Last Sunday I joined a group of Arizona MMJ industry folks who had the rare privilege of visiting three L.A. area dispensaries. It was an excellent study in contrasts.

Our first stop was The Farmacy, a tidy and tiny (850 sq ft) storefront shop laid out in conventional fashion on the edge of the UCLA campus. Large windows with nice displays, good interior lighting, a long counter and fully stocked glass showcases set the tone.

This shop does a brisk business in a variety of herbal remedies, effectively broadening it’s revenue base.  A lack of seating discourages lingering before or after the sale.  A lone, contracted security guard keeps a watchful eye. Unarmed except for pepper spray, he said he can most often talk the occasional bad actor out of aggressive or other unlawful behavior.  All in all, a nice, everyday retail environment, with the only unusual element, at least to we ‘Zonies, being the many small jars of MMJ bud on display behind the counter.

Our next stop was The Herbal Caregiver, a second-story walkup in a somewhat grittier part of town.

After being buzzed into the stairwell of this converted apartment, patients ascend to the second story and enter a lightly furnished, somewhat funky former living room and do their transactions at the counter, behind which is a video monitor showing the front door and around inside.  Literature and business cards of interest to patients could be found on the coffee table.  The effect was kind of homey, in a college dorm sort of way.

Our last stop was the Rainforest Collective, located in a comfortable neighborhood of mixed business and residential uses.  It features an ambiance all it’s own, with walls covered in a colorful jungle motif and astroturf underfoot.  Furnishings inside the large waiting room consist of a small desk for the receptionist and couches, a tv and space enough for members to congregate before heading out to their weekly volunteer community project.

Again, one had to be let into the building.  After completing the requisite paperwork the receptionist buzzes patients into a small vestible separating the front room from the dispensary itself.  After the first door closes, the budtender opens the second door to allow entry into the dispensary.  Both she and the receptionist wore remote panic buttons, and the store’s manager is certified in security techniques.

If you’ve ever been inside a Trails or similar store, this dispensary would look familiar, with a couple of important differences: first, the jarred buds – at Rainforest collective there are many on display.  We also saw more infused products here than in the other locations.

Interestingly, on the infused products there was very little labeling – mostly just the manufacturer’s logo and perhaps some contact information.  It seems advisable, however, to list all ingredients, nutritional values and doseage information for the patient’s sake, and indeed this is a strict requirement by insurance carriers offering product liability coverage. 

Undoubtedly Arizona dispensaries will share some characteristics with those in California, but with the industry rapidly evolving and our program coming online nearly a decade and a half later, Arizona’s MMJ entrpreneurs can benefit from the many lessons learned by the movement’s original pioneers. 

Many thanks to our dispensary hosts, with special gratitude to guide Bob Calkin – here’s wishing you all much continued success.  For more information about what I learned on this tour, email me at: [email protected]