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February 5, 2024

Selecting and Navigating a Dispensary

a stock photo of jars of marihuana buds on a dispensary shelf, labeled with the strain inside.

Your first dispensary experience might be confusing at first. This article can help prepare you for shopping for the correct medicine for your specific individual needs. 

First, what are you looking for?

Each person is different in cannabis preferences. Some people prefer edibles and not to inhale it, others prefer only to inhale cannabis. There are many options. It is important to review the types of delivery methods and decide on what type of product you are looking for. 

We suggest taking a look at our Discover Cannabis educational cards to become familiar with language and the types of delivery methods available. Using medical cannabis effectively is not a one size fits all approach.

If you are unsure of what to purchase and try as a brand-new cannabis user, it is important to try all different products but go slowly as to not have a bad experience.  Check out the different kinds of delivery methods (here link to article).

Second, choosing a dispensary

Now that you have an idea of what kind of products you want, let’s look at picking out a dispensary for your needs. Thankfully, there are multiple tools online now that make picking a dispensary easy. There are two main sources as of currently that are used. They are Weedmaps and Leafly

Both websites have apps for smartphones, and both show different local dispensaries in your area. Some will even let you place your order online for pick up depending on your location. 

The reason to research your dispensary ahead of time is so you do not show up to a dispensary that has products that may not cater to your needs specifically. Each dispensary has a menu that is listed either on their website or weedmaps/leafly. Reviewing the menu for what type of product you are looking for is key.

It is also important to remember how much you want to spend. Many dispensaries only accept debit card or cash. Some dispensaries are cash only with ATMs on site or nearby. But the key is to know and have the amount either on a card you know will work at a dispensary (debit card not credit card) or have cash before entering the dispensary. Thankfully, Leafly & Weedmaps have filters to find dispensaries that suit your budget. 

Pro Tip: Sometimes the dispensaries do not have all of their products listed on these apps, so it is also useful to Google the dispensary and see if their updated menu is listed on their website. Usually, their own website is more up-to-date.

Third, arriving at the dispensary

Make sure you have your drivers license or state ID ready along with your medical cannabis card. If it is your first time at a dispensary, there is usually a form that must be filled out for first time patients. This is so that the dispensaries & state can keep track of what you are purchasing, not exceeding limitations and following State laws. 

Usually, there is a small waiting area before entering into the main part of the dispensary where products are displayed.  Once a customer service rep (also known as a budtender) is ready for you, you will be escorted to the product selection area and offer up a menu. Sometimes menus are offered in the waiting area. Remember, each dispensary is different in style of service and range of products. 

Fourth, asking questions

Once you are with your budtender, they will ask what you are looking for. The key in this situation is to ask all the questions that you have. Customer service reps are there to assist you in finding the correct medicine and regimen for you. Clear communication is fundamental. 

If you don’t know what product you are looking for, tell the budtender that. Be honest and open about what your needs are. Most budtenders are attentive and able to help you problem solve and find the correct products.

Some suggested basic questions to ask: 

  • I have x symptom; do you know what helps with this?
  • I have x problem, what products do you recommend for this? 
  • Why do you recommend this product as a solution?
  • I am a beginner cannabis user; can you help me make the right choices?
  • I am unsure of what products I want to use, can you help me make the right choice?

Listen carefully and if you do not understand, make that clear to the budtender. You do not want to leave confused about what you purchased. You want to leave knowing what product you chose and why. It is okay not to understand and know exactly the jargon used in dispensaries especially if it is your first time there. No one expects you to know, especially the budtenders which is why they are there to help! 

Fifth, making the right selection

Once you have asked many questions and inspected various products, it’s time to make a choice that matches the amount of money you wanted to spend along with what can meet your needs. Ask yourself what type of experience you want to have with cannabis and base your product selection off of that. 

Pro Tip: If you are purchasing flower or concentrate, your nose is your best friend. Try smelling the products and if you truly love the smell of one over another that product will typically work better for you than something that you do not react strongly to the smell. 

Sixth, heading home

You successfully navigated a dispensary now! Remember to keep asking to questions & educate yourself on all the cannabis products you decide to consume. Try to remember as you try products to know which ones work the best for you and which ones do not mesh well.


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