I just got certified for medical marijuana. What now? What do I do when I go to a dispensary? I’ve never been to one before. Will I get laughed at for being a newbie? Help!
— Dispensary Virgin
Congrats on getting your card! Now you can join the rest of us who have found relief in medical cannabis. I totally feel you. When I first started purchasing medical marijuana, it was a bit intimidating. Same thing goes for being a first-time canna-tourist. But have no fear, I'm now a dispensary regular and I'll break it all down for you and will hopefully make your first time a-OK!
The first thing to remember is that the folks working at a medical cannabis dispensary want the exact same thing you do, which is for you to get the right medicine for your needs. But, especially if you haven't really experimented with cannabis before, that could take a bit of trial and error, so patience is key.
Once you've registered with a dispensary and have completed any paperwork, you then have the opportunity to step up to the counter and chat with a budtender. A good budtender will notice that you're a new patient and will hopefully ask you all the necessary questions. However, don't be afraid to speak up. If they don't mention anything, let them know that you are new to all of this. That way they'll be able to better help you. They'll explain things in more detail and go into more lengthy information than if they assume you're a regular cannabis user or dispensary veteran.
Ask any and all relevant questions, and let them know if you're still unclear about something. Just as you wouldn't leave a pharmacy without ensuring that you're clear about your medicine and everything that goes along with it, you don't want to leave a dispensary uncertain about anything cannabis related.
As with anything related to cannabis, start low and slow. That might mean only purchasing a gram or two of a few different strains and seeing how that works out before you plunge ahead and start purchasing quarters of anything. If you only get a little bit while you start out, you won't be left in a situation where you have a ton of pot that you really aren't into.
That said, once you do find a strain you like, you might want to consider purchasing a larger amount, as inventory is constantly changing in dispensaries and it could be weeks, or even months, before that one comes back through.
I also checked in with Phoenyx from Farma in Portland, and she offered up a few dispensary Dos and Don'ts:
Bring your state-issued photo ID. Dispensaries cannot make any exceptions.
Bring cash. Some dispensaries are cash only. Others have to charge you an extra fee if you use a card.
Ask your budtender if you can smell the buds! Your nose knows! Choose a strain that smells good to you.
Look for Clean Green Certification, Certified Kind, or other indications that the cannabis was grown with organic practices and inputs. Lab testing does not guarantee a clean product, and we don't have much data on what happens when you smoke pesticides, but it's not good, especially for patients treating medical conditions.
Ask lots of questions! There are no stupid questions. Be sure you know how to use the products you buy correctly.
Assume that higher THC automatically means it's better. It's actually better to ease into cannabis with a less potent option and work your way up until you find the right dose/strength/strain.
Assume that because it has the same strain name that it will have the same effects. Pay attention to the cannabinoid percentages (THC & CBD in particular) as well as the strain and grower name to be sure that you're buying more of the same batch.
The main thing to remember is that you're not doing this alone. A well-run dispensary should have an inviting feel and make you feel comfortable about asking all your questions. Budtenders should not make you feel silly or weird for asking even basic questions. They're there to help answer your questions, explains aspects of cannabis to you that are relevant to your needs, and get you the best product available. (PS - you might want to ask if your budtender accepts tips. Never hurts to show a little extra love to someone willing to share their expertise!). Good luck!