From Medical to Recreational: Understanding the Different Types of Boston Dispensaries

February 19, 2024

Ever since the legalization of marijuana and its first sale in Boston on November 20, 2018, the city has seen an ever-growing number of dispensaries appear to serve the needs of residents.

However, no two dispensaries are alike, and those exploring their options or seeking a business they can trust have likely noticed that the products and services available differ based on location and dispensary type.

Boston is home to medical and recreational cannabis; here is an explanation of the different types of Boston dispensary locations and how they work so you can choose a business that fits your needs.

collection of glass jars filled with marijuana arranged neatly on a shelf in Boston dispensary

How Medical Dispensaries Work

Medical marijuana can only be dispensed to individuals possessing a medical card acquired with the assistance of their doctor. The state of Massachusetts has made an online application form available, and those who use marijuana for medical reasons may apply online.

However, they must first be certified by a doctor, who will submit information on their behalf and later provide them with a PIN number used during registration.

Once all parties have filled out and submitted the information, the patient will soon receive their medical marijuana card in the mail. Once in possession of a medical marijuana card, any medical dispensary in Boston is open for use.

Medical dispensaries are only accessible to those with a medical card, and they function much more similarly to a doctor’s office than a storefront.

You will likely need to make an appointment, and the professionals inside may discuss your symptoms and conditions with you to prescribe the right products.

Massachusetts treats medical dispensaries differently than for-profit businesses, meaning they are taxed differently. If your medical purchase is taxed, the tax will be low; however, most patients pay no sales taxes.

Because medical marijuana is used to treat health issues, these dispensaries maintain a consistent stock and are less likely than recreational stores to have unavailable products.

They also typically offer a wider range of cannabis types, from high CBD to THC-dominant strains, to serve the needs of all patients.

When you arrive at a medical dispensary, it is often quiet, and you will wait in a waiting room before being called back to a private area to discuss your concerns.

Inside a Recreational Dispensary

Recreational marijuana is also legal in Massachusetts, and the number of recreational dispensaries far exceeds medical ones (327 to 99). Anyone above the age of 21 and with a valid ID can visit a recreational dispensary to purchase any items they enjoy; the only restriction is that they must still abide by the legal limit for possession at one time (no more than one ounce of flower).

Recreational dispensaries are much more similar to stores or shops. People are free to come and go as they please without an appointment, and they may browse publicly viewable products on shelves.

Budtenders, or knowledgeable store employees, can answer questions and guide buyers toward products that suit their needs. However, they do not prescribe certain products or limit which items a visitor buys.

In some recreational dispensaries, the budtender will take a consumer to a private room to discuss their goals for the sake of privacy from other customers. However, this is not required, nor must the consumer abide by the budtender’s recommendation.

Once visitors decide what they want, they simply take it to the checkout for purchase. They will need to pay sales tax, which is 6.25%, and several other taxes (a city tax of 3% and an excise tax of 10.75%). Bring cash because most recreational dispensaries cannot accept digital payment methods or credit cards.

Where to Buy Your Cannabis

In short, there are two types of Boston dispensaries: recreational and medical. Anyone can visit a recreational dispensary to purchase products that they decide for themselves are suitable.

Medical dispensaries, on the other hand, serve those with medical marijuana cards and function similarly to doctors’ offices, in which professionals provide prescriptions for specific products.

Boston, MA cannabis dispensary with product display and modern clean architecture

Explore Boston Dispensaries: Pure Oasis

With hundreds of dispensaries, Massachusetts—especially Boston—is a thriving cannabis scene. However, you’ll still need to determine which dispensaries you can trust based on product offerings, knowledgeable staff, and more.

is always happy to help our community enjoy cannabis safely. We can help you understand dosage or recommend products to suit your goals, whether this is your first time or simply looking for something new. Stop by Pure Oasis’ dispensaries to explore our offerings and stock up on the products you love.

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