Shopping at a Dispensary: What to Expect

Are you ready for your first visit to a cannabis dispensary but aren’t sure what you do when you’re there? You’re not alone. Cannabis dispensaries are totally different from any other type of retail store, and so is the shopping process. We want you to feel confident and comfortable, so let’s go over everything you can expect— from when you first pull up until you are ready to leave.

Dispensaries look different.

When you arrive at the dispensary for the first time, you’ll walk up to a storefront that may look different than other types of retail locations. It won’t have large windows with merchandise displays to attract customers, and it won’t have big signs advertising sales. Why? Many states don’t allow marijuana dispensaries to put up window displays and outside advertising at all. And as a result, a unique “cannabis aesthetic” has begun to take shape for dispensaries – often sleek, modern, and minimal.

Be ready to check-in with your ID.

When you walk through the front door of a medical or recreational marijuana dispensary, you will first enter the waiting room where you check-in, which is separate from the area where you shop. If you aren’t greeted right at the door, you’ll walk up to the front desk where a friendly person will greet you and get you checked in. At this point, you will want to have a valid, current ID and or medical marijuana card ready (if you’re at a medical marijuana dispensary) to hand to the desk staff. And make sure to keep it handy because you may be asked to show it again when you’re shopping.

You may have a short wait.

Once you are checked in, you will either be directed to go back to the shopping area, a.k.a. budroom, or you will be asked to take a seat and wait to be called back. This might seem a little strange, but it’s for a good reason. Cannabis shopping isn’t a help-your-self type of experience. Marijuana dispensaries are set up so that each customer gets individual attention as they shop. So sometimes you’ll have to wait until there is a staff member ready to help you. Dispensary waiting rooms often have sophisticated modern designs, comfortable seating, and drinking water. It’s also a great time to check out the online dispensary menu if they have it available. You’ll notice security cameras set up throughout the store, and don’t be surprised to see a security guard walking around to protect against any would-be thieves.

Products are kept secure.

When it’s your turn to go to the budroom you’ll enter a room with shelving and counter display cases featuring an array of products. Cannabis flower will often be stored in glass containers behind the counters, and you may see an extensive menu. There may even be refrigerated display cases for edibles and beverages. Most cannabis dispensaries also sell a variety of smoking accessories, like papers, pipes, and bongs, to go along with your goodies.

Budtenders are your personal shopping assistant.

At this point, you will be greeted by a staff member called a “budtender.” Their job is to answer frequently asked cannabis questions and help you find products that are right for you. Budtenders have heard it all, so don’t hesitate to ask anything! It’s their job to help you make the best choice, and they’re happy to share their expertise and product knowledge.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your desired effect.

If you want to come prepared, you can do a little research before your visit and check the online cannabis menus to get an idea of what you want. But if you don’t know, that’s ok! You can tell a budtender the effects you’re looking for, your experience level, and your goals. They’ll be excited to help you find products that are right for you. It might feel strange to talk about the type of high you are seeking, but the more you tell the budtender, the better they’ll be able to help you.

Enjoy the one-on-one attention.

While it will be tempting just to browse around, touching and smelling the products — that’s a no-no at the dispensary. Your budtender will be the one who handles the products for you, takes them off the shelves and display cases, and brings them to the counter for the transaction. It’s a level of customer service you won’t find in other retail establishments, so enjoy it!

Photos may not be allowed.

Because budtenders are there to give you one-on-one attention, it’s good etiquette to keep your phone in your bag or pocket during the shopping experience. Most cannabis businesses have “no photo” policies, so you won’t be able to Instagram your shopping trip anyway. Plus, your budtender is much better able to help you if you’re not texting and chatting.

Tips are appreciated.

Unlike most salespeople, budtenders usually don’t work on commission, so they won’t be pressuring you to buy products that you don’t want or need. Budtenders are friendly and helpful, and are basically working their dream jobs, guiding you through your cannabis journey! They work hard to give you individual attention, so feel free to give them a tip for their excellent service.

Pay with cash or a debit card.

When it’s time to make your purchase, your budtender will lead you over to a register. Your budtender will give you the total with taxes, which is around 25% for recreational cannabis in Colorado. Many dispensaries accept debit cards, but some may be cash-only. You’ll want to have cash on hand if that’s the case. The good news is most dispensaries have an ATM on site. All of our LivWell dispensaries have ATM machines and offer cashless ATM transactions using a debit card with a PIN number.

Plan on one hour.

Once you’ve got your products in hand, you will be thanked for your purchase and directed to walk back into the waiting room where you will exit. The whole process from waiting to working with a budtender takes time, so expect to spend up to an hour at the dispensary. Even though you’ll be excited to try your first cannabis purchase in your car, there are laws about public consumption. Wait until you get home to enjoy your goodies!

You can order ahead to save time.

We hope you enjoy your first visit to a dispensary, but remember that it’s normal to feel nervous and overwhelmed. Having an idea of what you are looking for can make the experience more comfortable, but don’t be afraid to ask the budtenders questions. They are happy to help and want to develop a lasting relationship with you. If you do already know what you want, you can always order online and pick up in the store to reduce the wait time.

After one or two visits to the dispensary, you’ll feel very comfortable with the whole process. Soon you’ll learn how fun it can be shopping for your favorite cannabis products, and look forward to going back regularly.

We hope you feel proud of yourself for taking this first step and are so glad you’ve joined the cannabis community!

Please consume responsibly. This product may cause impairment and may be habit forming. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product.  State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and medical marijuana patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations.

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