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Marijuana Dispensary 101: Things You Should Know for Your First Visit

First-time visitors to a marijuana dispensary are often unsure of how to act. We’ll guide you through your first visit so you know what to expect.

Keyword(s): marijuana dispensary

Are you considering going to a marijuana dispensary for the first time?

Dispensaries are a wonderful place, and if you live in a state that just recently legalized marijuana, your first trip is sure to be an exciting and surreal experience.

If you’ve never been to a marijuana dispensary, your first visit can also be overwhelming, intimidating, and even a bit confusing. Likely, there will be many other customers in the shop who are totally at ease and know exactly what they’re looking for.

If you’re afraid of looking like a fool on your first visit, don’t sweat it. This guide explains everything you need to know about visiting a marijuana dispensary for the first time.

Medical Marijuana DispensaryProfessional Atmosphere

For many people, one of the most shocking aspects of dispensaries is their professional atmosphere. 

In fact, many newbies are a bit underwhelmed when they first walk into a dispensary. Like, “Why isn’t there Bob Marley music playing in the background?” “And why don’t the salespeople (aka budtenders) have dreadlocks?”

You need to get this idea out of your head. Dispensaries are professional establishments, and while they certainly don’t discriminate against their customer’s style, their own upscale appearance is a reflection of their competence and trustworthiness.

A typical marijuana dispensary has the atmosphere of a high-end cigar shop crossed with a pharmacy. And, dispensaries typically aren’t located in sketchy parts of town or down hidden back alleys.

Just like any other business, they want to be easily accessible to a wide range of customers. You’ll find that most dispensaries are located in strip malls on a busy suburban stretch.

Get Ready to Be ID’d

You will be asked to show identification before entering a dispensary, without exception.

In every state with adult or recreational use passed, you must be 21 years of age to enter a dispensary. Do not be that girl or guy who thinks the rules don’t apply to them and that they can roll in with a fake and get away with it.

This isn’t your sketchy nightclub down the street that’s famed for letting in underage drinkers. Dispensaries are no joke. And if you don’t have the proper identification, you won’t be allowed in.

Also, don’t feel too special if you’re clearly over 21 and the security guard still asks for your ID. They ask for everyone’s ID, even those with a face full of wrinkles and a walker.

Acceptable forms of identification include a valid U.S. state-issued driver’s license, a U.S. passport, or a military identification card. Expired IDs will not be accepted.

Also, don’t sweat it if you’re carrying an out-of-state ID from a state where weed isn’t legal. As long as it isn’t expired, you’ll still be allowed to purchase.

Oh, and if you hate being on camera, you might want to forego your trip altogether. Dispensaries are required by state law to record who’s buying and selling.

marijuana dispensary waiting roomBe Prepared to Wait

Many people are under the impression that a trip to a marijuana dispensary is a quick in and out procedure.

While this can sometimes be the case, you will often have to wait before being helped. Typically, after you show your ID and you walk into the store, you’ll be asked to sit down and wait until the next budtender becomes available.

Waiting rooms vary depending on where you go. Some places are very informal with just a few chairs lined in a corner, while others more closely resemble a dentist’s office with TV, magazines, and artwork.

But the good news is this waiting room doesn’t lead to X-rays or a root canal, it leads to marijuana.

There are also some dispensaries that don’t have waiting rooms at all and allow you to browse at your own pace, much like a standard retail store.

If it’s your first trip to a marijuana dispensary, waiting in a line may make you feel a bit flustered and rushed. This is especially true when there’s a long line of customers waiting behind you.

If you’re feeling the pressure, don’t be afraid to ask the budtender for a little more time. They want to make the sale, so they’ll likely be cool about it.

Interacting with the Budtender

Yes- that isn’t a typo- a budtender is like a bartender for marijuana.

Budtenders are trained to answer your questions and guide you in your selection process.

But, just like bartenders, you’ll run into some good ones and some bad ones.

Many people think budtenders are just college stoners who are looking for a discount on weed. While budtenders of this nature are certainly out there, most budtenders take their job seriously.

In fact, some budtenders even attend cannabis-centric schools where they learn all the ins-and-outs of the trade. Hopefully, you’ll get a budtender who knows their stuff.

A marijuana dispensary is required to list ingredients, warnings, potencies, batch numbers, license numbers, and contaminant testing information on all of their products. So, even if you’re budtender isn’t the greatest, the label should give you enough information to make an informed decision.

Also, let’s not forget about the power of the internet. Most cannabis questions can be answered with just a quick Google search. However, keep in mind that a large majority of dispensaries don’t allow you to use your cell phone in the store, so you may want to do some quick research beforehand in order to be safe.

Bottom line: Your budtender is here to help you and make your experience buying cannabis more enjoyable. They also want you to have a positive experience using products.

This means they won’t recommend anything too potent if you’re still in the beginning stages of experimentation. So, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. And, don’t be afraid to mention it’s your first time in a dispensary- there are no judgments.

No Haggling

Speaking of your interaction with your budtender, let’s not forget to mention that these folks aren’t shady dealers looking to make a quick buck.

They’re professional salespeople. Don’t try to flirt your way into a cheaper price or threaten to leave a bad review in exchange for a little extra gift.

All of their products are tirelessly tracked, so you trying to snag an extra amount could seriously harm the dispensary. If you can’t afford the prices, it’s best to stay home.

