In Their Own Words ‘The Cannabis Edition’: RI cannabis dispensaries answer the question, “What’s the vibe?”

Illustration by Sophie Foulkes.

Currently, Rhode Island has seven licensed cannabis dispensaries. They are licensed and regulated by the State of Rhode Island Cannabis Control Commission to sell cannabis products to both medical patients and recreational users.

For this issue, I surveyed each dispensary to get an overview of their differences and similarities. I contacted each and asked the same three questions. The responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

1) Describe the atmosphere and environment of your dispensary. What is the style? What music plays over the speakers? What’s the vibe?

Aura: Community, culture, and education redefine the premium cannabis experience at Aura. We strive to have what we call a “Rhode Island attitude” that reflects our local culture and our location in a historic renovated mill building in Central Falls. Aura strives to embrace diversity and inclusion among our customers and staff. We have a judgment-free environment that welcomes people from all walks of life. Our staff is knowledgeable about cannabis products, and they are always happy to provide a personalized recommendation to make your visit more enjoyable. The staff play personal music playlists — typically hip-hop, R&B, and Latin music — which you will hear as you enter the door and are welcomed by one of our amazing staff members. When a customer leaves Aura, they feel connected, informed, and part of the community. Aura provides a welcoming space where quality meets affordability, setting new industry standards.

Greenleaf Compassion Center (Greenleaf): We have a laid back, relaxed atmosphere and knowledgeable staff who can answer all kinds of questions about cannabis from our customers.

Mother Earth Wellness (Mother Earth): From the moment you walk into our dispensary, a smiling face will greet you and check you in upon arrival. Our showroom features marble floors, a flowing waterfall, and gold accents that bring to mind a boutique shopping experience. Our flower bar displays the current selections available and is a great way for customers to smell, look, and decide which strains are best for them.

Our customers can shop from our display cases filled with custom glass from Witch Dr. and Kind Connection. Patients and customers can find display cases with our in-house edibles and concentrate options as well as the Rhode Island cultivators we feature on our menu. We also have a wall of Mother Earth merchandise in a wide range of sizes and options. The music featured is a curated blend of genres and artists all dependent on the time of day. We aim for a vibe that is inclusive, elevated, and memorable.

RISE: We strive to create a welcoming environment where patients and customers of different backgrounds can be themselves and enjoy well-being through the power of cannabis. We have a positive, relaxed overall vibe in our store with all kinds of different music.

Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center (Slater): The Slater Center is known for its warm and welcoming environment, with friendly and knowledgeable employees who love helping people. Whether you’re a first-time cannabis user or a long-time medical patient, we’re here to answer your questions and provide personalized recommendations to help you find the perfect product for your needs – from freshly harvested flower and prerolls to homemade candies and pastries to high-potency carts and concentrates to seasonal specialties, including hot cocoa bombs, holiday candies, and summer slushies.

Soothing lighting, comfortable couches and tasteful décor set the tone inside, with an eclectic mix of music that changes throughout the day, from easy listening and classic rock to reggae, hip-hop, R&B and Top 40. We offer both full counter service and self-service at more than a dozen kiosks throughout the dispensary. We also offer online ordering with convenient pickup inside or outside in our drive-thru, including a separate express lane for prepaid orders.

The vibe is chill, friendly, and fun, with lots of interaction between staff and customers. This is especially true for customers celebrating their birthday, when they are invited to spin the legendary Slater Birthday Wheel to win free cannabis products. But it’s always fun at the Slater Center, which one customer recently said was “the happiest place in the world.”

Solar Cannabis Co. (Solar): We have a chill vibe and very laid back customers. Our budtenders choose the background music.

Sweetspot Weed Dispensary (Sweetspot):
Sweetspot is designed to prioritize the customer experience above all else. Regardless of whether somebody is a lifelong consumer, or someone walking into a dispensary for the first time, they can expect to feel welcomed and will leave feeling confident about their purchase decision.

2) What makes your dispensary different from the other dispensaries in Rhode Island?

Aura: We have an agenda that prioritizes acceptance of all people. We are extremely interested in developing relationships with cannabis cultivators and their products. This special relationship helps us expand the knowledge base of our customers.

