled lighting all highlight the product while gently guiding customers through the store. Large windows not only let light in, they signal that shopping for marijuana is nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of. And it shouldn’t be. With a full two-thirds of Americans now supporting legalization of marijuana, we can expect to see more and more dispensaries going for high-end style, turning buying pot into a boutique shopping experience.

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