Be Prepared for Prices

Unless you’re bumming off a friend, a cheap high doesn’t really exist.

So, be prepared to put a little dent in your wallet. Prices vary greatly by state. But typically, one-sixteenth of an ounce, the smallest amount you can buy, sells for around $20. And, that’s before the 20% or so tax is added in.

Still, it’s not a bad idea to do your homework beforehand, as prices vary greatly between dispensaries within the state as well. Also, some might even offer first-time discounts, so don’t forget to ask.

And while $20 may seem like a lot of money for such a small amount of weed, it actually isn’t. One-sixteenth will get you about three averaged-sized joints, so about $7 per joint. Which is about the same amount you pay for a glass of beer or wine at a restaurant.

Bring Cash

While more and more dispensaries are starting to accept debit and credit cards, most are still cash only.

This is because many banks are still hesitant to accept credit or debit money because marijuana is still not approved on a federal level.

Before you go to the marijuana dispensary, check to see if they accept cards or if they have an ATM on site. If you have to bring cash in beforehand, be sure to take out a little more than you think you’ll need. It’s likely that you’re underestimating the total of your purchase, as taxes and add-ons can hike up the price.

Go at the Right Time

Making your first trip to a marijuana dispensary 10 minutes before close? Not a good idea.

You want to give yourself ample time to decide, so try to go within a few hours before closing. Also, make sure you look up the closing time of the marijuana dispensary. Many dispensaries close as early as 7 PM.

Leave Your Phone Behind

A marijuana dispensary is not a tourist destination for you to ogle over.

So don’t stroll in thinking you can take a million photos at your leisure. In fact, most dispensaries have a strict no photo policy. And while texting usually isn’t strictly prohibited, it’s still very rude when your budtender is trying to talk to you.

Your best bet is to leave your phone at home or in your vehicle or at least put it in airplane mode.

Don’t Roll Up With an Entourage

You’ve decided you want to take some friends with you to share in this momentous occasion.

Bringing a couple friends along for the ride is fine, but don’t roll up with your entire entourage. And especially don’t do this if you’re the only one who’s planning to buy!

Most dispensaries don’t let large groups into the rooms that sell the good stuff. Be prepared for this and let your friends know that they may end up having to wait outside.

It’s kind of like going to a restaurant with five people and only one person orders- super rude. Don’t be that person. If your friends are really curious, tell them they should buy some for themselves.

No Consumption on Premises

Dispensaries may look somewhat like cigar shops but don’t be fooled, smoking on the premises is strictly prohibited.

In fact, smoking in front of the building or in any other public indoor space also isn’t allowed. Marijuana follows the same clean-air restrictions as cigarettes.

This leaves you with smoking in the comfort of your own home, which we realize can be a problem for tourists. Luckily, some hotels have found ways to accommodate smokers, so check with where you’re staying before lighting up.

Also, let’s not forget that buying pot legally in one state doesn’t give you the right to take it out-of-state. Yes, even if it’s to another legalized state. This is strictly forbidden and if you get caught you’ll get it taken away at best or see some jail time at worst.

No Loitering

A marijuana dispensary is meant to serve as a come and go operation.

We know you’re probably pretty curious on your first visit, but don’t be that guy that lurks around the store for hours. It’s suspicious and creepy.

Loyalty Programs

Just like your favorite clothing store or grocery store, many dispensaries offer loyalty rewards programs.

For example, some will ask for your email so they can send you special rewards and discounts. Others have apps that send out text alerts to clue you in on deals of the week, and some dispensaries even have a special deal for each day of the week.

There are so many deals out there that it’s a good idea to call in beforehand to get the full scoop. Plus, the more you save on weed now, the more you get to spend on it later!

Don’t Feel Pressured

After the novelty of visiting a marijuana dispensary has worn off, you may realize that you actually don’t want to purchase any marijuana after all.

Or, maybe the budtender is rubbing you the wrong way or they simply don’t have the product you’re looking for. That’s ok.

You’re under no obligation to purchase anything, so don’t feel bad if you change your mind.

Also, keep in mind that most places have a strict no-return policy. If they offer something you don’t want, just politely tell them no thanks.

Have Fun

Your time in the waiting room may be a little boring, but other than that, your trip to the marijuana dispensary should be fun!

You may find yourself a bit nervous and this is totally normal. This is because many of us have been fed false information about marijuana our whole lives- that it’s unhealthy, evil, etc.

Your nerves should go away quickly once you realize how professional and well run the dispensary is.

Bottom line: Chill out and enjoy the experience.

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Marijuana Dispensary: Wrap Up

We hope this guide helps you feel more prepared for your first trip to a marijuana dispensary.

We realize that marijuana can be a somewhat confusing topic for those who are trying it for the first time. Please don’t hesitate to drop us a comment or to contact us with any questions you may have.

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About Quantum9

Quantum 9, Inc. is a Chicago, IL-based cannabis consulting firm. We specialize in getting high net worth individuals and private equity cannabis business licenses to cultivate, manufacture and dispense marijuana. We have over 50 marijuana consultants that work for the company, and we have practiced in 12 countries. Our areas of expertise include permit acquisition, team building, employee training planning, and process planning. We help clients fully maximize the potential of any cannabis cultivation, processing, and dispensary business.


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