Greenleaf: Highly knowledgeable budtenders and managers who strive to be personable to customers.

Mother Earth: We offer a clean, well-lit place for those in need of compassion, understanding, and the holistic healing and fulfilling effects that cannabis can provide. We take the time to get to know our customers, truly support our local community, and provide real medicine to those in need.

RISE: Cannabis is more than just a product for us – it’s a way of life. In our dispensaries, patients and customers can find premium cannabis products served up in a welcoming environment at a great value. We have a friendly, knowledgeable team that is passionate about providing the best experience for our patients and customers during each and every visit.

Slater: We were the first medical cannabis dispensary in Rhode Island, opening our doors 11 years ago (April 19, 2013). We also opened the first cannabis drive-thru in the state four years ago, to better serve our customers during the COVID crisis. Most of the products we sell are grown and/or made at our dispensary, allowing us to offer some of the lowest prices on top-quality flower, prerolls, cartridges, concentrates, and topicals in the state. We also have our own kitchen, which produces the largest variety of delicious homemade edibles in the region. We are the only dispensary in New England to offer 10mg Betty’s Edibles. But what truly sets us apart is the relationship we have with our medical patients and recreational use customers, who are treated like family by our staff. Many of the thousands of five-star Google reviews we have received over the years compliment our employees for being friendly, helpful, kind, and compassionate.

Solar: We are the only dispensary in the state that has a “Bud Bar,” which is an array of glass jars with a wide and personal selection of different strains of loose flower. Customers can mix and match an array of different strains, one gram at a time. Thus, customers can make their own packages for purchase, rather than be limited to only pre-packaged flower.

Sweetspot: Our one-on-one customer to patient advisory approach is our focus. We take the time to listen to each customer, giving personal attention to their individual needs to connect them with products best suited for them. Although we cater to all consumers, our specialty is connecting with new consumers who are interested but intimidated to begin their cannabis journey.

3) If you could make one change to the Rhode Island cannabis industry today, what would it be?

Aura: We would love to see more open-consumption cannabis events, such as Industry Nights by High Society to help build community ties, and to find ways to lower taxes.

Greenleaf: Lower the taxes!

Mother Earth: We would love to see a change in our industry that benefits the patients and customers we serve. We would like to see increased dosage and allotment limits to provide a wider variety of products and allow for an increased selection of medicine. We are fully committed to providing both our recreational and medical customers with the best experience possible and are looking forward to growing and adapting as regulations change.

RISE: We hope the industry will continue to evolve in a way that is focused on the best interests of our patients and consumers. We also hope to see smart changes to existing regulations, such as allowing cannabis operators to deduct business expenses from state tax returns like our neighboring states Massachusetts and Connecticut.

We are committed to working with our community and industry stakeholders to continue normalizing the plant so that people can have the freedom to make personal choices about cannabis without fear of social stigma. Cannabis is for well-being!

Slater: Increase the maximum amount of cannabis allowed per serving. Rhode Island has some of the most restrictive packaging requirements of nearby states, limiting the maximum number of milligrams for edibles to no more than 10mg per serving and restricting cartridges and most concentrates to a half-gram or less. Many of our patients and customers complain that other states offer cannabis with much higher limits, especially full-gram cartridges that are sold in Massachusetts.

Solar: We need more dispensaries. It would be great to have about 15 dispensaries distributed evenly across RI.

Sweetspot: Although the industry has come a long way, we still believe there is a stigma around cannabis. We hope with time, the negative stigma and public sentiment about cannabis will change as more adults begin embracing cannabis as an all-natural and therapeutic solution.

I sincerely appreciate the responses from Daniel Brocklehurst (Aura), Bella Assid and Cammie (Sweetspot), Jenny Dubois (Greenleaf), The Mother Earth Wellness Dispensary Team, Laura Kirk (Slater Center), John Costa and Sharon Murrah (RISE), and Chris Colvert (Solar) for their thoughtful replies to my queries for this article. Clearly, we are all in this together.

Lenny Brennan is a native Rhode Islander who recently returned after a forty-five-year career as a wildlife researcher and professor.