Checking out a new dispensary is a gamble. Menus and discounts can be found online, but there's no early warning system against running into the middle-aged shop owner who mentions during checkout that he's the only one of his friends who doesn't use Viagra. The storefront side of cannabis has made dramatic leaps over the course of this year, and these six new shops will serve as bellwethers for where marijuana retail is headed in 2015 and beyond.
916 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 206-4357, farmapdx.com.
Farma is the cutting edge of marijuana as medicine. The shop pairs neatly appointed modern décor with a vast menu carefully curated to engage a variety of ailments and tastes. But as the name implies, Farma's focus is patient care—symbolized by a green medical cross on its wall. The dispensary's greatest asset is probably Jeremy Plumb, a bundle of frenetic energy and cannabis knowledge who bred one of Portland's most popular strains (Cinex) and is currently learning to play the plant's effects like a violin. The process of buying and shopping at Farma can be intimidating to newcomers, in part because there is so much information to learn. But the staff's enthusiasm at guiding patients through the medicinal process, paired with a proprietary classification system that is leaps ahead of the standard indica/sativa/hybrid delineations, establishes Farma as one of the nation's gleaming visionaries for what medical marijuana could be. Bonus points for having a storefront along Portland's original cannabis corridor. WWG.
Recommended strain: Gorilla Glue #4, a late-afternoon strain that relaxes and focuses the mind without a knockout punch.
2637 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 444-7538, bloomportland.com.
Bloom streamlines the buying process by offering prepackaged and weighed canisters of leaf. Roving budtenders walk patients through their selections in a half-unfinished, half-bougie space that looks like somebody placed a dentist's waiting room inside an Urban Outfitters. Receptionists pull double-duty as stock retrievers and cashiers behind a glass window sturdier than you'd find in many Portland banks. The measures may seem draconian until you consider that security is a very real problem for an industry still an arm's length from legality in the rest of the country. There are a number of visionary shops out there to get excited about, but it's the practicalities of how this industry is run that will ultimately decide who thrives and who goes under. WWG.
Recommended strain: Blue City Diesel, a social strain that balances the diesel chug with a mellow berry body calm.
For New Portland lovers of the Old World...
Brooklyn Holding Company
1436 SE Powell Blvd., 477-8380, brooklynholdingcompany.com.
Shops have advanced past Grateful Dead tapestries and Marley on the radio, but most modern layouts still end up resembling Stumptown Roasters knockoffs. Not so with Brooklyn Holding Company, Oregon's first themed dispensary. Before your head fills with visions of Critter Country, the decadent Prohibition-era apothecary was assembled lovingly by a host of tradesmen. With iridescent damask wallpaper, gold-leaf trim framing the shelves of stock, hand-drawn cannabis leaves, and a soundtrack that could end an episode of Boardwalk Empire, BHC's attention to detail stands out. Whether or not dispensaries will be allowed to sell to non-OMMP clients after July, Brooklyn Holding Company's allure will likely endure either outcome of recreational rulings. MR.
Recommended strain: Scottish Caveman OG, a heavy hitter that is actually a choice cut of Jesus OG prepared by a Scotsman.
8601 SW Terwilliger Blvd., 889-0929, dkpdx.com.
It's no surprise that the bulk of shops have popped up along corridors such as Sandy, inner Hawthorne and 122nd Avenue. The eastside has always been friendlier to libertarian living standards, and laws about distance from schools limit the available sites. What's interesting is how cannabis reaches into the less likely markets, and Divine Kind's expansion from its 82nd Avenue location to the southwest hills is telling. Proximity to Lewis & Clark's political science students probably helps, but what remains to be seen is whether the second location can tap the young families currently shuffling the deck in Multnomah Village and Burlingame, or the blue bloods ferrying their M-Class SUVs between downtown and Dunthorpe. Despite a discreet and fenced shop front across the street from Tryon Creek Grill & Sports Bar and a run-of-the-mill layout, Divine Kind's confines are cozy, and the selection is solid. WWG.
Recommended strain: Blue Magoo, which will make what you're eating more delicious and your countenance more enjoyable.
For Customer Service...
Bridge City Collective
4312 N Williams Ave., 384-2955, bridgecitycollective.com.
Portland is different from other cities in part because of how we treat each other. The staff members at Bridge City Collective embody that ethos: They're self-aware and chill, and make an effort to speed up transactions when you're in a rush. The inventory is meager compared to other spots that pack their shelves with brownies from every Tom, Dick and Mary. But what Bridge City does have is quality and an emphasis on uncommon products and strains, like Dr. Who, Grandpa Larry, and Where's My Bike?—which feels a lot like how it sounds. BCC stands out for its loyalty and recycling programs, the latter offering credit to patients who remember to round up the sea of plastic containers that develops after a few visits. You can follow one of their famed budtenders on Instagram at @SheSmokesJoints. She has attracted over 100,000 followers with her impressive smoke-ring skills. MR.
Recommended strain: Where's My Bike?, a dopey uplifter that pairs well with friends willing to tag along. Or Albert Walker—a hard-to find, slightly funky indica-dominant strain usually available as part of a blend, like Sour Al and Dogwalker OG.
4027 N Interstate Ave., 208-9775, greenskycollective.com.
With an emoji owl logo, a joint-rolling station, and an old-timey floor space decked with antique scales and reclaimed wood, GreenSky Collective is the most Portlandian herbmart on the list. There's also a cheery hum of optimism filling the sizable retail space. This could partly be due to a sizable and friendly staff, or the fact that they just opened. Green Sky would be a good catch-all fit for those new to the cannabis experience and looking for introduction to a wide selection of strain types in a friendly environment. What remains to be seen is whether the shop's location along Interstate's MAX corridor and across the street from the Alibi will provide a sufficient draw of shoppers. WWG.
Recommended strain: San Fernando Valley OG, an effective pairing of painkilling and brain stimulation that's only brought down by harsher-than-average smoke. SFV OG isn't especially common in Oregon, but it is welcome.
Willamette Week's Annual Weed Issue, 2015