Everyone remembers their first time visiting a dispensary, right? For me, it was traveling to Denver on business just a few months after recreational cannabis was legalized there. Dispensaries are bound by certain rules and restrictions, however, so it’s not like walking into a big box retailer or even a small curio shop. Some may have the ambience of a pawn shop, while others are a little funkier. Either way, there are some protocols to be aware of before you go.

Always bring ID and cash

First, you’ll need your identification. Specifically, some sort of official, state-issued ID will be necessary to prove you’re old enough to buy cannabis. Plus, you’ll probably want to carry cash since quite a few dispensaries still can’t take cards. This is mostly due to banking rules about interstate commerce and cannabis not being federally legalized yet, but the bottom line is carry your wallet with some cash in it.

You may also see armed guards, and that’s normal too. We’re dealing with large amounts of cash and cannabis and it’s for everyone’s safety that guards are there. While it’s likely you’ll be on your best behavior either way, also know that you may have to wait your turn sort of like a doctor’s office. At a medical dispensary the medical provider can only see one patient at a time. At recreational dispensaries it’s usually just for crowd control because they’re so popular.

When you do go inside to see what’s being sold, you’ll be happy you waited. A budtender will be there to help you sort through what you want to buy. It’s a good idea to do a little research while you’re in the waiting room, maybe looking up the dispensary to see reviews and check out the menu. If there are a lot of people waiting you don’t want to be “that guy” holding up the line.

Still, budtenders are a crucial component of the experience, and newcomers need their expertise to sift through different types of cannabis and the many different ways of ingesting it. Something to be aware of is in recreational dispensaries you won’t be able to touch the product before you buy, because most laws now require cannabis to be sold in certain tamper-proof packaging. It’s possible there might be a sample area, but those will be thrown out as they can’t be sold!

Ask your budtender questions

Don’t be afraid to ask your budtender questions, because something you may notice is the dizzying array of cannabis before you. For older generations it may be a shock that good old flowers aren’t the only way to enjoy cannabis. But a good budtender will guide you through the many options of edibles, waxes, concentrates and more.

Go in with an idea of the type of strain you want

Finally, what’s your goal? Do you want to relax, do you want the high to last for hours, do you want to feel energetic — these are all parameters to think about before you start talking to your budtender. If you know what you want the effect of the cannabis to be, it’ll be that much easier for a budtender to help you.

Don’t worry, the dispensary is there to help you! There aren’t a lot of rules, but the ones that are there are in place for a reason (usually legal). Be mindful of the time you have there, and know a little bit about what you’re looking for and it will no doubt be a great experience.


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