My first visit…Sweaty palms, weak knees and a fist full of dollars…
I naively made my first visit to a marijuana dispensary just a couple years ago. Today it’s second nature, I feel comfortable, relaxed and know exactly what I want and need for my body, mind, and soul. Although marijuana dispensaries are a fairly new concept, taking into account almost a century of prohibition and a “war on drugs”. They offer a professional and clean environment to purchase your pot over the counter, LEGALLY!
Named “coffee shops” in Europe, America chose to formalize the name and call cannabis outlets, “marijuana dispensaries”. Fast becoming the norm of society in America today, cannabis is the popular and safe medical (and recreational) alternative to living with less side-effects. I will take you through my 1st visit but also provide some background information about cannabis culture and hopefully give you more insight and confidence to your first purchase of legal cannabis.
Your First Visit To A Marijuana Dispensary
“The amount of money and of legal energy being given to prosecute hundreds of thousands of Americans who are caught with a few ounces of marijuana in their jeans simply makes no sense – the kindest way to put it. A sterner way to put it is that it is an outrage, an imposition on basic civil liberties and on the reasonable expenditure of social energy.” – Ellen Hopkins
I think it’s impossible to explain the history and culture of cannabis in one paragraph, but many books have been written on the different facets of cannabis. It’s a culturally rich plant that has served humans for thousands of years. Cannabis was first documented by the Chinese around 3000BC and has been spread around the world by traders, explorers and adventures since. It was used for food, fibers and medicines well into the mid-1950’s and only since America’s increase in the War on Drugs, literally been written out of industry and history books. Its really only been recreationally popular since the mid 20th century, especially through the hippie movement starting in the 1960’s. The first cannabis advocacy group, NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) was started in the early 1970’s, and since then has grown in member numbers and worldwide support. Today we are seeing many countries acknowledging the benefits of cannabis industries and seizing the opportunity to be part of a worldwide “Green Wave”. These countries are adjusting and liberalizing cannabis laws and finally allowing citizens to partake in the cannabis plants many benefits.
“Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country.” – Thomas Jefferson
I’ve “heard stories” of “someone” who first bought weed behind a dingy pub, through a sleazy dealer, under dim lights many moons ago. I…err…someone raced home after having a cold one and making my purchase, only to realize that I had purchased some terrible dry ditch-weed with less flavor/punch than Basil. The legal cannabis market and developments in technology are changing all that and you can now almost be certain of what you are buying is from legit from reputable marijuana dispensaries. Be careful though there are still unscrupulous people out there who would be happy for you to part ways with your hard-earned dollars, especially to unknowing newbies.
Researching is your most important resource before making any cannabis purchase. With the internet playing a bigger part in all our lives each day, it is a massive resource for anything cannabis related. Most dispensaries will have a professionally designed website and social media accounts, that publicize their products and services and allows customers to share their reviews. Browsing through a couple websites such as a Leafly and Weedmaps can arm you with invaluable information about marijuana dispensaries overall reputation in your community through customer reviews.
Probably the most important aspect of your research should be cannabis itself. Cannabis comes in a number of different varieties ranging from heavy Indica’s, uplifting Sativa’s, through to a combination strains, called hybrids (more about strain types here). Edibles or better known as “medibles” are also available and are a far stone thrown away from the space cakes we have all tried at an outdoor party. Concentrates are probably the fastest growing sub industry within cannabis and you will certainly come across types of concentrates such as wax, budder, shatter and other varieties of the cannabis resin. Vape cartridges, topicals and many other mediums to consume cannabis are also available to customers. I’ve got a piece on methods of marijuana consumption if you are interested.
Cannabis is a plant that can be grown very similarly to tomatoes. It is grown either indoors or outdoors around the world, mainly illegally, but many countries offer a license to individuals for growing and distributing cannabis. Cultivators are always looking for better strains or developing new hybrid strains, like Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte’s Web was developed specifically for treatment of cancerous brain tumors and associated seizures. There are hundreds if not thousands of different varieties, but cannabis is casually classed into a couple groups. The three most common are Cannabis Sativa, Indica and a blend of strains called Hybrids. Cannabis Sativa is generally a taller, airier plant with thinner leaves that has the structure of a Christmas tree. It can grow taller than twelve feet and the high provides an energetic, uplifting period. Sativa’s are found in equatorial regions like Africa and East Asia. Strains are named after regional locations of the plant such as Durban Poison from the east coast of South Africa, just south of the port of Durban. Indica strains tend to be shorter, denser and have thicker leaves. Indica’s come from regions like Pakistan and named after the location such as the Kush mountain range. Kush is a pure Indica, but is represented in many hybrid strains and possibly the most unique strain in the world, at a genetic level. The high from an Indica bud is well known for a couch lock, heavy stoned effect.
“The biggest killer on the planet is stress and I still think the best medicine is and always has been cannabis.” Willie Nelson
Depending on what your medical or recreational requirements are, having a vague idea of what you want out of your 1st visit is a better idea than arriving with no information at all. You may have decided to go to a marijuana dispensary cause of a medical condition you have, get advice from your doctor, therapist or licensed healthcare provider first. This information is key to finding the right strain for you, cannabis can assist with many medical diseases or conditions, namely; anxiety, cancer, nausea, depression, eating disorders, pain, insomnia and many, many more. Knowing this information will help you identify a typical cannabis strain that will assist you.
