As of August 2021, purchasing cannabis for medical purposes is legal in 36 states. If you live in a state where medical cannabis is legal, visiting a dispensary for the first time can be intimidating -- especially if you’re also new to using cannabis. Fortunately, our patient coordinators have a lot of experience with patients of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels, so we asked them for some tips for newbies. If you’re thinking about visiting a cannabis dispensary for the first time, here are some things to know.
You’ll need your ID
Like alcohol, you have to be 21+ to purchase cannabis whether you live in a medical or recreational market. Cannabis dispensaries operate under very strict rules, and you’ll need to show a valid government-issued ID to even step foot in one -- no exceptions. If you’re visiting CULTA or any other cannabis dispensary in Maryland (or a dispensary in another state where cannabis is legalized for medicinal use only), you’ll also need to bring your medical cannabis card. If you live in Maryland and haven’t applied for your MMCC card yet, check out this blog for a step-by-step breakdown.
Remember to bring cash
Though some cannabis dispensaries accept cards, they’re in the minority, as the cannabis industry at large is a cash-only business. Some dispensaries may have ATM machines in them, but save yourself the stress (and convenience fees) and bring cash. Cannabis products vary in price, so be prepared to spend anywhere from $30-200 during your first visit. Remember: since you’re buying in a legal market, there are state, local, and excise taxes that will be applied to the base price of all cannabis products. Some cannabis dispensaries display their menu online so you can get a feel for pricing ahead of your visit.
Most products will be locked up
When you enter a cannabis dispensary for the first time, you might be surprised to learn that most, if not all, of the products are locked behind glass cases. Regardless of the state, cannabis dispensaries must adhere to very strict laws, and some of those laws indicate that products for sale must be pre-packaged. You’ll be able to handle the packaging and review the labels, but you won’t be able to smell the product or open the packaging. Contrary to popular belief, cannabis dispensaries in America are not the same as the cannabis cafes in Amsterdam -- absolutely no on-premises consumption is allowed!
Expect to see security
Another thing that often catches first-time visitors off guard is the security guards, cameras, and protected areas within a cannabis dispensary. This level of security is completely normal and standard across the industry and has nothing to do with the safety of the particular dispensary you’re about to visit. Security measures are there to keep you, the staff, and other visitors safe, so be respectful of the security guards and rest assured that your safety is their top priority.
There are no returns
Just like you can’t return your prescription medication, the same logic applies to cannabis. You won’t be able to return, exchange, or get a refund on any cannabis products once you’ve stepped outside of the dispensary. For this reason, our patient coordinators recommend starting small and gradually increasing the size of your purchase once you’ve found a product that you prefer. Most dispensaries sell single cookies or pre-rolls so you can experiment without having to spend too much money.
You also might feel pressured to make a purchase, but don’t be -- it’s perfectly acceptable to visit a cannabis dispensary and walk away with nothing in your hands.
Depending on the dispensary you visit, you may need to wait in a waiting room before being helped by a budtender. Every state has different rules -- some allow you to browse like a traditional store, while others only allow a budtender to help one patient at a time. Dispensary lines tend to move quickly, but just in case you have to wait outdoors, check the weather and be prepared to wait in a line. To avoid lines, visit during non-rush hours (early in the morning, or later in the evening), or call your dispensary directly to find out their busy hours. Some dispensaries even allow you to purchase ahead of time online.
Do some research
Our patient coordinators are here to help you, but doing your own independent research before visiting a dispensary doesn’t hurt. Consider what you want from the visit, what you want from the products you purchase, and what your budget is before visiting. We have lots of helpful content on our blog, but here are some good resources for new patients and first-time cannabis users:
- Seven Tips for Interacting with Your Budtender
- Vapes, Edibles, Tinctures - What’s the Right Intake Method for You
- Edibles 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Cannabis Edibles
- Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid Strains: Explained
- What is the Endocannabinoid System?
- How to Make Cannabutter for Your Homemade Edibles
General etiquette tips
Last but not least, treat a visit to a cannabis dispensary as you would a visit to a pharmacy: don’t crowd the patient in line before you so as to respect their privacy, don’t talk on the phone while in a dispensary as it can be distracting to fellow patients, and be sure to follow all the rules of the dispensary you’re visiting. For example, many dispensaries don’t allow photography. Regardless of the rules, respect them.
Visiting a dispensary for the first time doesn’t have to be scary, and you’ll feel better about it the more prepared you are. Feel free to reach out to us ahead of your first visit if you have any questions! And remember, don’t forget your MMCC card!