5 Essentials for Shopping at a Cannabis Dispensary

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Sep 19, 2009
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Mariposa County CA
From greenflower.com

5 Essentials for Shopping at a Cannabis Dispensary


By Mandee Lee
on September 8, 2016

Many people are nervous, intimidated and overwhelmed at the idea of going to a legal dispensary. So instead, they end up putting it off for far longer than they should, staying engaged in the black market. Here at Green Flower, we definitely want to encourage you to make the jump and go legal, because you’ll find that dispensaries carry some of the highest quality and healthiest cannabis available. And if you are using cannabis to improve your life, you want to make sure you’re getting the highest quality, clean, and safe medicine available to you.

Not to mention that there is such a large array of different kinds of cannabis products at a dispensary, there is something for everyone. Each product can be ideal for different times of day, symptoms, or even moods. Some people might prefer not to vaporize or smoke their cannabis, and at a quality dispensary you can get professional labeled and packaged edibles or tinctures for example. Some people prefer to not have any psychoactive effects and they can get access to CBD-rich products at a good dispensary. Some people just need topical creams for their arthritis or skin rashes and a dispensary can provide this as well.

If you live in a state where cannabis is legal for adult-use, or you can get a medical recommendation and go to a dispensary, then it’s time to make a move. Stop settling for whatever cannabis you can and instead find products that are going to best support and enhance your life.

So today we are going to take away any of the concerns around not knowing what to expect or how to act at a dispensary by sharing with you 5 important points and some shopping tips as well.

#1) Your First Impression

When you first pull up to a dispensary, you’ll likely notice a security guard outside and sometimes you have to be buzzed in. You will walk into a waiting room that is a completely separate room from all the cannabis. Someone sits at a desk in the room or behind glass and takes your ID, if you need to show a medical recommendation they will ask for that, and if you are new to that location, they will likely have you fill out a form to make a record of you as their client.

They will also cross check your recommendation for validation that it is authentic. And then occasionally at some dispensaries they will give you a tour and go over some policies if it is your first time but not every dispensary does this.

The next time you come in you will just show them your recommendation or ID depending on the laws in your state and then you go in, so it will be a slightly quicker process. Know that sometimes there is a wait in the lobby area before you can go in but you never really have to wait that long, so it’s not really that big of a deal.


Dispensaries must check your ID or doctor’s recommendation, depending on the cannabis laws in your state. Photo taken at Buds & Roses Collective in Los Angeles.

#2) Other People in Your Party

When you go inside the cannabis section of the dispensary you typically have to go in alone and cannot talk to others in your party once inside. People in your party that do not have a recommendation will not be allowed inside to see any product. They will have to wait in the lounge area and some places will ask them to wait in the car.

So if you have more than one consumer or patient in your household, it can be good to talk with them before each of you go inside, to make sure you both don’t end up purchasing too much of the same product.

#3) Once You’re Inside

You will be assigned to a budtender. A budtender has knowledge about cannabis and the products the dispensary carries; they can give you recommendations and will be the person you are speaking with throughout your experience in the cannabis section of the dispensary. Usually there are multiple budtenders behind counters and each person will be at their own counter. This way the dispensary can privately work with several people at a time. Know that each patient area should have the same products in the counter display, so there is no need nor is it appropriate to look over at someone else’s counter.


A good dispensary has excellent customer service and a wide range of quality products. Photo taken at Buds & Roses Collective in Los Angeles.

Take your time to look at everything and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I would plan to spend about five to 15 minutes with your budtender. I’ve never been rushed at a dispensary, although you do want to be respectful of the people waiting.

When it comes to selecting cannabis flower you can ask to see it, the budtenders will take out the jar and you can hold it under a light or magnifying glass in some places to see the color and trichomes. You can smell it but you CANNOT touch the flower, as you would contaminate the medicine or you could break off some of those precious trichome crystals.


Although you’re not allowed to actually touch the cannabis flower, you can smell and look. Definitely ask for a magnifying glass if you don’t see one at the counter. Photo taken at Buds & Roses Collective in Los Angeles.

Some example questions you could ask the budtender are: Are there certain strains that are better for a specific ailment like insomnia? Or arthritis? Or appetite? Or are there certain strains that are good for certain effects like focus? Or socializing?

Just know that not all budtenders are properly trained – nor are they licensed medical professionals – and might not have the most accurate information when it comes to these types of recommendations. You can usually tell if the budtender knows what they are talking about or is giving you some generic information.

