Walking into a dispensary for the first time is both a wonderful and surreal experience. Customers find themselves immersed in a whole new world of strains, extracts, edibles, topicals, and a myriad of evolving, innovative products.
In most cases, they need some professional guidance to make sense of all these choices. That professional is the budtender.
Budtenders work as a crucial link between the industry and the public, but not all budtenders are created equal. Ideally, helpful budtenders ask a lot of questions to individualize the products they recommend to customers. An adept budtender knows the qualities and effects of the products they sell while communicating them clearly to prospective buyers.
On the other hand, some budtenders operate with ulterior motives to move certain products off shelves. Their advice, based on personal experiences or sales trends, (e.g., “I tried this last night and loved it!” or “You better get this strain fast! It’s selling out!”) might seem helpful but may not align with an individual’s needs.
Research before you shop
Despite cannabis’ prevalence across dozens of states, budtenders have no universal business training, so staff preparedness varies from shop to shop. For a novice consumer, this poses some problems. If you’re worried about lackluster help, research the store you plan to visit first.
Resources such as our Dispensary Locator will help you narrow down the options in your area and provide reviews from fellow customers. Social media can also give you a sense of the shop and its employee culture—do staff look happy to be at work? Even with the most meticulous preparation, questions will undoubtedly arise once you get there.
Below are five questions to ask yourself before you engage the budtender, based on what they will likely ask you. Anticipating how you communicate this information beforehand can vastly improve the effectiveness of your dialogue in finding the right products and learning something new.
1. How do you want to consume your cannabis?
There are a handful of ways to consume and utilize cannabis, from smoking flowers to eating gummies to bathing in an infused soak. Most dispensaries carry a variety of edibles, beverages, tinctures, capsules, mints, prerolls, vape pens, and beyond.
Narrow down a few questions about the methods and products you want to try; how you administer cannabis determines how it makes you feel. This also allows helps you determine which dispensaries carry the products you need. Keep in mind that some products have limited availability and your local dispensary might not carry them.
2. What do you want to do with cannabis?
Cannabis and its effects are intensely personal, and no two people have the same relationship with it. Ask yourself why you want to use cannabis. Are you dealing with a medical condition or looking to unwind at the end of the day?
While many dispensaries carry both medicinal and recreational products, your needs as a customer or patient influence what the budtender recommends. A product formulated for pain relief might not work to manage anxiety, just like a sativa strain isn’t conducive to helping you relax and sleep.
If you have medical needs but don’t yet have your medical card, consider consulting with a local physician educated in medical marijuana, if available. What symptoms do you need cannabis to address? Your budtender and your doctor have vastly different training, even in medical markets. Both opinions make it easier to determine what type of relief you need.
If you don’t have access to a doctor, call the dispensary and ask to speak with an experienced staff member before you pay them a visit.
3. How much do you want to spend?
The price spectrum for cannabis products seems to widen more and more every day. Think about your budget and how much you anticipate needing to create your ideal sesh or level of wellness. If you don’t know how much you want to buy, use our visual guide to cannabis quantities. No need to ball out on an ounce on your first trip
Most dispensaries offer multiple price points for customers. Eighths of cannabis (3.5 grams) typically go for between $20 and $75. Prerolls range from $10 to $30 if they come in a multipack or have been infused with concentrates for added potency. Edible pricing depends on the type—gummies and pastilles tend to be cheaper ($20) than capsules and baked goods ($25+).
Local and state taxation influence the prices you see on the menu far more than the stores—you may shell out more than you anticipated.
4. How intoxicated do you want to be and for how long?
Cannabis can affect your mental and physical state in vastly different ways, depending on the consumption method, dosage, and tolerance. The cannabinoid THC creates the “high” cannabis gives us, but not all cannabis strains and products elicit intoxication.
Certain products are formulated to be non-intoxicating, such as those containing high amounts of CBD. Other products feel uplifting and cerebral while some work better for relaxation and sedation. Letting your budtender know what experience you want will help them guide you towards a product that will meet your exact needs.
Additionally, the length of your cannabis experience can vary depending on how you use it. Dabbing cannabis concentrates tends to provide a quick and intense experience when compared to edibles. But like other inhalation methods, effects wear off within an hour or two.
Edibles take time to kick in, but their effects typically last between 2 and 4 hours. Medical patients may need more long-lasting relief, whereas casual consumers just want to chill on the weekend. Planning out how and when you intend to use cannabis will help in determining both the products and consumption methods you discuss with your budtender.
5. How discreet do you need to be?
Using cannabis discreetly depends on courtesy and legality. Most states do not allow for public consumption, and cannabis smoke and vapor may bother some people around you. Some dispensaries now provide consumption lounges, though they remain rare.
Your budtender can help you figure out how your cannabis use might affect those around you. If you plan to partake in the presence of others who choose not to consume cannabis, your budtender can guide you toward products that you can use anywhere.
Edibles, vape pens, topicals, sublinguals, transdermals, capsules, and even suppositories are examples of discreet products that don’t create lingering odors or clouds of smoke.
You may not always be lucky enough to broker cannabis with an experienced consultant, but you can save a lot of time and guesswork by speaking clearly with your budtender. You both want the same thing, which is to help you find the exact product you need for the exact experience you want.