Star Buds, an internationally-operating cannabis retailer, has opened its first dispensary in Jamaica, featuring a deli-style buying experience for its customers.
Founded in 2013, Star Buds was one of the first companies to receive a dispensary license in Colorado, and has since expanded to 23 locations in the Rocky Mountain State, Maryland, Oklahoma and, now, Kingston, Jamaica.
Star Buds is the eighth dispensary to open in Jamaica since 2016, when the island decriminalized cannabis and established a regulated medical marijuana industry.
The company’s Kingston location is the first non-vertically integrated cannabis dispensary on the island, procuring all of its products from other locally-owned cannabis companies.
“We have taken it upon ourselves to support the local industry [and] the local farmers that have all these products for sale,” owner/operator Jonathan Harris says.
Star Buds is also the first dispensary in Jamaica to dispense cannabis flower deli-style, which Harris says provides a transparent experience for customers.
“Every other dispensary in Jamaica has the prepackaged model, and we do deli-style,” he says. “Customers have all these items in front of them, and we package and serve it to them.”
Harris likens the experience to a Subway sandwich shop, where customers can see the ingredients and examine their quality before purchasing. In contrast, at dispensaries that use a prepackaged model, he says “you get it prepackaged, you go home, and you might not like the product quality [or] the size. You might not like the way it looks, and you’ve already made your purchase, and there are no refunds, unfortunately.”
Harris says Star Buds’ deli-style model “changes the whole experience for Jamaicans.”
“They’re actually able to see what they are getting beforehand,” he says. “They can actually choose and be more comfortable and more secure in what they’re getting because they’re actually seeing what they’re purchasing, versus not seeing the quality that they’re really getting. … What they’re getting is served right there in front of them and they can … feel more confident purchasing.”
Star Buds’ dispensary is situated on Hope Road, the main road through Kingston, and is positioned a short distance from the Bob Marley Museum, which was built to preserve the area where Marley cultivated cannabis and recorded his music.
The dispensary held a soft opening due to coronavirus-related restrictions that placed limits on in-person gatherings and allowed only six people at a time into the 1,000-square-foot space. Now, as some of the restrictions have lifted, up to 250 people are permitted at gatherings, and Star Buds is planning a grand opening celebration for a to-be-determined date after Jamaican Independence Day, which takes place Aug. 6.
“We’re trying to have local reggae artists, and we’ll have a couple other vendors [with] everything from food to art to fashion—really just having everything to do with Jamaican culture all in one,” Harris says.
Overall, Harris is most excited about the opportunity to educate Jamaicans about the cannabis industry. While cannabis has been part of Jamaican culture for years, Harris says not everyone has embraced it.
“Even though we’re a great place for cannabis [and] we’re world-renowned for it, Jamaica itself has a stigma of cannabis use,” he says. “With education, it’s amazing to see people actually learning about the plant and understanding exactly what cannabis can do for them.”
Beyond that, Harris would like to open at least three more retail locations in Jamaica, and he also has his eye on other countries in the Caribbean, such as St. Lucia, which recently moved to decriminalize cannabis.