Five tips for your very first dispensary visit
We get it — cannabis has finally been legalized in your state, and you’re interested to finally try it. Maybe you had a little bit back when you were a teenager, or maybe you’ve never tried any at all, but you’ve been intrigued by what you’ve heard recently and you’re ready to get yourself some cannabis. Well, The Elegant Stoner is here to help. We’ve compiled five easy tips for your first time visit to a dispensary. If you’re wondering how to find a dispensary, where to buy cannabis, or what you’ll do when you get there, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered.
The first thing you’ll need to do, of course, is find where you want to go.
1) Plan your visit.
There are a few different ways to find dispensaries near you. The first way is just the most simple — you can pull up Google or Yelp, and do a search for cannabis dispensaries or just marijuana. If you don’t find anything there, you can search a specialized site like Weedmaps or Leafly’s dispensary finder.
You’ll definitely want to find a dispensary near you, and you’ll want to make sure they’re open for business — there are a fair amount of delivery operations on Google and Yelp, and while those can also be very helpful (they can bring the products straight to you), in this case we’re talking specifically about the experience of going to a dispensary. Actually visiting an outlet, even if it’s a little drive away, can be worth it, because you can not only see a big selection of what’s available (from edibles to vape carts and different types of flower), but you also get access to a budtender who will answer all of your questions. So definitely, for your first time, find a place that’s open to the public. Some places will be marked medicinal only, and obviously you’ll want to avoid those if you’re just a recreational user (though if you do show up without a card, they’ll likely just send you off in the right direction anyway).
You can also look at reviews on most sites. Certainly if a place has terrible reviews, you’ll want to stay away, but more importantly you can often get a feel for a dispensary from the reviews that are posted for it. Is it dingy and dirty, does it cater to a younger or older clientele, or are the budtenders helpful and easy to deal with? Are the products cleanly displayed, or is it a pile of jars in a warehouse? You can also get an idea for possible discounts and specials, too — some places will have happy hours or special discounts on certain days. If possible, also keep an eye on busy times — most places are busier after people get out of work or on weekends, so if you can visit outside those times, it can be a little less intimidating or chaotic. Even on a busy day, though, most dispensaries are now well-equipped to deal with crowds of all sizes.
2) Bring cash (and an ID).
This is one of the most important things to remember when visiting a dispensary: While most places will usually have some options these days, if they don’t, the only way you might be able to pay is to use an ATM (sometimes with high fees) right on site. Banks in general still don’t like dealing with cannabis dealers, because the drug isn’t yet nationally legal, so cash is usually the easiest way to go — you can stop by your own bank’s ATM to avoid fees, and you can be prepared to pay easily and quickly without a hassle. If you completely forget, most dispensaries do have ways to help you out, but the best option is to just bring cash. You’ll also need an ID at most places, both because the person at the desk in front will need to check your age (you’ll need to be 21 or up to purchase legal cannabis), and also because dispensaries tend to keep an eye on who’s coming in (because most people pay in cash and because banks aren’t very friendly, dispensaries tend to have a lot of product and money on hand, which can mean they’re targets for criminals occasionally).
How much you’ll want to bring depends on how much you’ll want to buy. If all you want is a little bit to try, you can usually get out of there only spending about $20 or $35, but that won’t buy much — usually just a gram or two, a vape cart and battery, or a few packs of edibles. Bringing $60 will let you probably have your pick of a few different things, but bringing $100 is probably a good total to aim for — that will let you really explore what they’ve got on offer, and allow you to get a few different types of flower, a couple of edibles, and maybe a vape cart or two. Obviously, you should only spend what you can afford (and you can spend much more if you want to), but know that if you walk in with $10, just know that you’re not going to be able to pick from much. Some dispensaries do have prices listed on Leafly or their own website, but those are often unreliable — they’re sometimes out of certain strains or items, or prices might have changed depending on supply. For a first time visit, $60 is probably a good place to start, and of course, if you don’t want to spend everything you bring, you don’t have to.
3) Make sure they know you’re new!
