⚫ New Jersey has more than 100 dispensaries

⚫ Shop owners don't want you to feel intimidated

⚫ 'Budtenders' are trained to get a feel for the product you may need

Danielle Wildstein's mother passed away before medicinal marijuana became legal in New Jersey and could have helped her pain.

As Wildstein attempted to learn more about the cannabis industry in other states, she was hamstrung by feelings of intimidation and insecurity any time she'd walk into a dispensary.

"I had such anxiety over going to the right place, asking the right questions, not looking silly," Wildstein told New Jersey 101.5.

So it was her goal to create a space that offered the opposite vibes to prospective customers who'd walk through the door.

"I wanted to create a boutique environment where it was welcoming to all — everyone on the cannabis use and knowledge spectrum," Wildstein said.

And at the end of February, her dream became a reality: Blue Oak Dispensary in Bloomfield.

Customers need to prove they're at least 21 years old to enter, but they won't be greeted by a police officer or a security guard — just a staff member in a Blue Oak t-shirt, Wildstein said.

Wildstein's independent venture is a microcosm of a marijuana industry that's not as buttoned up as it used to be in New Jersey. Since an adult-use market became legal in New Jersey in April 2022, the number of dispensaries across the state has shot up to more than 100.

Getting the right cannabis product

Shop owners understand the market is still in its beginning stages, and with that comes a sense of hesitancy among folks who've either never stepped foot into a dispensary or have never experimented with cannabis.

"It's got to be an amazing experience. Otherwise, it just doesn't work," said Nathan Yanovitch, founder of Puffin. "This was a business that was really done in the shadows for many years. Now it can be done in the light."

Puffin, New Brunswick
Puffin, New Brunswick

Yanovitch said the look of his New Brunswick store alone has the ability to calm first-timers' nerves. The shop is themed around the "cute, little puffin bird" — the name is also a play on words, as in "puffin' smoke."

Yanovitch said customers can expect a safe environment to buy cannabis — in a number of varieties — from knowledgeable staff that truly want to help.

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Dispensaries in the state are looking for the right balance in a worker. Whether or not the individual has a passion about cannabis, they'll be trained intensely on the products and rules. But even more important is their ability to interact with and educate customers.

"Our model calls for this interaction between a true, educated budtender and the end-user customer," said Gabriella Wilday, CEO of Molly Ann Farms in Haledon.

Sales floor at Molly Ann Farms in Haledon
Sales floor at Molly Ann Farms in Haledon

The dispensary, which opened to the public in September, does not offer in-store kiosks for customers. So an in-person interaction is a guarantee, with a staffer who's received at least 40 hours of training.

"We are really able ... to understand what somebody is looking for, and make recommendations based on our experiences and others' experiences," Wilday said. "And that's not something you can get from a computer screen."

The shop runs 14 hours a day daily, so folks on any schedule have the chance to come inside and browse.

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