Pile of cannabis flower in a shopping cart

Buying Marijuana: Everything You Need to Know

With cannabis legalized in almost half of the United States there are many new consumers who want to learn the essentials and know how to buy marijuana. This guide covers legalities and practical tips for buying cannabis, ensuring you have a smooth experience at your local dispensary.  

Is It Legal to Buy Marijuana?

It depends on your location. While cannabis is illegal at the federal level in the United States, 24 states and territories have decriminalized marijuana. This means that residents can buy medical or recreational marijuana at state-licensed dispensaries. You can buy only medical cannabis in 14 states, while in some states like Texas, you can only purchase CBD oil.1 Check your state laws or ask your budtender before attempting to buy cannabis.

Pile of cannabis flower in a shopping cartPile of cannabis flower in a shopping cart

Recreational vs Medical Cannabis

Recreational marijuana, also called adult-use cannabis, is available to adults 21 and older with daily purchase limits. Medical marijuana is for patients with qualifying medical conditions and a valid medical marijuana card. Depending on the medical cannabis laws, persons under the age of 21 may buy prescribed THC, and medical marijuana patients may also possess more cannabis than recreational consumers.2

State & Local Laws

The state and local laws can significantly impact your experience buying marijuana.3 Some states have stricter regulations regarding the amount you can purchase, where you can consume it, and how it should be stored. Local municipalities may have laws that are different from state ones. For example, in Colorado Springs (El Paso County), CO, you can only purchase medical marijuana while recreational cannabis is legal in the state of Colorado.4

Legal Purchase Limits

Each state sets its own limits on the amount of marijuana that can be purchased, and this also depends on whether you buy medical or recreational cannabis. Every marijuana dispensary has point-of-sale software to track purchase limits, ensuring shoppers comply with both state and local laws.5

Who Can Buy Marijuana?

In states where cannabis is legal, adults aged 21 and over can purchase recreational marijuana. The age requirement for medical cannabis may be lower, but the patient needs a medical marijuana card issued by their healthcare provider. To enter a medical cannabis dispensary, patients need to be 18 or older, while younger patients will need a parent, legal guardian, or caregiver to buy the medical marijuana on their behalf. Some states also limit cannabis purchases to local residents.6

What Do I Need to Bring to the Dispensary?

When visiting a marijuana dispensary, you must bring a valid government-issued ID, such as your ID card, state-issued driver’s license, or passport, to prove your age. If you’re buying medical cannabis, you’ll need to bring your valid, state-issued medical marijuana card and ID to show your residency.7 It’s also a good idea to bring cash, as some dispensaries only accept cash or debit cards. 

Sign in front of a dispensary that reads 'Cannabis Shop' below a marijuana leafSign in front of a dispensary that reads 'Cannabis Shop' below a marijuana leaf

Can I Pay With a Credit Card?

Because of federal banking regulations, many cannabis dispensaries operate on a cash-only basis. Some may accept debit cards, have an ATM on-site or nearby, or accept cannabis-specific credit cards like those issued by SuperNet, but it’s best to check with the dispensary beforehand.

How Much Does Cannabis Cost?

The cost of buying cannabis can vary significantly and depends on several factors including the strain, the dispensary, concentration, type of product, and your location. Twenty U.S. states levy excise tax on recreational marijuana purchases.9 We recommend talking to your budtender about the prices at your local dispensary and asking them any questions you have about your state’s specific cannabis tax.

Frequently Asked Questions

Buying marijuana products comes with many questions like “how to get cannabis” and “where can I buy cannabis?” Here are some of the most commonly asked questions to help you out: 

How old do you have to be to buy marijuana?
You must be 21 or older to buy recreational marijuana in the United States where it’s legal, while most states allow patients who are 18 and older to purchase medical cannabis.

How old do you have to be to buy edibles?
The same age requirement of being 21 or older applies to buying edibles as these products fall under recreational marijuana.6 Additionally, medical patients may also be able to purchase edibles, depending on state laws and physician recommendations.

What ID do I need to show to buy marijuana?
When you buy recreational marijuana, you must show a valid, government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license. But if you buy medical marijuana, you will also need to show your valid medical marijuana card in addition to your ID.

Can I buy marijuana online?
You can order cannabis online in some states, but you’ll need to pick up the products in person at the dispensary. It’s best to check your local laws or talk to the budtender when buying marijuana.

Do I need a medical marijuana card to visit a dispensary?
If your state allows the purchase of recreational cannabis, you don’t need a medical marijuana card to purchase recreational marijuana products. You will need a medical marijuana card if you are a medical cannabis patient under the age of 21 and/or need to buy more cannabis than the legal recreational use limit.

What forms of payment are accepted?
Many dispensaries accept cash, while some accept debit cards. Because of federal banking restrictions, credit cards aren’t allowed.

Buying Marijuana for Beginners

Buying cannabis doesn’t have to be daunting, especially if you know your state and local laws. Talk to a budtender at the dispensary if you have any questions or would like some guidance, as they can help you navigate the legal cannabis landscape and have a positive buying experience.


1. “Leafly’s guide to marijuana legalization,” Leafly, May 9, 2024, https://www.leafly.com/learn/legalization

2. “Adult-use,” Leafly, https://www.leafly.com/learn/cannabis-glossary/adult-use

3. “State Medical Cannabis Laws,” National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), June 22, 2023, https://www.ncsl.org/health/state-medical-cannabis-laws#anchor8842

4. “Country Regulatory Status - Retail and Medical Marijuana,” CCI, November 10, 2020, https://ccionline.org/download/general_govt/marijuana/County-Marijuana-Map-2020.pdf

5. “Quick Hit: Dispensary Purchase Limits Explained,” Flowhub, June 17, 2021, https://flowhub.com/learn/dispensary-purchase-limits

6. “Can you enter a dispensary at 18?” Leafwell, https://leafwell.com/blog/can-you-enter-a-dispensary-at-18 

7. “Forms of ID Accepted at Dispensaries: State-by-State Guide,” PotGuide, December 29, 2021, https://potguide.com/blog/article/forms-of-id-accepted-at-dispensaries/

8. “Can You Use a Credit Card at a Dispensary?” Nerdwallet, April 25, 2024, https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/credit-cards/buy-marijuana-credit-card

9. “How do state and local cannabis (marijuana) taxes work?” Tax Policy Center, https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/how-do-state-and-local-cannabis-marijuana-taxes-work 


Recreational cannabis is not available in all states. Cannabis is for medical use only and may only be used by certified patients in Ohio and 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.