Cannabis buds on a table, one bud under a magnifying glass

Decoding the Dispensary: Tips for Your First Marijuana Dispensary Visit

You’re new to cannabis, and you’d like to try it which means it’s time for your first trip to a dispensary. While this may seem like an intimidating experience, a little preparation and some helpful tips can make your first visit a positive one.

Here are a few of our top tips to help you make the most out of your first dispensary experience.  

1. Know What You’ll Need to Bring with You

The rules for cannabis vary from state to state, depending on whether medical or recreational use is permitted. Here is a high-level guide for both scenarios:

  • Medical Cannabis Dispensary - Millions of Americans have now obtained a medical marijuana card across the country.If you’re one of them, be sure to bring your card and a valid state-issued photo ID with you during each visit. Remember, medical marijuana cards are typically only valid in the state in which it was issued.
  • Adult Use Dispensary - If you live in a state that allows the sale of recreational marijuana, be sure to bring a valid state- or government-issued photo ID with you to provide proof of age and proof of residency. Different states have different rules for how much out-of-state visitors can purchase, so check local laws ahead of time.

Most dispensaries are cash only, so either bring cash with you or plan on using the ATM inside. (Most dispensaries that are cash only have ATMs available, but on the off chance yours doesn’t, it will be easier to bring cash with you). There are some dispensaries that allow debit cards, but you’ll want to check before you go.

Want to better understand the difference between medical-only and adult-use dispensaries? Read our guide

2. Understand Your Cannabis Goals

Trying to figure out what you’d like to purchase at a dispensary can be quite overwhelming! While you can certainly ask a budtender or pharmacist once you’re there, it’s helpful to come prepared with insight into your cannabis goals. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What Are You Looking to Get Out of Cannabis? The first step in choosing the right product for you is to establish why you’re visiting a dispensary in the first place. This will likely change depending on if you’re a medical marijuana or recreational marijuana customer. Medical marijuana cardholders are typically looking for types of products that can help with various symptoms they are experiencing. In some state medical marijuana programs, certifying practitioners may limit the types of products a patient can purchase based on their condition. But for recreational users, you may be interested in the intoxicating qualities of THC or experiencing different strains to better understand how they affect your body.  

  • How Do You Want to Consume Cannabis? Knowing the ways you’re comfortable consuming marijuana can make it significantly easier to choose a cannabis product. For example, if you prefer to smoke or vape, you’ll want to look for flower or various types of concentrates including oil cartridges, wax, budder, and more. If you prefer to ingest your cannabis, then you’ll likely want to consider edibles and cannabis beverages. And if you prefer not to eat or inhale cannabis, a tincture may be the solution for you so you can absorb the tincture sublingually or buccally (under the tongue or through the cheek, respectively).  

  • When Do You Plan to Consume Your Cannabis? If you want to be able to consume cannabis but still be functional throughout the day, you’ll need to consider this when purchasing a product. If you are looking to consume in the evenings, you can look for a product that suits those needs. Knowing when you’re going to be enjoying your cannabis can make a difference in what you purchase.  

  • What Experience Do You Want? Some people are interested in the psychoactive qualities of THC. If this is the case, a vape cartridge or edible may be all they need to achieve the results they are looking for. Other marijuana connoisseurs are interested in the myriad of cannabinoids and terpenes that make up this unique plant. If that sounds like you, then you’ll likely enjoy marijuana flower more than a concentrate, edible, or tincture.  

3. Be Prepared to Ask Questions

If you’re a seasoned cannabis consumer, you can hop online, peruse a dispensary menu, pick out a few things, even order them online, and pick them up curbside (yes, that is possible with many dispensaries). But if you are new, don’t be afraid to walk into the dispensary and ask the cannabis experts questions.

While looking at product menus can give you a better idea of what is available and give you a chance to do your own research, nothing beats talking to an expert about your comfort level and what you’re interested in. Not only can they help you find the right cannabis product, but they can also help you purchase the right tools to enjoy your cannabis.

Here are a few more topics of consideration as you prepare for your visit:

  • Sativa, Indica, or Hybrid - Sativa and Indica strains are purported by some users to have different effects while a hybrid is, you guessed it, a mix of the two. When it comes to indica versus sativa, many people prefer to consume sativa during the day and indica at night. You may have a different experience, so it’s important to try a small amount of any cannabis product at a time to know how it will affect you.  

  • THC, CBD, or Both - In addition to the different types of cannabis strains, there are also different levels of the main cannabinoids found in marijuana: THC and CBD. THC is a cannabinoid that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties. CBD does not cause an intoxicating response, but there is some research that indicates CBD can balance some of the effects of THC. Therefore, when purchasing a product, look at the THC and CBD content in the product. Typically, a higher THC percentage means a stronger result, but the effect THC has on your body depends on a variety of factors including sex, weight, and tolerance levels.

Finally, if you’re purchasing specific strains, dispensaries often advertise the types of properties that these strains are bred for. This can be a good way for beginner cannabis consumers to better understand what they may feel when consuming that strain. It is not, however, guaranteed. Keep that in mind when purchasing.

Want to learn more about cannabinoids? We have a guide for that, too!

4. Understand How to Dose Cannabis

If you are a beginner, there is one important piece of advice on dosing we can give you: Start low and go slow. There is nothing more uncomfortable than consuming more marijuana than you meant to, and this is especially easy to do when smoking, vaping, or consuming certain types of edibles.

Always remember to start with a low dose, and give your body time to process the product. This is especially important with edibles, which are beginner-friendly but can be challenging to get dosage right. For edibles, it’s recommended you wait an hour before taking more. With smoking and vaping, you typically know within 15 minutes if you are feeling the effects.  

More Common Dispensary Questions

You likely have many more questions about your dispensary visit. Here are a few we often encounter, but remember that budtenders are there to help you. Take your time and make sure you feel comfortable with your purchase.

Do I need to be 21 to enter a dispensary?
In adult-use states, only customers who are 21+ years old are allowed to enter a dispensary. In some medical states, patients and caregivers can enter a dispensary if they are 18+ years old.


Do I need a medical card to enter a dispensary? 

If the state you are in is medical only, then you will need a medical cannabis card from that state to enter a dispensary. If you are in a state that allows adult-use cannabis, you do not need a medical cannabis card to enter a dispensary.

Do I need an ID when visiting a dispensary? 

Yes, you will need to present a valid, government-issued photo ID to enter a dispensary in any state that allows cannabis.

Can I have a dispensary near me deliver my order to my home?

Cannabis delivery varies by state. For example, adult-use states like California and Massachusetts allow delivery, and New York (medical-use only) permits patients to have their order brought to their home. However, Illinois (adult-use) does not allow cannabis delivery of any kind. You can always ask your local dispensary whether or not your state allows delivery.

What is the sales tax on my cannabis products?

Taxes on medical and recreational cannabis purchases also vary by state. There may also be additional taxes depending on the city, county, etc. Your local dispensary will be able to give you a breakdown of the taxes you can expect to pay for products in your state.

Can I see the cannabis flower before I purchase it?

Another question in which the answer varies by state! Some states like Washington can have cannabis products like flower and edibles on display, as long as they are sealed. However, many other medical- or adult-use states keep everything locked up in the back until the customer has actually paid. Whatever state you’re in, the local regulations in this area should be pretty obvious when you visit the dispensary.

Your First Dispensary Visit

The number one thing to remember when visiting a dispensary for the first time is to ask questions! Expert budtenders at your local dispensary location are ready to help make your cannabis experience as positive as possible.

Recreational cannabis is not available in all states. Cannabis is for medical use only and may only be used by certified patients in Pennsylvania. State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and certified patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations.