Dispensary is the common name given to retail locations that sell (or ‘dispense’) medical marijuana. It is important to note that, in Canada, dispensaries are illegal, as they are not permitted under Health Canada’s federal medical marijuana program (known as the ACMPR). The ACMPR does not allow for retail distribution of medical marijuana; all orders must be placed online or over the phone and shipped direct from the licensed producer to the customer through the mail.
However, many dispensaries pre-date the introduction of Health Canada’s federal ACMPR program (and legal medical marijuana itself), and thus historically have been an important access point for patients. Furthermore, given that dispensaries fall outside of the federal regulations, they can provide a vast assortment of cannabis products that licensed producers aren’t yet authorized to. One difference though is that, under the ACMPR, product testing is mandatory, whereas with dispensaries it’s essentially optional. As such, patients can’t be sure if the cannabinoid content and/or ingredients are accurately portrayed on the labelling (if there is any labelling).