So, now that we’ve shown you how to find cannabis products in your area, you’ve hopefully pulled together a list of dispensaries and delivery services you want to try. Depending on where you live, you might have a lot of options—or very few—to choose from. Whatever the case may be, your next step is to decide which dispensaries to visit.
Selecting a favorite cannabis shop is a very personal matter, and there’s no “best dispensary” that fits everyone. It’s all about finding a place that matches your needs and desires. In this article, part of a series geared towards folks new to cannabis, we’ll walk you through some factors to consider on the hunt for your ideal dispensary.
Medical vs. Recreational Dispensaries
In some states, there’s a clear distinction between medical and recreational dispensaries. To use a medical dispensary, you’ve got to have a recommendation. The potential benefits of going the medical route is that you may find products more tailored to the health and wellness-focused patient—or even higher-quality products—in medical dispensaries. In some areas, medical patients are also able to obtain a larger amount of cannabis than recreational users can.
If you live in a state that doesn’t distinguish between these two types of shops, you may still notice that some dispensaries have a more recreational feel in terms of the marketing and product types they carry, while others are clearly designed to appeal to folks interested in improving their health and well-being, with a focus on the medical benefits of cannabis. These dispensaries often have more medicinally marketed product and more information about the potency of the different cannabinoids in their products.
Finding a Helpful, Experienced Budtender
A knowledgeable budtender, or cannabis consultant, can make a big difference to any cannabis shopping experience. This is especially true for newcomers who often need more advice about how a particular product works and what’s best for their needs. A helpful and knowledgeable staff member is a huge plus to any dispensary or delivery service. If you’re new to cannabis, it’s definitely worth your while to try to find a dispensary that employs experienced, friendly budtenders.
RELATED: FINDING A GOOD BUDTENDER
A Dispensary’s Culture & Atmosphere
Cannabis dispensaries can vary quite a bit. One thing to consider when choosing a dispensary is what kind of culture and atmosphere makes you feel most at home. There are tiny mom-and-pop stores where the owners introduce themselves and answer your questions. Then you’ve got your high-end cannabis boutiques that feel like a luxury jewelry store or swanky speakeasy. Some dispensaries are decorated with graffiti, rap and hip-hop music playing as you browse for products. And others ooze a new-age vibe, offering alternative healing workshops and all-organic products. Think about what type of environment makes you feel most comfortable.
Variety of Marijuana Options
Another factor to consider is the variety of marijuana options available. Some dispensaries have small menus with carefully selected items. Others have huge menus with tons of variety. When picking a dispensary, consider what kind of a selection it has and whether the menu has items you’re interested in.
You may not need a lot of variety if the shop has exactly what you’re looking for; and you may not want a lot of variety if you’re already feeling overwhelmed with what’s available. On the other hand, if you’re having a hard time finding products that work well for you, you might want to look for a shop with a lot of options to increase your likelihood of finding something that helps your particular condition or issue.
Consistency of Cannabis Options
You may also want to consider the consistency of the menu items at a given dispensary. My favorite dispensary has an incredibly large menu, but what’s more important for me is the consistency in the selections on offer every time I visit. When I find a strain that works well for me, I know I can go back and get more of it later.
On the other hand, some folks prefer a menu that’s constantly changing to bring in new flavors and options. If you prefer to continually sample new options, a dispensary that has a regularly shifting menu is actually a better choice for you.
Cannabis Testing Policies
It’s also important to review the testing policies at your dispensary. Some states—though not all—require that products are tested for mold, pesticides and heavy metals before being sold to the public. In California, for example, mandatory testing wasn’t put into place, leaving dispensaries to decide for themselves what they wanted to test. While this is about to change with California’s new regulatory structure, it’s still the case that many dispensaries offer cannabis directly to the public without having their products tested. Look for dispensaries that have test results for their products available for patients to see.
Marijuana Dispensary Prices & Deals
Price is always a big factor to consider, as dispensaries can cover a range of pricing and available deals. Many look for dispensaries with low prices, regular discounts or price breaks for buying larger quantities. It’s great to find an amazing deal on high-quality products, but as with most consumables, price and quality can travel together.
If you want cannabis produced with high safety standards, tested for contaminants or sold in a high-end environment by knowledgeable budtenders, you’ll probably find yourself paying more to cover those costs. You always have to balance cost with your other preferences, but if you can find a high-quality dispensary with lower-than-usual prices, it’s the place to shop.
Extra Membership Benefits at Dispensaries
Some dispensaries offer additional benefits to membership. I’ve been to cannabis shops that provide a variety of free services to their patients including:
- sound healing
- support groups
- wellness consultations
Not all dispensaries have these free benefits, but they’re great perks when you find them.
Finding Your Best Dispensary Options
When choosing a dispensary or delivery service to frequent, you’ll want to mull over a number of different factors. Everyone’s different, so this is more about finding what works for you than finding the best dispensary around. I should also mention that some folks prefer buying cannabis online, and there are a number of places where you can do that, including on HelloMD.
By focusing on these main variables, and matching them against your preferences, you should be able hone in on the best option for your needs.
Stay tuned for the next installment of our Cannabis for Newbies series, where we’ll go over ways to make sure you’re selecting safe cannabis. Need a medical marijuana recommendation? Consult with one HelloMD’s knowledgeable doctors; it's 100% online, private and easy.