dispensary tips first time

Preparing for Your First Dispensary Visit: Tips and Guidance

If you live in a newly legalized state, there’s a good chance that you’re not sure what to expect during your first visit to a dispensary. If you’re ready to take the plunge and try something new, here’s everything you need to know to prepare for your first visit, along with a few tips to make things easier on yourself. 

What to expect on your first visit 

The first trip to a dispensary is a whirlwind of excitement. However, if you’re ill-prepared, you may have a rough first experience. There are several laws in place for dispensaries that may force them to turn you away at the door, or limit the amount of cannabis products you can buy. Here’s what to expect: 

They’ll ask you for an ID

All dispensaries are legally required to make sure that you’re eligible to buy cannabis products. If you’re shopping at a recreational dispensary, you must be 21 years old or older to gain entrance into the store. However, if you’re a medical patient, they’ll let you in at age 18 as long as you have the right paperwork. Remember to always carry your photo ID with you when you go to the dispensary. If you’re a medical cardholder, you’ll also want to carry your med card with your ID. 

You may need to wait

Some dispensaries are pretty busy. You should be sure to give yourself an extra 15-20 minutes to wait in the lobby before you get to shop. This usually isn’t a huge deal with recreational stores, but medical dispensaries must protect patient confidentiality and usually allow only one patient to shop at a time. 

You’ll see a ton of cannabis products on the shelves

Dispensaries carry a huge range of products for both medical patients and recreational customers. Once you’ve gained access to the store, your budtender (a fancy term for cannabis clerk) will walk you in and you’ll find shelf after shelf of flower, edibles, infused beverages, topicals, pressed pills, tinctures, concentrates and vapes. Some will contain THC, some will contain CBD, and some will contain both. It may be easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of products available, so be sure to ask questions about products, potencies, and expected effects if you’re not up to speed on all things cannabis. 

You can ask to see things, but don’t touch anything

If you’re not totally sure if you want a product, you can always ask your budtender to give you a better look. You may have the urge to open that jar of flower and handle the buds to get a better look at the trichomes or get a deeper sniff. This is a huge no-no! Don’t handle the merchandise. If there’s something you want to see, just ask your budtender and they’ll show you a sample so you can get a better idea of what you’re buying without handling someone else’s meds! 

You’ll probably have to pay cash

Most dispensaries operate on a cash-only basis since banks won’t insure cannabis businesses. While some dispensaries have ATMs inside, you’ll want to make sure to have cash on you before you go just in case they don’t. If you turn up with just a debit card, they won’t be able to process your transaction and you’ll walk away empty-handed. You’ll also want cash so you can tip your budtender, which is customary. 

You’ll leave with an exit-bag

Once you’ve paid for everything like you would at any other store, your budtender will bag your purchase up in an opaque bag and seal it with a sticker, staple, or childproof zipper. In most places, the law requires that cannabis must be bagged this way. It’s important that you leave it in there until you get home, too. If you get pulled over with an open exit-bag, you may get in trouble with the law. Make sure to keep your cannabis products sealed while driving and only open your exit bag once you’ve arrived at home 

Dispensary tips & guidance

For the smoothest experience, there are a few things you can do to expedite the dispensary trip. Keep in mind that every dispensary operates under the same major rules, but may differ slightly in day-to-day operations. Here’s everything you need to know to stay ahead of the curve and not get thrown for a loop

Know before you go

Most dispensaries are listed on Weedmaps or Leafly. Using a listing site like these makes it easier for you to learn about a dispensary before you drop in. You can even visit most dispensaries on their website to learn more about their daily specials, menu options, prices, first-time specials, and other things like handicap accessibility, what kind of payments they accept, and a few other FAQs. 

Do a little product research

There’s a wonderful world of cannabis out there. You’ll spend a lot less time shopping and leave with more effective products if you take some time to learn more about things like cannabis delivery methods (like inhalation or ingestion) to get a better feel for how specific products will feel. You can also learn more about the effects of THC and CBD, terpenes, and the differences between indicas, sativas, and hybrids. It also helps to know more about the different types of concentrates, topicals and edibles. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

It’s okay to have questions. At the end of the day, you want to leave with a product that will soothe what ails you or make you feel great. The budtenders at dispensaries are trained to help you navigate your options to help you find what will work best for you. 

Know your limits

If you’re an experienced cannabis aficionado, you probably have a good understanding of what you like and dislike about cannabis. If you’re just getting started, be sure to start with a low dose and slowly work your way up until you know how a product affects you. For example, if you’re just getting started with edibles, shoot for 10mg pieces instead of 50mg pieces. Or if you know THC makes you anxious, don’t pick a strain with super high THC. 

Always bring cash and your ID

Regardless of where you shop, you’ll need your ID and some cash to make a purchase. 

Don’t feel pressured to buy

If you don’t see anything you like or you’re just not having a great experience, remember that you don’t have to buy anything. It’s okay to decide that you don’t want any of the products, especially if you don’t think you’ll be happy with them. 

Double-check your purchase before letting them bag it up

Since dispensaries are pretty laid back and conversational, you’ll want to make sure your purchase is correct before they seal it in the exit bag. There’s nothing more frustrating than paying for something that doesn’t make its way into the exit bag by mistake. 

Tip your budtender

Budtenders are well versed in all things cannabis and do a good job helping you through your purchase. A tip is usually customary unless noted otherwise! 

All in all, shopping at a dispensary isn’t much different from shopping at any other store. Remember to always ask if you have questions, and to keep your ID on you at all times.

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