You wake up one morning and decide, ‘today, I’m going to visit a dispensary near me and see what they have to offer.’
You’ve been following the news, watched as legalization rolled out from state to state, and heard from friends and family who regularly use cannabis, and you want to see what all the buzz is about.
Or maybe you are one of the millions of Americans who have been recommended cannabis by a health advisor and are looking towards plant medicine to bring some relief from your mental or physical ailments.
The decision has been made, and you’ve plucked up the courage to dip your toe in the swelling ocean that is the recreational and medical marijuana industry.
But it’s not that simple. As legalization has moved from state to state, many budding entrepreneurs have been quick to fill the demand that was once the exclusive domain of the black market.
Cannabis suppliers have popped up on every street, all of them stocking a range of brands, different strains, new smoking devices, and a whole host of cannabis-infused edibles. Cannabis consumers have gone from having little choice to an overwhelming selection of options at startling speed.
For cannabis veterans, this is no problem at all. In fact, it’s more than they could have imagined in their wildest dreams. But for those with little or no experience, having too much choice can be the same as having no choice whatsoever. It can lead to consumer paralysis. Not knowing where to begin and what questions to ask can leave you wondering how on earth do you gain entry to this new era of cannabis culture.
With zero consumer experience, it’s understandable to be in fear of being overcharged or buying the wrong or low-quality product. But fear no longer. This guide will arm you with everything you need to know about choosing your new favorite dispensary.
What to know before Googling ‘dispensary near me’
Before you decide which dispensary you are going to visit, you first need to know exactly what it is you are looking for. As we’ve already discussed, there are so many different cannabis and consumption methods, and it’s wise to have a rough idea of what you expect to get from cannabis.
Do you want medical cannabis for a specific condition you are suffering from? Do you want something to help you destress? Or are you having problems sleeping and hope that cannabis could be the answer to your worries?
Or are you a recreational user? If so, do you want something to loosen you up in social settings? Something to help you focus? Or an inspirational high to help you with a creative project? Do you want a warm body stone or a purely cerebral hit? Do you have a high tolerance, or are you a relative newcomer to cannabis?
Once you have these questions answered, it should help you select a dispensary that suits you and help the dispensary staff pick out a product that fits your needs. Cannabis does many things for many people. A perfect high for one person could send a different user into a cold, anxious sweat, so it’s always best to have a clear purpose before you end up with a product that is no good for you.
First and foremost, finding a pot shop within a reasonable distance of where you live is probably the number one deciding factor when it comes to choosing a dispensary. But this can be kind of a bummer, because it puts a limit on your choices before you’ve even started.
That being said, if you live in a busy urban area and are lucky enough to have a selection of stores to choose from, then you are still likely to find a good pick. If you find that you’re not all that impressed with the nearest dispensaries, then there are a few ways you can expand your options.
There are many websites and apps that list dispensaries, such as Leafly, PotBot, and Weedmaps. Ask yourself how far you’re willing to travel. If you find a shop that you love, but it’s a bit out of the way, you can always buy in bulk to cut down the number of times you have to make a resupply trip.
Do you commute to work? If so, check out any dispensaries that are convenient for you to stop at on your way home. You never know, you might by traveling past a hidden gem every day and not know it.
Choice is good, right? There are so many various cannabis products out there nowadays. Everything from good old flower in its natural state to new marijuana innovations like shatter, wax, and e-liquid. Not to mention the paraphernalia and accessories like papers, bongs, and dab rigs.
You don’t want to stop at one shop to pick up your cannabis, then have to hit up another dispensary to bag your favorite flavor of blunt wraps. That’s why a store with a comprehensive product range is invaluable – you can pick up everything you want in one go.
And it’s not just about having a wide choice of strains. Do they have bud from different growers? Third-party manufacturers usually make products like edibles, vaporizers, and shatter. A top dispensary will stock brands and product lines that have been carefully selected for their reliability, quality, and consistency.
This can come down to personal preference. Maybe there is one brand that you absolutely cannot get enough of, and only one shop in your area stock it. If so, this is the store for you.
Quality of product
Having a large number of products to choose from is excellent, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of quality. As we’ve mentioned above, this comes down to which products and brands the dispensary has picked to fill its shelves with. This can be a process of trial and error, but there are a few questions you can ask, and things to look out for that are tell-tale signs of high or low quality.
