Visiting your local cannabis dispensary is a trip in itself. Until you can purchase weed legally online or expect home delivery, you are left to shop at medical marijuana or recreational marijuana dispensaries.
There’s some continuing resistance to calling the dispensaries “shops” or “stores,” but it is what it is. And, if you are going to shop, you should know what you are in for and what rules you should follow.
As legalization spreads and regulations control where dispensaries are permitted to locate, you will notice competition in their appearance, advertising, architecture, and ambiance.
1. Maximum security:
There are exceptions to the rule, but at this early stage of the legal game, dispensaries are concerned about making waves. They don’t want to be scrutinized if they can avoid it. Everything from the cannabis control boards to the property insurance companies want to manage the risk with a lot of security.
You will be asked for a proof of age regardless of your age. This may roll out in different ways in different states, but you will need an official approved identification card.
Local marijuana dispensaries are cash-only operations because the laws keep banks from doing business with them otherwise. So, an armed guard will likely ask for that I.D. card.
For the same reason, you are going to find yourself on security cameras. It’s the law for dispensaries to record who buys and sell.
And, speaking of cameras, you should leave your cell phone in the car. Leave your cell phone at home. Local dispensaries prohibit use of smartphones. Your chatting, texting, and selfies distract and annoy while risking everyone’s privacy.
Finding acceptable real estate can be a problem for a local cannabis dispensary. Cities have rights to limit their location through zoning rules. But, owners are trying to rise above the seedy neighborhood strip malls.
There will always be low end dispensaries if they can meet rules and regulations, but chronic potheads are not the target market for medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries.
The developing stores are after adult, social, and professional markets. And, they don’t want to travel across the tracks. So, you won’t see the usual inventory of junk, hookahs, bongs, and other paraphernalia.
You may be surprised at the interior design and fixtures. The newest dispensaries want to look sleek and exclusive. You will see brass and glass, woods and carpeting, and very neat display cases. Their focus is mainly on the sale of cannabis, some high-line derivative, and accessories required for consumption.
3. Shopping list:
Cannabis dispensaries have clerks behind the counters. They act as budtenders who select, price, and package your purchase in childproof containers. But, budtenders are not just retail clerks.
They have been trained and experienced in all things cannabis. They are fully informed on their inventory in terms of how it fits your desired high, medical conditions, or tastes. If you are new to smoking, they can coach you through the selection and use. If you know your stuff, they can introduce you to new products and strains.
Customers cannot handle the cannabis without the assistance of the budtenders. They will provide a menu listing the loose forms available. They will advise you on edibles, concentrates, and shatter. You will have to wait your turn, so you have time to review the menu. And, with some luck, you can find a store with pre-rolled joints.
The more honest you are with the budtender, the better service you’ll receive. And, in time, you may develop a relationship with a favorite who comes to know your preferences and needs. But, you don’t want to overstay your welcome because your time with the budtender is eating into someone else’s time.
At the same time, you should understand that the budtender does not control the product selection or pricing. They are in no position to bargain over price. Among the requirements of state legalization is the tracking of every seed into product and sale. So, if the budtender messes with the weight or price, there may be serious consequences.
4. Pay cash:
You will find the weed at your local dispensary more expensive than the price on the street. You are getting better quality, controlled production, and legal distribution. But, you are also paying significant taxes.
You can comparison shop for competitive pricing if you have the time. Some offer coupons and occasional special deals. But, you will pay the price.
And, you will pay it in cash. Until federal banking rules change, dispensaries cannot accept checks and process credit or debit cards. So, you must pay in cash. If money is an issue, you can ask your budtender about your options.
Riley McDermid, writing for Biz Journals, covered evolving regulations in California what prohibit distribution of free samples. “Medical pot business owners could see their compliance costs increase by $524 per pound under new rules drafted last week by state lawmakers, a cost it would pass on to consumers by raising prices as much as 10 percent.” So, shop a little before you visit the dispensary so you have enough cash.
Your local cannabis dispensary officially and unofficially expects certain social behaviors. For instance, you should respect each other’s space while waiting. Individual customers don’t want you listening in on their interests or medical problems.
While you can expect to wait, you are not encouraged to loiter. Busy dispensaries will politely move you on, especially if they have armed security. Your hanging around outside will discourage others and draw suspicion.
You must not smoke or consume cannabis product inside or outside the dispensary property. They will ask you leave if you are smoking, rolling, or packing. And, if you do outside, you may be under camera or police surveillance.
Dispensaries only sell labeled and packaged goods. So, don’t bring weed into the dispensary. Your possession of loose product on site puts their licensing in trouble. It’s the same at bars where you cannot bring in outside alcohol.
Abby Hutmacher at Colorado Pot Guide, recommends that you relax. “Whether you’re planning your first trip to a dispensary or your 100th, practicing proper etiquette when you arrive will make the process much more enjoyable for everyone.”