Imagine you walk into a shop, one rather like a chemist’s or a pharmacy, where you can buy all kinds of cannabis. On the shelves are jars filled with cannabis flowers and labelled with the exact strain and compounds. Behind the counter stands a specialist who can tell you about the origin, variety and cultivation method of the flowers.
Such shops are called dispensaries, and they can now be found in several countries around the world. For example, in Uruguay – which was the first country to legalize cannabis dispensaries at national level. Canada followed as the first major industrialized nation. The first dispensaries have appeared in a number of US states. Despite prohibition, activists set up storefronts, mainly in order to provide patients with the remedy of their choice. Hence the similarity to pharmacies, since patients wanted specialist stores that could guarantee the quality and purity of the products. The US example has set a precedent, and more and more countries have been allowing open access to hemp for adults.
It’s also spread to Europe: in Spain, the pressure to prosecute has eased somewhat with the introduction of cannabis social clubs. Portugal has decriminalised personal possession of all illegalised narcotics. And amazingly, the number of cannabis users has not increased. On the contrary. With the end of prohibition, cannabis use has lost some of its appeal, especially among young people
In Europe, we mustn’t forget the Netherlands. The country first refused to punish cannabis users decades ago. Despite international pressure, the Netherlands allows specialist stores called coffee shops, which were actually the forerunners of today’s dispensaries.
All depictions: © Dagmar Trüpschuch