Updated on January 30, 2019.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
More and more states are making both medicinal and recreational marijuana legal. California passed Prop 64, which allows those 21 years old or older to use marijuana privately for recreation. Quickly after this law was passed, dispensaries started popping up and purchases of the herb skyrocketed. This has been the case in Washington, Colorado, Nevada, and a handful of others.
In addition to recreational marijuana, medicinal marijuana is legal in even more states. These states have created medical marijuana programs that allow approved medical marijuana patients to receive a medical marijuana recommendation from a licensed physician. Some states are even considering medical marijuana as an option to combat the opioid crisis. Legal state residents can apply for a State-Issued Medical Marijuana ID Card, with which they can grow their own plants or purchase medical marijuana at dispensaries throughout the state.
With the rise of legal weed, many wonder what to expect when they head to the dispensary. Undoubtedly it is vastly different than buying weed from a dealer, so what should you expect?
What to Expect on Your First Visit at a Dispensary
They are becoming more popular, but dispensaries are still relatively new, and many first-time visitors may not know what to expect. Let’s go through everything that you should be prepared for before heading to the dispensary to help make your experience efficient and effective.
Expect to be Carded – In states where recreational marijuana is legal, expect to be carded to see if you are 21 years old or older. In states where only medicinal marijuana is legal, expect to show your state-issued medical marijuana ID card. Make sure your medical marijuana card is valid and hand over your identification while you’re at it.
Don’t be Afraid if You See Guards – Probably one of the most disconcerting aspects about traveling to a dispensary (legal or medicinal) is the presence of armed security guards patrolling the premises. This is a necessity because dispensaries pose a unique opportunity to would-be thieves: the product being sold has a high re-sell value and most dispensaries operate primarily on a cash basis.
You May Need to Wait – Much like a doctor’s office, in medicinal marijuana states, you may have to wait your turn. Often, medical providers can only speak with one patient at a time, so you may find yourself in a waiting room much like a traditional doctor. At recreational marijuana dispensaries, you may just have to wait because they are popular!
You Can Study Up Before You Go – While most “budtenders” will be happy to help you find the right strain, product, and method for your needs, it might be a good idea to study up before you go. Look up your local dispensary online to read reviews, check out their menu, and know what you’re going to see. Dispensary workers are competent in both medicinal and recreational needs, but you don’t want to be the one holding up the line!
You Can Look, But Can’t Touch – Medicinal marijuana users may have become accustomed to “sampling” the product before purchase (mainly by opening the containers to get a whiff or poking around to get a better view). This practice has become all but abolished as legalization requires marijuana be sold in sealed, tamper-resistant packaging. You may find some dispensaries that still have a “sample” section, but that product will likely be discarded as it cannot be sold to customers.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions – While preparation is key, don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re at the dispensary, especially if you are looking for a specific condition to treat. Your budtender can tell you their favorite strain or what they recommend.
Bring Cash – Lastly, make sure you check out the prices if possible and bring enough cash. Most dispensaries are unable to accept cards. Some dispensaries may have an ATM, but you can avoid service fees by paying cash.
Marijuana is becoming more and more popular for both recreational and medicinal needs. It has been fascinating to see this market expand so rapidly in current years, and we’re only going to see more changes.