Breaking down Amherst’s Rise

Is legal pot from a dispensary worth saying goodbye to your dealer?


Courtesy of the official Rise Dispensaries Facebook Page

By Quinn He, Assistant Arts Editor

The powerful scent of cannabis percolates throughout the halls of residence areas throughout the University of Massachusetts campus. The ease of acquiring cannabis is parallel to buying notebooks in the Campus Center, but one avenue of acquisition is only available for those 21 years and older. It’s one that every self-proclaimed “stoner” or the occasional “toker” should make the journey for. Legally purchasing recreational cannabis from a dispensary is one of two activities a 21-year-old might do on their birthday. But for those who haven’t before, even seeing how a dispensary runs the legal pot business is worth the short off campus drive.

Rise is one of the notable dispensaries currently selling recreational and medical cannabis in the Amherst area. Rise, located on 169 Meadow St. in Amherst, sits right next to the Brandywine apartments and is a short drive from the UMass campus. The cash-only establishment has been selling medical cannabis since May of 2018 and recreational cannabis products since May of 2019.  Massachusetts, along with 10 other states and Washington D.C., are the only areas in the United States currently allowing legal recreational cannabis sales to people 21 years and older.

For those underage, don’t even think about walking through the door with some fake ID, even if no bar has ever been able to see through the flimsy piece of plastic. Each ID is looked over carefully and scanned with a handheld ID scanner. Since cannabis is still illegal on a federal level, expect every dispensary in legal states to employ strict regulations. From what you would expect from a place that sells legal cannabis, the employee that acts as the bouncer figure is far from the stereotypically large, intimidating type. In fact, they are the first of many friendly faces you will encounter while shopping for high quality products. With some of the best customer service around, the Rise staff are consistently amicable and helpful to new comers and the regulars. The same care the staff extends to their customers, is put into the products themselves as a variety of strains are available for purchase with quirky names and entrancing smells.

When one enters Rise, one thing becomes abundantly clear: this isn’t your typical underground setting. There’s no glaze-eyed roommate sitting on the couch. There’s no warzone looking coffee table. There’s no huge mason jar half full of weed that they just pull out of some locked filing cabinet as there is in every college movie. People may argue that the quality of the cannabis sold at dispensaries does not warrant the inflated price, but when it comes to products that are being used by those familiar and unfamiliar with pot, they must be held to a standard higher than the kid that sells weed in the room next door. What Rise and the common drug dealer’s house do have in common though is the pungent, flowery and overwhelming smell of pot. The smell that lies behind the counter is that of very pungent and flavorful weed ready to leave with an eager customer.

From the first few steps taken into Rise, aside from that stimulating smell, menus ready for the taking with the day’s specials and list of various extracts, concentrates, flowers and edibles. For first time visitors to this strange world of buying legal cannabis, it may feel overwhelming to pick and sift through the comprehensive list of options. Thankfully, the intuitive staff at Rise inferred this. A couch and chairs paired with a coffee table create an inviting and cozy corner in the back of the room to take all the time you need to decide whether you want Purple Urkel indica or an eighth of Facewreck sativa. The atmosphere of Rise is inviting and friendly as it feels like walking into the house of a grandmother. China plates with the unmistakable weed leaf painted on them hang from the walls, potted plants find homes in small corners of the medium sized room and glass showcases display various glass pipes, lighters, screens and more. Far from anything they are accustomed to, one UMass student described the experience as “it’s like walking into an Apple store,” which demonstrates the care and attention the Rise staff pays to the buying experience.

Critics continue to echo the argument that cannabis from a dispensary does not warrant the steep prices, especially for a college student, but dispensaries do provide the customer with the knowledge of the strain and some effects a smoker may expect to feel from a specific strain. Also, for customers without the same ease of access to cannabis as college students, Rise and dispensaries like it provide a much-needed service to customers in search of the highly sought after drug. The fact also remains that the consistency in the high quality cannabis products is what some customers wish to pay for, as well as the vast variety of products.

For those of legal age, a visit to Rise to see how purchasing legal pot differs from purchasing alcohol may be worthwhile. Recreational marijuana continues to be a luxury many states do not have, so while that state of Massachusetts has it available, Rise is a great new addition to the Amherst community. For those cannabis connoisseurs, you may want to try a different way of ingesting THC through tinctures and oils. For those who only dabble in smoking, you may opt for a single pre-rolled joint, which allows for less commitment. At Rise, there is a product for everyone and staff members who are always knowledgeable of different strains and types of cannabis products in stock.

Whether you’re just running out, are interested in purchasing from a dispensary or just love marijuana, drive over to Rise, sit down on a comfortable couch and have your pick at the large variety available. Just don’t forget your ID.

Quinn He can be reached at [email protected]