Everything You Need to Know Before Your First Dispensary Visit

Posted August 16, 2021 By Kandice Hawes

If you’ve never been to a dispensary, it can be an intimidating experience.

With walls filled with everything from flower to topicals to cannabis-infused beverages and strange terms you may have never heard of, you might find yourself feeling a little overwhelmed—and you’re not alone.
That’s where I come in. After years of firsthand experience working in the cannabis industry, I’ll cover everything you need to know before your first dispensary visit so you can shop with confidence.

Tips Before Your First Dispensary Visit

Remember: Budtenders are here to help.
It’s okay if you don’t know everything there is to know about cannabis. Budtenders are highly educated and trained to help guide you to products that fit your exact goals and needs. They are more than happy to answer any questions you might have so don’t feel hesitant to head into a dispensary at any time. If you’re looking to prepare a little bit before you head into a store, here are some suggestions on where to start.

The internet is your friend.
If you want to be more comfortable with some of the basics, spend some time educating yourself on the various properties of the cannabis plant and the endocannabinoid system (ECS). There’s so much more to cannabis than just THC, so it’s helpful to get a handle on the basics.

Consider your goals.
Cannabis is great for an array of uses, but not every strain or product will fit your individual needs. Do you need help sleeping or want to find relief from chronic pain? Maybe you want to feel more comfortable in social situations or make a creative masterpiece. Whatever you are trying to achieve, write it down so that you can find the right product for you.

Educate yourself on the different methods of consumption.
Gone are the days of just joints and pot brownies. Now we have vapes, beverages, gummies and so much more to choose from, each with its own onset, duration, use, and precautions. Needless to say, it’s a lot to take in. To get you started on the right path, consumption is usually broken down into four categories:

  • Inhalation: This covers anytime you are inhaling smoke or vapor, like when you use glass pipes or vaporizers. The effects are almost instantaneous and can last for up to a few hours.
  • Oral: This type of consumption refers to edibles or anything that has to pass through your digestive tract before entering the bloodstream. Due to the fact that these products must be digested, it can take anywhere from 60-90 minutes for the effects to start kicking in. They also last much longer than inhalation so it’s essential to know your limits to prevent an overwhelming high.
  • Sublingual: Usually seen in CBD and THC tinctures, this method of consumption describes a product that is designed to go underneath your tongue. The blood vessels in your mouth are close to the surface, so effects can be felt in as little as 20 minutes with varying duration lengths.
  • Topical: Used to refer to products like balms and body oils, these kinds of products are used on the surface of your skin to achieve targeted results. Have an achy knee? Rub on a CBD-infused balm to potentially find the relief you need in a matter of minutes.

Understand the difference between THC and CBD.
Although there are over a hundred known cannabinoids, these two are perhaps the most well-known. THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is what provides the psychoactive, or “high”, feelings that weed is traditionally known for. On the other hand, CBD, or cannabidiol, is not psychoactive, making it a great option for beginners or for anyone looking for a strictly therapeutic experience. It is also important to note that certain wellness-focused effects are better felt with a higher ratio of CBD o


Finding the Right Dispensary

Find your local, licensed dispensary.
Licensed being the keyword here, as these retailers have to stick to strict regulations that are designed to keep you safe—what could be more important than that? Check out our store finder that only includes licensed shops.

Medical vs Recreational shops.
Some cities only allow medical dispensaries. That means you will need to have a medical recommendation to enter and purchase products. If you don’t have a medical rec and don’t want to get one, just look for dispensaries that have a “recreational” license. Most shops clearly state if they are “med” and/or “rec” but if you have questions, reach out to the dispensary ahead of time.


What to expect when you’re in a dispensary

When you make your initial visit—take your time.
Now that you’re here, take all the time you need to look at the variety of products, their labels, and ask a lot of questions—budtenders are always happy to help! And don’t feel pressured to make a cannabis purchase on your first visit, if nothing catches your eye. A dispensary is a judgment-free zone. To make you feel more comfortable, you may even want to bring friends or family that use cannabis to join you on your visit.

Be prepared to bring cash or a debit card.
Federal regulations still make banking cannabis very challenging as well as finding merchant processing partners.


After Your First Visit

When you get home, start low and go slow!
If you’re new to cannabis, start with a low dose and work your way up until you know exactly how it will affect your body and mind. Most new consumers start with 1-2.5 mg of THC. If you haven’t smoked it in a while, keep in mind that modern techniques and genetics have enabled cultivators to grow more potent strains of cannabis. In other words, this isn’t your grandparents’ dope.

Keep a journal to track your cannabis journey.
Record the products consumed, amount, onset, duration, or if there was a pleasant or an unpleasant effect. This is especially recommended for people that are ingesting cannabis for medical reasons like sleep, pain, or anxiety.


Final Thoughts

When all is said and done, remember to have fun. I hope this information helps guide you in the right direction for your first dispensary visit and that you find exactly what you are looking for. Happy shopping! Also, for fun, you can check out our 420 event recap!

Kandice Hawes

Kandice is an award-winning activist and cannabis educator. She leads the most active NORML chapter in California and serves as Community Outreach Manager for Glass House Group.