With the research and development of cannabis and consumer demand, cannabis is the fastest growing industry in the world. Standardization is something most dispensaries are gunning for. With only fairly recent isolation of the main cannabinoids found in cannabis, THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol), scientists are finding many other compounds (cannabinoids) in cannabis, such as flavonoids and terpenes. Hundreds of discovered compounds are helping us understand the benefits of cannabis. Further, we are now able to isolate these compounds through different extraction methods, giving us the opportunity to know exactly what we are smoking, down to a level of cannabinoids. Cannabinoids give cannabis its taste, high and also the most important medical benefit. Companies all around America are focusing on ‘dip and dab’ concentrates, which allows consumers to choose specific highs and flavors through extracted, concentrate cannabis.
Now for the “suggestions” of your marijuana dispensary visit
“I have always loved marijuana. It has been a source of joy and comfort to me for many years. And I still think of it as a basic staple of life, along with beer and ice and grapefruits – and millions of Americans agree with me.” Hunter S. Thompson
I like lists (if you haven’t noticed based on my other pieces hehe). I’ve put together a list of 10 things that I wish I would have known before I made my first visit to a marijuana dispensary.
1. Know the rules and regulations ahead of time
Half of the states in America have implemented broad-based medical or recreational cannabis laws. It’s best to understand the laws either in the state you are resident or visiting. Each state differs, like in the state of Colorado, non-residents are only allowed purchasing 0.25 ounces of cannabis at a marijuana dispensary (at least that is how I understand it at the time of writing. Obviously, if you want the cold hard legal facts, you’ll need to ask someone who can legally provide legal advice). While local legal residents are able to purchase up to an ounce of cannabis product.
2. Have your valid ID or medical marijuana card readily available
A valid state issued identification card should be readily available while entering a marijuana dispensary. Same goes if you have a medical recommendation or medical marijuana card.
3. Have cash handy to make your purchase
Most marijuana dispensaries offer a variety of payment methods. Cash is the most popular payment method. Some dispensaries offer ATM’s onsite, where you will be able to withdraw cash. Credit card facilities are generally hard to find.
4. Treat fellow customers and “budtenders” with respect
A lot of people purchase cannabis for medical reasons. Give people space to talk to budtenders about their personal requirements. Most dispensaries budtenders are well trained about their products, try and learn as much as possible about these cannabarista’s. It is also a clever idea to be on the good side of budtenders, they have inside information on strains and top-quality bud.
5. Do not take pictures
Most marijuana dispensaries don’t allow pictures to be taken of bud, staff or their premises. Asking politely if you can take a picture won’t make you enemies and it is better to be safe than sorry.
6. Preferably keep your phone on silent
Don’t you hate it when someone’s phone goes off when you are deep into thought during a movie or trying to absorb information around you? Always a good idea to put your phone on silent. It will help you keep a train of thought and focus on what you are there to do, buy marijuana product and learn as much as possible.
7. Do not expect to handle the product
You would not like someone at the table beside you handling your food before you ate it. The flowers of the cannabis plants, known as buds, are coated with the resin (trichomes). If you touch a plant too much the resin rubs off on your fingers. This is a micro-scale of how hand rubbed hash is made in Morocco and many other places around the world. Marijuana Dispensaries don’t allow customers to touch the plant and usually use chop sticks or show you in glass-jars what the flowers look like. Always ask before you try and touch, but you will mostly get a, “No”.
8. Don’t use the dispensary parking lot to smoke it up
C’mon, this isn’t amateur hour. Marijuana dispensaries have a strict set of rules and regulations to abide by. It’s also not legal to smoke cannabis in public areas, unless stipulated. You most likely spent your hard-earned dollars on the bud purchasing. Chances are you will drop and waste a lot of your bud when trying to grind and roll in a windy outdoor area. Take it home, make a cup of coffee and enjoy the experience of admiring, then sorting, rolling and finally smoking your cannabis. Not to mention, driving while smoking (no matter how good you think you are) is not only illegal but it is sort of a shitty thing for a person to do. Don’t put other peoples’ live’s at risk because you can’t wait to get home. Seriously, we’ve fought this hard and long to get this stuff legalized, let’s not give any politician a reason to justify taking it away from us again.
9. 21 years of age is the normal legal limit in most states
Like the legal drinking age, most states only allow adults of 21+ to use marijuana dispensaries. Unless you have a medical recommendation, no marijuana dispensaries can make an exception.
10. Enjoy your experience and ask questions
You are always welcome to ask questions about the product you are buying. There are many cannabis plant varieties, as well as cannabis oils, edibles, associated products and paraphernalia. It’s always a good to understand what you are buying before you make your purchase. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A well trained and professional budtender should be able to answer most reasonable questions about their product and have a thorough knowledge about cannabis. But don’t expect a budtender to assist you with diagnoses of your medical condition or to sell you your perfect high. Most importantly enjoy your experience at a marijuana dispensary. A lot of work goes into making cannabis product, even if it is just a simple flower that you have bought.