For your first time visit to a dispensary, some people may think that you’ll want to act cool or pretend like you’ve been there before, to avoid getting fleeced or taken advantage of. We’re here to tell you that’s nothing to worry about — when the person at the desk in the front lobby area asks if you’ve been there before, be sure to tell them that, no, you haven’t. Not only will that usually get you a first-time bonus (usually a free prerolled joint, a free edible, or a free gram, depending on the place), but it might also get you special treatment — they’ll assign a budtender specifically to you, to explain what they’ve got to offer and to answer your questions. You don’t need to worry about getting fleeced at all, as most dispensaries display their prices on items for everyone, and you’ll get to relax and ask all of the questions you want to.
In fact, as you might guess, most places will give you a free bonus the first time you visit them specifically, so if you enjoy your experience with cannabis, you might want to hit all of the dispensaries in your area at least once to get each store’s first-time buyer bonus. It’s a win-win — they get more foot traffic and customers, and you get to try all of the different options in your area. So yes, don’t be worried about looking like a newbie — tell the person at the front that you’re there for the first time, and they’ll make sure you have the best visit possible.
4) Take your time, and ask questions.
Once you’ve given your ID and checked in, the dispensary might have you wait in the lobby for a moment, and when they’re ready, they’ll let you know it’s time to head into the dispensary proper (usually places do this for security reasons as well, and just because it’s nicer to shop the store without having to fight crowds inside). Once you’re inside, you’ll see a counter full of goodies, and a few friendly budtenders standing behind them.
These people that you see back there are usually friendly, but even if that’s not the case (and it likely is — unfriendly budtenders usually don’t remain budtenders for long), they are definitely passionate and knowledgeable about cannabis for sure. They’ll be able to tell you what strains might have which effects (usually you’re choosing between an energy-boosting sativa or a mellow-inducing indica, or a hybrid between the two), which products are best for first-time users, and what gear you’ll need (for flower, you’ll at least want a pipe, and if you buy a vape cart, you’ll want to make sure you have a compatible battery to go with it). You’re welcome to do your own research online (and obviously we’ve got plenty of recommendations), but in our experience, the budtenders won’t steer you wrong. They’ll answer all of your questions happily, and once you’ve made your choices, they’ll ring you up, pack your stuff in a discreet bag to go, and congratulations — you’ve pulled off your first dispensary visit. You can go home, crack open that bag, and have yourself some legal cannabis fun.
5) Have fun!
Going to a dispensary and enjoying your shopping experience is one of the main benefits of legal cannabis — you don’t need to buy weed in a back alley, pay whatever price the dealer dreams up, or buy some unknown strain in a sandwich baggie. You can go to a nice, brightly lit place, take your time to choose the products that are right for you (while getting recommendations and insight from a friendly helper), and pay knowing that you’re supporting a local business selling products usually made by local people. It’s nothing to be afraid of or worried about — the dispensary visit is one of the main reasons why legalization has been such a benefit for cannabis users.
Some dispensaries will even encourage this good time — in Colorado, you’ll find some that have marijuana bars or lounges attached, or even in California, there are dispensaries that have arcade games inside, or big wheels you can spin for extra discounts or prizes. Don’t forget that first-time bonus, too — it can be a great way to get a little extra product, or maybe try something that you haven’t tried before. Going to a dispensary can be a great, exciting experience.
And to be honest, it’s an experience we might have to protect. Eventually, as cannabis becomes legal in more and more places (and at some point, presumably, across the United States), the dispensary itself might become an endangered species. If Walmart decides to carry cannabis, for example, or Whole Foods put cannabis on their shelves, your local dispensary might be in trouble. Right now, while there are some larger chains around, most dispensaries are run by local business owners who’ve taken legal risks and put in effort to open up, or even previously illegal dealers who’ve made the smart decision to go legit. While, yes, cannabis is a product that sells itself in many cases (and you’ll probably see the crowds of people dropping off lots of cash in the sales area), it’s a lot of effort and work to keep dispensaries open, well-stocked, clean, and safe, and your visit to a dispensary can support that work. Local dispensaries can be very profitable now, but as the situation changes, larger corporations who want in on that profit might threaten their very existence. Your visit will hopefully help support them against that threat.
Visiting a dispensary for the first time is nothing to be afraid of — they’re exactly how this great cannabis community is growing and evolving. If you’re planning a first time visit, enjoy it and savor it, just like the products you’re going there to buy. Look for local products, get to know the strains and the farms they came from, and make sure you choose items that are grown and sold with care and — dare we say it — elegance. Because you never know — if cannabis continues to grow and corporations move in to try to take it over, the dispensary experience may not always be there to appreciate.