Some dispensaries grow their cannabis on-site, which is an excellent indicator that the herb on sale will be fresh. These smaller grows tend to have a lot of love and attention given to them and often turn out to be the best quality smokes. But that’s not to say that cannabis brought from outside farms is low quality.
If they buy their cannabis, you can always ask in-store or employ a little Google action to find out more about the cultivators. Again, personal preference comes into play here. Are you fixed on 100% organic grows? Do you prefer sun-grown or plants that have developed under lights?
One thing to bear in mind is that a lengthy supply chain may mean a more extended time from harvest to shelf. A good supplier will keep this down to a minimum, but it is not guaranteed. Check your herb for any signs of age – a stale smell, mold, and discoloration are good indicators that it may be near the end of its shelf life.
Cannabis culture is a broad and inclusive club. Cannabis users come from all walks of life, races, ethnicities, genders, and social groups. The appeal of cannabis is universal, and everyone’s invited. This diversity is reflected by the extensive range of dispensary styles and environments.
People from all corners of society have taken the plunge and opened weed shops, and they tailor their stores’ vibe accordingly. That’s not to say that you won’t be welcomed with open arms by any dispensary, but you want to shop in an environment that you feel comfortable.
There is everything from generic chain stores to family-owned businesses, shops geared towards the LGBT community, and artisan, hipster dispensaries. Some shops pride themselves on their organic, non-GMO products; others stock only vegan products. There are even Christian cannabis retailers where you can pop in for a few grams and pick up a copy of the bible while you’re at it.
Finding an atmosphere that suits you and staff that you can relate to can make your shopping experience that bit more relaxed and enjoyable, rather than stepping into a store where you feel out of place and on edge.
Regardless of where you shop, who their target market is, and what their product selection is like, a good budtender can render all these factors irrelevant. The budtender is your point of contact in the dispensary. More than just cashiers, these guys and girls can be an absolute gold mine of information and advice.
A knowledgeable budtender, who has experience with cannabis and knows their products like the back of their hand, can be the difference between a good dispensary and a great one.
For those that are new to the world of cannabis, there is so much to learn. Stepping into a dispensary for the first time can be intimidating. You’re bombarded with terminology that is entirely foreign to you, brands you’ve never heard of, and strange new devices. There can be pressure to bluff your way through and pretend you know what you’re talking about, but this can end with you walking out with a product that is not suited to your tastes and desires.
This is where a five-star budtender swoops in and saves the day. They can explain the difference between Sativa and Indica, THC and CBD, Strawberry Cough and OG Kush, and dab rigs and bongs.
Dispensary staff won’t judge you for your lack of experience or knowledge. In fact, quite the opposite. A passionate budtender will revel in demonstrating their expertise and bask in the satisfaction of inducting a new recruit into the world of cannabis.
I have several dispensaries near me, but the customer service of one, in particular, is head and shoulders above the rest, and it doesn’t even cross my mind to visit their competitors. If you can develop a relationship like this with a local dope spot, the rest naturally falls into place.
We are living in a golden age of cannabis. There are more ways to consume cannabis than ever before, and new strains emerge by the week with every flavor imaginable. As if it couldn’t get any better than this, many dispensaries are licensed to deliver products directly to your door.
This service can be a life-saver in times of need or if you’re just feeling straight-up lazy. There could be four or five top-rated dispensaries in your area, but home delivery can be the factor to give one the edge over their rivals.
Still having trouble picking a dispensary? Narrowed it down to one or two but still undecided? This is where websites like Leafly and Weedmaps can be a saving grace. You can find all the shops in your local area, find out what products they stock, whether they deliver, and most importantly, read customer reviews.
What else is the internet good for if it’s not instant customer feedback? There isn’t a product, service, retailer, or website out there that doesn’t have a plethora of recommendations or AVOID AT ALL COSTS reviews. Leafly is the largest of such services when it comes to cannabis, but there are plenty of alternatives and smaller, localized review sites that can tell you all you need to know about your local dispensaries.
Hopefully, you now have a clearer picture of what makes a good dispensary and which ones are best to avoid. Like all shopping experiences, the best way to explore is with a little bit of trial and error.
Maybe you’re asking yourself, ‘how will I know that I’ve found the best dispensary near me?’ When it happens, you’ll know.
The wand picks the wizard Harry.