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Friday December 24, 2021

By Paul Barach

Dispensary Education

Dispensaries, caregivers, and weed delivery services all serve their purpose in the cannabis industry. Whether a state is fully recreational or medical-only, these services and individuals contribute to customers having access to the marijuana that in some cases they want, and in other situations they desperately need. However, many cannabis consumers are unaware of the differences between these three services and what each provides. Below we break down what these entities are, how they differ, and how they operate. 

What is a Cannabis Dispensary?

A cannabis dispensary is a brick and mortar retail shop approved by the state to legally sell marijuana products to customers. The cannabis products supplied to each dispensary are tracked by the state and sold to customers by retail employees commonly referred to as budtenders.

In states like Colorado, some dispensaries house both a recreational and medical marijuana section in the same building. In other states medical dispensaries and recreational dispensaries must be kept entirely separate.

In all non-prohibition states, purchasing marijuana recreationally requires only an ID check to make sure the customer is of legal age. The customer is also limited in the amount of marijuana they can buy at one time, which varies on a state-by-state basis. Recreational marijuana is taxed at a higher rate than medical and is limited in the amount of THC contained in each serving or container. In most states, this is around 100 mg of THC for edibles or 10 mg per serving.

Medical marijuana purchases are sold at a lower tax rate, but require a valid medical marijuana card. Usually, this card is only valid in the state that it was issued to use for purchases in a dispensary. However, there are several states that offer medical cannabis reciprocity, meaning a patient is legally allowed to use their credentials in multiple states (often with added restrictions).

A dispensary
The most common way for people to obtain weed is at the dispensary. photo credit

The marijuana and other THC products sold to a medical patient may contain a much higher percentage of THC than is allowed for recreational usage and the buyer can purchase a larger legal amount of loose marijuana, sometimes up to a pound or more if a patent has been approved for an extended plant count (EPC). The staff at a medical dispensary usually has some level of certification or expertise in cannabis, although this is not required in many states.

What is a Marijuana Caregiver?

A caregiver is licensed to provide healthcare assistance to a qualified medical marijuana patient. Caregivers have no role at all in recreational marijuana. A caregiver serves patients by helping them obtain and use medical marijuana treatments such as (but not limited to) flower, concentrates, edibles, tinctures, or topicals. They may also apply these treatments to the patient themselves if the patient is unable. Caregivers are especially needed for patients that cannot manage their own treatment, such as minors who need marijuana for medical issues like seizures, or for adult patients debilitated by cancer, pain issues, or other physical afflictions.

If a patient is debilitated by health issues, a caregiver is authorized to go to the dispensary on the patient’s behalf to pick up an order of medical marijuana. Caregivers may also grow plants for their patients, but the number of plants they can grow is limited by state laws.

Caregiver giving a senior a joint
Caregivers play a crucial role in the medical community. photo credit

Although caregivers do not need to be trained medical professionals, some do need to go through a lengthy permitting process. In Arizona, they must provide to the state their social security card, driver's license, current address, current photo, a caregiver attestation card signed by the patient, a background check, and their fingerprints. Other states, such as Washington, require a background check but are more lenient on other requirements.

Weed Delivery Services: What Are They?

A cannabis delivery service does what its name suggests: a business that transports a requested amount of recreational or medical marijuana to a home or other address. Delivery services cater to both recreational consumers and medical patients and, like most cannabis regulations, laws and availability vary on a state-by-state basis. Recreational consumers may use delivery services due to convenience or discreteness, while many medical patients who cannot go to a dispensary take advantage of delivery out of necessity.

Cannabis delivery
Cannabis delivery is becoming legal in more and more states. photo credit

When it comes to delivering marijuana products, there are several options. Delivery services are available both online and over the phone but many people are choosing the online route for convenience and ease of use. The customer simply makes a few clicks through the online ordering menu on the best marijuana for them, and within an hour the delivery person is at their door. In most cases the delivery person either picks up the marijuana from a dispensary, or from the delivery service’s warehouse. 

Delivery services provide a valuable contribution to the accessibility of marijuana and more progress is being made in this sector than anywhere else. Expect to see cannabis delivery grow exponentially over the next few years and define the way we think about purchasing cannabis.

The Difference between Dispensaries, Caregivers & Delivery Services

Dispensaries, caregivers and delivery services can ultimately all accomplish the same goal – providing cannabis products to consumers. However, as we can conclude from the information above, all three options offer different services and benefits to the consumer. Take a look below at the consumer types best suited for each option.

Consumer Recommendations:

  • Dispensary: Dispensaries are a great option for cannabis consumers of all types and best for those who enjoy shopping in person and viewing the physical products before purchase. The dispensary shopping experience also allows a customer to interface with budtenders, ask questions and discover new products. Both medical and recreational marijuana products are available through dispensaries.
  • Caregiver: Only medical patients who have registered through the state can interface with caregivers. There are many reasons a medical patient might want a caregiver, such as: easier access to cannabis products, specific cultivation requirements, and a personalized experience, to name a few.
  • Delivery Service: Delivery services are becoming much more universal in their offerings and cater to both medical and recreational cannabis consumers. Those seeking convenience and discretion can use delivery services without needing to visit a storefront in person. The customers most suited to delivery are medical patients with limited mobility, however, people that know what products they want/need but wish to skip the lines at the dispensary are also well suited for this option.

Dispensaries, caregivers and weed delivery services all offer reliable, safe access to the cannabis plant. No matter which option you obtain your cannabis from, you can rest easy knowing that every option requires proper licensing from the state. 

Do you have experience with dispensaries, caregivers or delivery services? Share them in the comments below and provide your tips and tricks for navigating different avenues of the cannabis industry.

Photo Credit: UC DenverR (license)


Paul Barach Paul Barach

Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.

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