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What to know before you visit a dispensary for the first time

At Leafly, we believe there’s a first time for everything, including your very first trip to a marijuana dispensary. We also know that a good first-time experience often boils down to expectations, and that many people want to know exactly what to expect before they even think about visiting a dispensary. 

In this post we’ll break down every nuance of the dispensary experience so you can feel informed, confident, and empowered about purchasing cannabis. A trip to the dispensary isn’t as complicated as a trip to Ikea, but there are a few key tips to know to make your first experience a positive one.

Leafly’s beginner’s guide to weed

Before you go to a dispensary

Get in the right frame of mind

The most important thing to do before your visit is to get in the right mindset.

The truth is, many people initially shy away from a dispensary visit because of the perceived stigma attached to it. But visiting and purchasing from a legal marijuana dispensary is your legal right, and the process can be easily comparable to a visit to a liquor store (more on that later).

The bottom line? Feel confident knowing what you’re about to do is extremely legal, and you’ll also be supporting a small business in your community.

Have a cannabis goal

If it’s your first time at a dispensary, you may not know exactly what cannabis products you want to buy, and that’s okay. 

Instead of focusing on products you want, we suggest thinking about the effects you’d like to feel (or not feel). It’s also helpful to think about flavors and smells you like (and dislike). For example, if you like the flavor and aroma of grapefruit but don’t want to feel sleepy, your goal may be to find a product with energizing effects that tastes like grapefruit. Keep this goal in mind as you make your way to the dispensary. On the flip side, if you do have a strain in mind, find it on Leafly to learn about its specific flavors and effects.

Bring your ID and cash

This is a pretty easy one to get right. The hard and fast rule at virtually any dispensary is that valid proof of identification is required before you can enter, and you have to be at least 21 years old. The best proof of identity to use is a valid state-issued driver’s license or identification card. Credit cards and other non-cash forms of payment are not accepted at most dispensaries. Cannabis is a cash-only economy. 

Note that cannabis products have a vast range of pricing depending on what you buy. Be prepared to spend anywhere from $30 to $150 on your first purchase. If you forgot cash or come up short, many dispensaries have ATM’s located inside, although you will likely have to pay an additional ATM fee on top of your cash withdrawal. 

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When you’re at the dispensary

Expect a line, wait for a budtender

Depending on the size of the dispensary, you may need to prepare yourself to wait in line either inside or outside. This means checking the weather before you head out so you aren’t left standing in the cold. Dispensary lines tend to move quickly, you can avoid waiting by visiting during non-rush hours in the early morning or late evening. You can also ask people working at the dispensary when their busy hours are.

The reason for the line is simple: Many dispensaries operate on a one-to-one budtender-to-customer basis. You may be asked to wait until a budtender is available, then step forward and browse the store’s selection with the budtender’s help.

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Take your time

People often feel like they need to rush when it’s their turn at the dispensary counter. Even if there is a line of people waiting behind you, don’t stress. Take your time. Chat with the budtender and ask questions about cannabis products. Your budtender will work with you to find the best products for you based on your budget, needs, and wants. Pro Tip: Many dispensaries provide discounts for first-time customers, so make sure to ask your budtender if that’s available.

Paying: taxes, ID, cash

Cannabis is a cash-only business, due to federal banking laws. Your budtender may ask to check your ID one more time prior to your purchase. This is normal. Legal cannabis dispensaries take compliance with age limits very seriously. Your final bill may add up to more than you estimated due to state and local taxes, which tend to be extraordinarily high on cannabis products. 

Tip your budtender

While budtenders don’t solely work for tips, they are highly encouraged. When determining how much to tip your budtender, consider the level of customer service as well as the total amount you’re spending on cannabis. For instance, if you spent $25 on cannabis products and your budtender provided you with outstanding customer service, you might consider tipping $5.

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After the dispensary

Review your strain on Leafly

After you’ve had a chance to sample your goodies, make sure to leave a strain review on Leafly. Reviewing the strains you’ve tried helps other cannabis consumers learn about them too. If you’ve created a free Leafly account, leaving strain reviews will provide you with a record of all the strains you’ve tried, and how you felt about them. 

Review the dispensary on Leafly

Dispensaries love hearing about your experience in their store. Most dispensaries are small businesses, so your feedback is taken seriously. Your review has the potential to help these small business owners stick out among the crowd. To leave a dispensary review, find the dispensary page on Leafly and share what you liked or what you didn’t like about the experience. You’ll also be able to rate the dispensary on a scale of one to five stars.

Reorder on Leafly

When you’re ready to buy more cannabis products, remember that you can place your order online for pick-up through enabled dispensaries. When you use Leafly pickup, you don’t have to pay anything until you get to the store and you can research strains you’re interested in before you make a purchase. To place an online order through Leafly, head over to our list of dispensaries that offer pick-up in your area.

Cassidy Rush's Bio Image
Cassidy Rush

Cassidy is an SEO specialist and writer in Seattle covering cannabis. Before joining Leafly, she was a writer for PayScale and Delta Dental.

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