Also this is not the time and place to be asking many questions about devices to consume out of, you will want to go online or to a shop that sells these devices (typically known as a head shop) to ask those kinds of questions. Dispensaries just specialize in the actual cannabis.

Bonus tip: Do your homework ahead of time – Before you head out to the dispensary look up the current strains the dispensary is carrying and then go online to find out the effects and ailments that strain can be good for treating before you go. My go-to website for strain research is Leafly.com as they provide you results based on a compilation of different users reviews. Just remember that people have varied reactions to specific strains, so I would use this information as a general idea, knowing that you might have a slightly different experience yourself.


Sites like Leafly can be great for strain research, and you also want to see actual lab test results for cannabinoids and terpene profiles.

You also want to check for credible lab testing. Many dispensaries are not listing out the cannabinoids and terpenes in their strains, but this is the best way to select a strain and it requires accurate lab testing results. The terpenes and cannabinoids let you know what effects and ailments the strain will help treat, so it’s always good to let your dispensary know that you would like this information, as the more people request it the more likely they are to provide this important service.

Lab testing is also important to make sure the cannabis does not have any harmful contaminants including pesticides, mold, insect parts, dirt, and anything else you don’t want in your body. You can even ask for organic strains if you want the healthiest options.

Some places even specialize in providing the highest quality, craft cannabis like The Buds and Roses Dispensary Collective in Los Angeles, California, which has its own veganic cannabis strain line that they grow in house and is all organic.

#4) Know Your Options

As I mentioned earlier one of the benefits to going to a dispensary is the vast range of products that are available can be a bit shocking or overwhelming the first time you go. My advice to you is pace yourself, get a few things that you are interested in trying and don’t feel like you have to try everything in your first visit. It can be very tempting to get one of everything but the bill will add up very quickly, so pace yourself.

You will want to also look around the whole area because not all the products available are always in one location. Sometimes there is a fridge behind the counter or off to the side that has cannabis drinks in it or butters or even cannabis ice cream sometimes. There are often different counters or displays on the side that also have concentrates or topicals in them. So look around and feel free to ask the budtender as well if there are any different types of products that they carry that you might not have seen or known about.


Dispensaries are a great way to discover new cannabis products – just remember you don’t have to try everything at once! Photos taken at Buds & Roses Collective in Los Angeles.

Here are some options of what is available at different dispensaries:
  • Cannabis clones or seeds
  • Topicals like bath epsom salts, sprays, and creams
  • Flower, pre-rolled joints and concentrates
  • Edibles like drinks, candy, brownies or cookies
  • Cannabis oil cartridges and syringes
  • And many more
If you don’t see a product you are looking for at your dispensary and you would really like to try it, let your dispensary know because if they know there is a demand for something they will most likely look into carrying it.
Bonus tip: Ask about “thank you” gift – Most first time clients at a dispensary will usually receive a thank you gift; it can be a joint or coupon or an eighth. So ask ahead of time if there will be a gift so you can figure that into everything that you are selecting for your visit.

#5) Etiquette

Most dispensaries have a strict "no photo" policy and will therefore restrict phone usage inside. Most dispensaries also take cash only, however some do have ATM machines and can take debit cards. If this is an option you are interested in I would be sure to call ahead and make sure they have this capability.

And lastly, be respectful of the fact that some people might be there shopping for products to address their serious illnesses or life conditions. So please call it cannabis instead of marijuana or weed or pot. Remember that this is medicine for a lot of people, and try not to use too much outdated slang. This will elevate the experience for everyone.

Bonus tip: Sign up with your local dispensaries – It’s worth it to get onto your local dispensary’s email list because often times they will do special deals and coupons on different products on different days of the week like 10% off edibles on Wednesdays or $5 off cannabis oil cartridges on Fridays or there will be special deals you can get notified about for holidays as well.


Sign up with your local dispensary to stay in the loop on weekly offers and special deals!

Now as you’re leaving the dispensary know that there are no exchanges or returns allowed and there is no consumption allowed anywhere on the property even in the parking lot. So the best thing to do is to drive to your next destination and then check out everything you got.

I promise there is nothing to be nervous about and after you go to your first dispensary you will be kicking yourself in the butt that you waited so long to go. The mind tends to make things worse or more complicated then they often are in reality, and where’s the fun in that? So head on over to your local dispensary and then let us know what your experience was like in the description below, and feel free to share any other tips in comment section below.

LOL--this whole article cracks me up. My word, do people actually have problems going to a dispensary?
My first time was a little intimidating I must admit.

No one I knew had ever been to one.

It was quite a few years ago and I had no idea what to expect. lol
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