Cannabis 101 

Cannabis education and information on ways to consume, how to grow or harvest, and more.

What to Expect on Your First Visit to a Dispensary or Retail Cannabis Shop

The allure of legal cannabis is undeniable, and it’s been drawing crowds from every generation. Baby boomers who gave up cannabis decades ago are rekindling their relationship with the plant. Medical marijuana patients are seeking out dispensaries that carry the strain or product they need to help relieve their symptoms. And legal adults are becoming interested in discovering cannabis for wellness purposes.

For those who are curious about cannabis and have no idea where to start, we’re here for you. Although dispensaries may be legal in your state now, it can still feel intimidating to step inside one and not know what to do, which questions to ask, and how to find the products you want. Here’s what to expect on your first visit to a dispensary or recreational cannabis store.

Expect to Be Carded

Stack of passports

This goes for adult consumers as well as for medical marijuana patients. Whether you’ve just turned 21 or pushing 70, keep your state-issued identification handy. If you have a medical marijuana recommendation, make sure it’s still valid (most recommendations are good for six months to a year), and be prepared to hand over your ID along with your recommendation. It’s good practice to make a habit of it. Your budtender will appreciate not having to ask for both.

Be Prepared

Woman using Leafly's dispensary finder on her smartphone

Check out the Leafly Finder and read reviews of your local dispensaries and retail shops. Shops range in caliber, style, and selection, so read the reviews before making a choice. The highest-rated shops are often featured on the Leafly List; these are generally going to have some of the best, most informed employees.

Check out the establishment’s menu on Leafly prior to your visit. You can also use advanced filters in the Leafly Strain Explorer to find the best strains and products for your personal symptoms, conditions, or mood.

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All this preparation will come in handy when you’re trying to order, and it will keep you from being that guy in the dispensary — you know, the one who stands slack-jawed, staring at the menu while the customers in line behind him tap their feet impatiently? Don’t be that guy.

You May Be Required to Wait

People in waiting room

This is fairly standard procedure, especially in the medical market. In many states, regulations require dispensaries to serve only one patient at a time, so you may need to take a seat and wait your turn. This is a great time to check out the dispensary menu on Leafly and think about what products you’d like.

Ask Questions

Budtender talking to customer at Caliva dispensary in San Jose, California

Whether you know what you want ahead of time or not, one of the best ways to get your bearings during a dispensary visit is to ask your budtender. Get recommendations on strains they like, or ask for strains that might be best suited for your needs. Let the budtender be your guide. Looking for something to settle your tummy? Ask. Looking for a bright sativa to inspire you to finally deep-clean your house? Ask. There are no stupid questions. Budtenders have heard it all.

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Make Sure You Have Enough Cash for Your Purchase

Woman grabbing US paper currency from her wallet

Cannabis can be pretty pricey. Although more dispensaries and retail shops are offering cashless ATM systems for purchasing, most cannabis shops remain cash only. Before you visit, check to see whether they accept cards or have an ATM onsite. Otherwise, be prepared and bring cash. This will help your purchase go as smoothly as possible.

Don’t Feel Pressured

Woman taking her card back from cashier

Not sure about your purchase after all? Is the budtender rubbing you the wrong way? That’s OK. You are under no obligation to spend your hard-earned money, especially on a product that you’re unsure about. (Remember: In most cases, returns are forbidden by law. Once you buy it, it’s yours.) Occasionally budtenders will be less informed on strains. You don’t need to take their recommendations just to be polite. Let them know what you want, and if they recommend a product you’re not interested in, simply say no thanks.

How Was Your Experience?

Woman with thumbs up

After your first visit, reflect on the service you received, the quality of the products you purchased, and the shop’s general atmosphere. Did you feel unwelcome? Let them know. Did you feel you could be honest with your budtender? Did your budtender answer all your questions and help you find the right products? Let them know. This is also the perfect time to visit the store’s page on Leafly and leave an honest review about your experience. This helps employees improve their service, allows you to give credit where credit’s deserved, and provides future visitors with a sense of what to expect on a first visit of their own.