For anyone who is new to wonderful world of marijuana, or who is returning to cannabis after a long absence, the prospect of visiting marijuana dispensaries – legal stores that sell marijuana and marijuana products – can be an intimidating proposition. I know because I consistently get a LOT of questions about how to find a good dispensary, or asking for my dispensary recommendations.
What constitutes a “good” marijuana dispensary is somewhat subjective and dependent on the needs of the individual shopper. And while I could give you my personal recommendations of some of my favorite marijuana dispensaries (OC3 where the photos for this article were taken, Magnolia Wellness, Berkeley Patients Group, Buds & Roses and Pure Life Alternative Wellness to name but a few), these will only do you good if you live in nearby proximity to one of them.
So, I thought it a better idea to suggest things you might want to consider when choosing a dispensary at which to spend your hard earned marijuana dollars.
Avoid Judging a Book By Its Cover
In my job of reviewing marijuana products, I get to visit a fair number of marijuana dispensaries. One of the best pieces of advice I can give to those checking out new dispensaries is to not necessarily judge a book by its cover. One acquaintance of mine, in his late 50s, was bemoaning the fact that the first dispensary he visited was staffed by a tattooed, pierced 20-something. He rolled his eyes questioning how much she could possibly know about medical marijuana. Now I am not saying that every stereotypical budtender babe is a marijuana expert, far from it. But the fact is, many of them are. Wait for more evidence than age and appearance before passing judgment.
As an example, I recently visited, as a “secret shopper,” two dispensaries in Torrance, California. The budtender at the first shop appeared quite respectable by conventional standards. She looked like she would have been equally at home working in a law office. However, her conservative appearance did not buffer the fact that she had no interest whatsoever in spending time talking to me or answering my questions. The few times she did offer an opinion, she demonstrated her profound lack of knowledge about cannabis. She had a cursory understanding of the shop’s products at best, and little to no real knowledge about cannabis.
The second dispensary (Green Cross), just down the street, was (wo)manned by a dreadlocked, tattooed young lady with multiple piercings, the exact type my friend had automatically written off. Anyone writing off this woman based on her style and appearance would have been making a huge mistake! She was an outstanding “cannabis sommelier,” extremely knowledgeable about marijuana in general as well as the specific products stocked in the dispensary. She asked intelligent questions to determine what I was looking for and what I needed, and then made excellent suggestions based upon my answers. I left with exactly what I needed.
10 Things to Consider When Choosing Marijuana Dispensaries
These points will help you find a good dispensary. Some points will have more importance to some people. Weigh each one against what is important to you as a cannabis consumer.
- Be Open Minded
This point goes hand in hand with not judging a book by its cover. Because of marijuana’s quasi-legal status – it is still federally illegal even in legal states – and because of decades of reefer madness to overcome — marijuana dispensaries are often relegated to less than ideal areas of town. When you see many dispensaries in close proximity to one another, it is usually because that is the only area they are allowed to exist. It is sad that legislators see fit to classify medical marijuana dispensaries in the same category as strip clubs and adult DVD stores, but sadly this is often the case. Until more laws change, shopping in a less than desirable part of town is a reality for many patients.
That said, you should feel safe when visiting a dispensary. You should feel confident about walking into the shop and returning to your car. Good dispensaries always have security on duty. In fact the security presence at marijuana dispensaries have been known to positively impact the overall security of the surrounding neighborhoods.
If you know exactly what you need/want, then perhaps service does not matter. But most people have questions and most are not up with the latest strains and new edible or topical products. Like in the example in the beginning of this post, a well-trained staff can make all the difference between a positive or negative dispensary experience.
What is the quality of the dispensary’s products? Is the marijuana fresh, did it deliver the effect or potency you were expecting or what the budtender described? Are the products lab tested and well labeled? Is that testing accurate?
Marijuana is expensive. Part of this is because of all the taxes and fees the government adds to the price. That said, some dispensaries offer better deals than others and it pays to shop around. Marijuana is no different than any other commodity, you need to balance price versus quality and find the balance that makes sense for your needs.
Some dispensaries, like OC3 in Santa Ana, California (where the photos for this post were taken) offer a senior discount discount day or other specials or price reductions. Others host customer appreciation days. Take advantage and save money on your marijuana.
There are some people who like to smoke the same strain, or eat the same edibles every time. If that’s you, selection won’t matter much as long as your dispensary stocks what you like. But most people like to switch it up and try new things. A good dispensary will have a wide selection of buds, concentrates, edibles, and topicals in varying price points and potencies.
Sure there are dispensaries worth going well out of your way to visit, but overall you will be happier with one that’s conveniently located to your home or work. Sometimes you have a choice, sometimes zoning laws force you to shop in only one area.
- Does the Dispensary Offer Other Member Benefits?
The best dispensaries often offer other services such as educational classes and sometimes other holistic health services such as massage, chiropractics, acupuncture, etc.
- Does the Dispensary Give Back?
The best dispensaries are about more than just making money. The best dispensaries give back to the community, either the cannabis community, the local community where the shop is located, and in the best instances both! Magnolia Wellness in Oakland, CA is an excellent example of a dispensary that gives back. Not only do they pour money into local Oakland causes and charities, they support marijuana prisoners by organizing their members to send cards and letters to prisoners each month, collecting support letters for marijuana prisoners’ clemency efforts, and donating to the Marijuana Lifer Project, which advocates for prisoners serving life sentences for marijuana.