My First Visit to a Cannabis Dispensary
My 1st visit to a marijuana dispensary went something like this. It was mid-May 2015 and I was visiting a good ole’ smoking buddy based in Boulder, Colorado. We had been smoking pals for years and he had already used the services of many dispensaries found in the picturesque and student friendly town of Boulder. I was lucky that he was well-seasoned about cannabis and knew his way around the town as well. This also helped in knowing where to get the most bang for your buck.
We began the day with an early morning toke on Durban Poison, a pure sativa from South Africa. We smoked this strain because it would give us the clarity and energy we needed to get a good start to the day.
My buddy noted that we should have enough cash on us to make the purchase. Marijuana can be a very expensive purchase and dispensaries generally only accept cash (though this is rapidly changing). Some offer ATM’s but generally, credit card terminals are not available for your purchase. Hopefully, in the near future, traditional financial industries will hop on the bandwagon and start offering financial services we are used to in other types shops. But for now, cash is king. I double checked, I had my state issued identification card and we headed downtown to the historic district of Witter.
Our first stop was at a cannabis dispensary called Village Green Society. Its located in a house built in the early 1800’s, with a manicured garden and ample private parking. Justin had his medical marijuana card and ID ready before we walked through the front entrance. I followed closely behind and was called by a budtender to view the display. Generally, marijuana dispensaries are well-secured due to state requirements for running a legitimate shop. Don’t be paranoid about burglar bars over windows, CCTV cameras and security gates. This is just standard practice. This is for the protection of you as well as the dispensary.
“We offer warm, inviting customer service and provide the finest products in this great state, which has been the key to our success. We provide bud, edibles, topicals and various CBD products.” Village Green Society
It was a couple hours before lunch on a Tuesday, the shop was not busy and we did not have to sit in lines waiting to get assistance from a bud tender. Basic weed etiquette is taking your time, and give other customers space to enjoy their experience. The most important person you will be dealing with is the bud tender or also known as Cannabarista (which I think is just the cutest thing…I’m basic…I know). We were welcomed and professionally handled by a knowledgeable shop representative. The product variety was immense, neatly packed in glass displays, and bottled jars. I was looking for something heavy to help with sleep, I knew Indica was what I had my mind on, but they offered a variety of 10 pure Indica’s. After a small discussion and recommendation from my new friend, the budtender, I settled on Cotton Candy Kush, with a measured THC level of just under 25%. The aroma of this Indica kush is as the name says, that of a sweet & fresh candy. Due to me being from out of town and a non-resident, I was only legally permitted to purchase 0.25 ounces. I was happy with my purchase and paid the kind man for his product and service. I waited outside for my buddy, with a big smile on my face.
This whole buying process was quite quick for me, but I was not one to hang around asking question after question. I had done most of the research already and knew what I wanted. However, don’t be afraid to ask questions that you may have. Good budtenders should be able to answer most questions about their cannabis products and sell based on your requirements. I was considering skinning up in the parking lot, but realized this is not good weed etiquette and I would be more civilized and wait until we got home. My friend arrived outside a few minutes later and we both, like giggling little school children who took 2 free lollipops instead of 1, continued merrily down the road to the next place of purpose.
As we travelled along the road my friend started spilling the beans on his marijuana purchase. As a Colorado resident, he was entitled to 1 ounce. He had bought a variety of strains, such as Dutch Haze and a Nepalese Kush. He also treated himself to a gram of 710 budder and a for his sweet tooth some blue kudu chocolate. We both were satisfied with our purchases and gleefully went home to try out our new selections of top grade cannabis flowers, concentrate and medibles. It’s a great feeling doing this legally instead of the paranoia that flows in your blood after acquiring from shady characters.
“It really puzzles me to see marijuana connected with narcotics…dope and all that crap. It’s a thousand times better than whiskey – it’s an assistant – a friend.” – Louis Armstrong
In hindsight, I thoroughly enjoyed my 1st visit to a marijuana dispensary. It’s much easier than one anticipates, but knowing what you want is probably the best advice I can offer you. Researching both specific cannabis strains and marijuana dispensaries will give you more confidence when making your first purchase. Chat with friends and family, people are a lot more open about their personal cannabis consumption since the days of prohibition. Studies show that the demographic with the largest increase of cannabis usage is in the 50+ population group, so you never know, just like me, I only recently found out that my trendy uncle, retired, has his own personal favorite bong he tokes from nightly.
Until Next Time, Keep on Sparkin’
Trying to figure out if you should rip some shots or smoke a J? Check out my piece on Marijuana vs. Alcohol.
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I am not a doctor and this is not to be taken, interpreted or construed as medical advice. Please talk with a licensed medical professional about this or any conditions you have or may believe you have. The information in this article is provided as an information resource only. These are just my own personal opinions and not a prescription or a diagnosis or any form of health care whatsoever.