Sponsored content by Solful Dispensary
The days of buying weed from a neighborhood dealer seem like a distant memory. So much has changed in the last decade and even in the last few years since cannabis legalization. Although California has always had a rich cannabis culture, the widespread adoption of mainstream weed has significantly changed how we buy and consume cannabis. The consumer experience has seen a massive overhaul, from dimestore drug dealers to hole-in-the-wall dispensaries to luxury retail experiences. Where are we now?
The Evolution of the Cannabis Industry
Medical dispensaries used to be limited in selection, but the relationships built between patients and budtenders were solidified in trust, community, and wellness. Consultations were never limited; the goal was to help someone find what they needed to manage their pain, illness, or whatever led them to become a card-carrying patient.
The dispensaries themselves were a mixed bag. Often the physical location of the dispensary was on the fringe of town or in a less-than-aesthetically pleasing building. It’s not that retailers weren’t concerned about their image, but times were different. Landlords and real estate agents weren’t ready to take a risk on marijuana businesses for fear of theft or other seedy behaviors on their property.
From Medical to Recreational
As cannabis legalization transitioned from medical marijuana to adult-use recreational, potential retailers applied for licensing in hopes of becoming the go-to shop for their community. This time, they had greater acceptance from property owners and their cities, so the options were much more vast. Physical locations improved, and the sheer volume of stores multiplied. Now, the question was how retailers could set themselves apart from the pack.
With several regulations governing their ability to remain in compliance, store owners had to get creative with their shop setup. Retailers looking to stand outspent their time and money creating environments geared toward legitimizing the cannabis industry. This often looked like clean, white, sterile environments featuring shiny glass cases and budtenders wearing matching uniforms. Perhaps there was a plant wall or logos in neon lights, or maybe nothing adorning the walls at all.
The intention was to have that Apple store feel, to indicate the luxury of waltzing into a brick-and-mortar store to buy weed, dabs, vapes, and edibles. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this model, and plenty of these types of stores are still operating successfully today. Yet, the retailers that stand out—creating positive, memorable experiences for their customers—have taken a slightly different approach.
When Quality Meets Care
When new legal retailers rushed the scene, they were quick to set up shop and stock their shelves with products designed for recreational users. The name of the game was “sell more weed,” and in the wake of the green rush, some of the connections the medical community was known for got left behind.
However, not all retailers lost sight of the purpose of legalization. Instead, they honored it with a hybrid model focused on providing exceptional care in a pleasant environment. One retailer that took this approach is Solful. With two locations in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa, Solful created a dispensary model that prizes high-quality, locally-grown cannabis products and prioritizes the customer experience.
“We believe in the power of cannabis to improve health and wellness and always aim to meet the consumer where they are. We have built our team member training program to empower our Health and Happiness Consultants to offer an educational, hospitality experience to everyone—from in-depth consultations to quick recommendations in the store.” —Eli Melrod, CEO and Co-Founder of Solful dispensary
Solful dispensaries are cozy, comfortable, and welcoming, and the staff members are just as friendly and sincere as they are knowledgeable. Instead of “budtenders,” Solful has “health and happiness consultants” whose primary job is to have a one-on-one conversation with customers to discuss their wellness goals with cannabis. Although they are not medical professionals, the consultants offer guidance based on their collective knowledge and consumer feedback about the types of products that have helped others with similar needs.
The Modern-Day Dispensary Experience
Dispensaries like Solful fill their shelves with products they would use or recommend instead of whatever brand name is trending. Sure, this sometimes includes the latest and greatest edibles or THC drinks, both of which have evolved immensely in recent years. Today, consumers can shop for every strain on the planet in flower, vape carts, shatters, live resins, and rosins galore.
Edibles used to consist of baked goods like brownies, and gummy candies have evolved to meet dietary needs and varying tastes. Shop for edibles like mints, gum, honey, tea, coffee, lozenges, and chocolate bars.
In addition to shopping in-store, customers can now shop online and order pickup or, in many cases, choose delivery. Talk about a nod back to the black market days when you didn’t even have to leave your couch, and weed just showed up at your door. However, now, it’s thoroughly inspected and tested by a third-party lab to ensure it’s free from contaminants and contains what it says it does.
“We prioritize getting to know our farm partners personally. We can then share what we know and love about the farmers, unique strains, growing practices, terroir—everything we learn, we aim to pass on to our customers.” —Eli Melrod, CEO and Co-Founder of Solful dispensary
Even the weed market has improved significantly, though this is mainly due to rising competition in the market. However, in Northern California, the standards remain the same. That means many growers stay true to their sun-grown roots, growing organically in the unique terroir native to the Emerald Triangle.
The beauty of today’s dispensary experience is that you can have whatever you desire. Hang out and chat with the staff and ask everything you want to know about a strain’s lineage. Find out about the farmers who grew the weed to ensure that their values align with yours. Buy sparkling THC seltzers made with strain-specific live resin. Don’t forget to pause for a moment and take in the magic of legal weed and how it wasn’t that long ago that none of this existed. We’ve come a long way! So, spark it up and enjoy.