What is a Medical Marijuana Dispensary?

Medical marijuana is available only through a qualifying doctor's prescription.
In the United States, some states allow people with legitimate health issues to legally purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary.
Critics of medical marijuana say that it often falls into the hands of recreational users.
If a person has a prescription for marijuana, a pharmacist can help them locate a dispensary.
Marijuana plants.
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  • Written By: Matt Brady
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2015
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A medical marijuana dispensary is a location permitted to sell legal medical marijuana, or medical cannabis, so long as the buyer meets certain criteria qualifying them to use the drug strictly for medicinal purposes. Medical marijuana dispensaries are run out of a variety of locations, including residential homes, office buildings, and health-and-wellness centers. Owners of such businesses have had to go through the proper paperwork and procedures in order to become legally permitted and licensed by their regional authorities to grow and sell medical marijuana.

One can become a customer at a medical marijuana dispensary — given that the region lived in has legalized them — if he or she suffers from any ailment listed by that region as acceptable to be treated with medicinal marijuana. First, though, it is necessary to consult a doctor, not only to find out what conditions may be treated with cannabis, but also to obtain a prescription. Without a doctor's prescription, a medical marijuana dispensary cannot legally sell medical weed. Once a prescription has been obtained, a doctor or pharmacist may be able to help the patient locate a nearby dispensary; there are also directories available on the Internet.


The emergence of the medical marijuana dispensary is a unique part of the ongoing debate in the United States over whether marijuana should be legalized, and if so, at what levels. Although medical marijuana dispensaries are, in theory, intended to be legal conduits for the sale of medical marijuana, the legality of their existence is something of a riddle. In the United States, the practice of administering marijuana for any purpose, including medicinal ones, is still considered a federal offense. Therefore, any medical marijuana dispensary is technically a breach of federal law. Nevertheless, a steadily increasing number of states have legalized medical marijuana in spite of the federal government, leading to a surge in the number of medical marijuana dispensaries across the US.

The tug-of-war between states and the federal government over medical marijuana dispensaries has changed over time, with policies varying by administration. Although the exact form of medical marijuana dispensaries will likely continue to mutate with state and federal laws, such businesses may remain a growing and increasingly legitimatized aspect of American life. The main question may not be whether legal dispensaries will exist in the future, but by what standards.


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Post 2

I have a friend who suffers from glaucoma, and he says that medical marijuana is one of the few drugs that really reduce the pressure in his eyes. He really does have a prescription for the stuff, and he lives close to several medical marijuana dispensary locations. I went with him one time to do some comparison shopping before filling the prescription.

Some of these dispensaries really did remind me of traditional drugstores. They had other items on the shelves, and the pharmacists wore white coats. They were the kinds of places where you turned in your prescription and came back when it was filled and bagged up. I think the previous poster (AnswerMan) would have been impressed, but

I thought it was a little too sterile.

The other dispensaries were a lot looser. They had other supplies and devices for smoking marijuana, like wrapping papers and bongs. One medical marijuana dispensary had a menu board, and it was just like ordering a meal from a fast food restaurant. My friend ended up buying his pot at one of those places, since he needed something stronger than the standard government-approved marijuana.

Post 1

I don't use the stuff myself, but I don't have a problem with recreational marijuana use. Personally, I think all states should legalize it and keep the prisons available for violent criminals. But I do have a problem with so-called medical marijuana dispensaries, at least the way they operate right now.

I don't expect a regular drugstore to draw attention to the medications they sell. I need a prescription filled, and it's the only place allowed to fill it. I don't need to be entertained while I'm waiting or anything. I went with a friend to his preferred medical marijuana dispensary and it was like an old school "head shop" in there. All of the varieties of marijuana had

hipster names, like "Kaboom" and "Bang Zoomies". The place was decorated in Early American Hippie, and the music was blaring.

If the proponents of medical marijuana really want to be taken seriously, they shouldn't feel obligated to open a medical marijuana dispensary that looks like Cheech and Chong's living room. If it's truly a medicine for serious ailments, then treat the dispensary like any other drugstore.

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