Origin of the word dispensary and what dispensary means today

Nowadays, if you mention dispensary people will think you are referring to a marijuana dispensary.  In over half of the states in the United States, you can find two types of cannabis dispensaries. There is a medical dispensary for medical marijuana where you will need to present a medical marijuana recommendation from a physician, your ID, and cash to get cannabis. More recently, there is also a recreational dispensary for recreational marijuana where all you will need to bring is an ID and cash. Federal law does not allow marijuana dispensaries of any kind to accept debit or credit cards so bring cash always.

Where does the word dispensary come from and what were the first instances of dispensaries?

The term dispensary comes from the Latin word dispensare which meant to weigh out or distribute.

What were some of the first forms of dispensaries in history?

Some of the earlier references of the word dispensary refer to institutions dispensing charity and medicine. In 1696, the British Empire Open up its first free clinic which dispensed medicine to the poor free of charge and it was called the London dispensary. Eventually, the idea of Dispensaries spread to the new world. A dispensary could be found in New York Philadelphia and Boston in 1796. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, a provident dispensary refer to a small clinic that would give medical care  to patients that would make a weekly payment which was kind of an early form of what we call an insurance payment.



Boston Dispensary
Photo Source: en.wikipedia.org


What is an electronic dispensary?

With modern technology, there are also electronic dispensaries that will dispense medications to patients. I recently read about a Mobile Electronic Dispensary System (MEDS) which is a robotic delivery system for medicine. It delivers the right dose of medicine at the right time to patients that are older or have mental disabilities.

Is the term dispensary found across the globe?

Yes, the term dispensary can be found across the globe and usually has a connotation of a place providing medical care. A dispensary in Kenya is really a small clinic that is too for complicated procedures and is managed by a registered nurse.  A dispensary in India is very basic medical facility that can only provide basic care and does not have much else.

In some states in the United States, a dispensary can also refer to an alcohol dispensary and not necessarily a cannabis dispensary. An alcohol dispensary in Idaho or South Carolina refers to a state run liquor store.

A dispensary in recent times is synonymous with a cannabis shop.

In what U.S. states, can you find a marijuana dispensary as of 2018?

As of 2018, there are a number of cannabis dispensaries that can be found in the United States in certain states due to state law legalizing marijuana in some form or fashion. There are a list of states below that allow medical cannabis to be sold in marijuana dispensaries. These dispensaries can also referred to as  “compassion clubs” due to the Compassion Act in California which was the first state to allow medical cannabis dispensary.

The U.S. states that allow medical marijuana dispensaries:

Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Oregon, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington. Washington DC also allows cannabis dispensaries which is ironic because of the federal stance on marijuana.


Photo Source: 420intel.com


Are there cannabis dispensaries in Canada?

Marijuana dispensaries in Canada are not as abundant and are really only concentrated in British Columbia and Ontario. There is a huge piece of legislation that may legalize recreational marijuana in Canada and this would be a huge game changer. The Canadian legislation legalize weed nationwide in October of 2018.

Is there a cannabis dispensary in Uruguay?

In 2013, Uruguay was the first country to actually legalize marijuana completely. The cultivation sale and consumption of cannabis was fully legalized in this country. The government in Uruguay is actually involved in the marijuana legalization process by establishing a network of cannabis dispensaries. their aim is to decrease the criminal element related to weed sales and distribution.

According to a Latin American newspaper called Telesur, drug-related crime has dropped 20% since marijuana became legal. Regular citizens of Uruguay can grow their own cannabis or buy various marijuana products in a dispensary without the fear of getting arrested. Despite this, there is still a pretty big black market for locals selling weed to tourists. 

Residents are allowed to grow 6 plants in their homes. Members of cannabis dispensaries can get up to 40 grams of marijuana per month from the weed the dispensary grows. It is also legal to use cannabis in public in Uruguay. 

Can I find a marijuana dispensary in Amsterdam?

No, you will not find a marijuana dispensary in Amsterdam per se. Cannabis is still illegal in the Netherlands but you can consume weed for personal use without getting arrested. You are allowed to consume marijuana in coffee shops. Weed has been available for recreational use in coffee shops since 1976. A person can hold up to 5 grams of cannabis personal use. Amsterdam cannabis coffee shops and marijuana dispensaries have one big difference and that is people that buy weed in dispensaries usually cannot consume it on the premises.

The Historical Timeline of Cannabis Legislation and Dispensaries in the United States:

1906 – The United States first started seeing regulations and restrictions on sale of cannabis.

1937 – The U.S. enacted the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which restricted cannabis. This was a law that the American Medical Association (AMA) opposed to. This was due to the fact that the tax was imposed on physicians and pharmacies trying to prescribe marijuana for medical use. This law also demonized the hemp industry which was a competitor to Heart’s paper industry.

1996 – California was the first state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana for medical use due to the passing of Proposition 215. San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club was the first cannabis dispensary that started in 1992 and it was actually founded by the people who wrote the Proposition 215 bill.

2012 – Colorado and Washington were the first two states in the U.S. to legalize marijuana for recreational use with the passing of Amendment 64 and Initiative 502.

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