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Wednesday March 15, 2017

Updated on 3/10/2022

By Samuel J. Smith

Photo of the inside of a bag of cannabis at a recreational marijuana dispensary 420 Culture

Marijuana dispensaries are a wonderful thing. And for anyone who has lived in a prohibition state, visiting one for the first time can be an excitingly surreal experience. While it may seem like a dream, marijuana businesses are becoming more of a reality than ever before. With over half of the United States allowing some form of legalized marijuana, many people have grown accustomed to the convenience of shopping at dispensaries. But for those who have never been before, here’s what you need to know:

You Will Need Identification

The moment you enter a dispensary, you will be asked to show some form of identification. Security within a dispensary is no joke in that screening customers is taken very seriously. That means there’s no leniency when it comes to forgotten IDs. The rules are simple, if you don’t have an ID, you won’t be allowed in.

Colorado dispensaries allow valid U.S. state-issued driver's licenses, U.S. passports and military identification as acceptable forms of identification. Recreational cannabis dispensaries in Colorado do not allow anyone under the age of 21 to enter the building. For those traveling from another country outside the U.S., your valid passport will work as an acceptable form of identification. Additionally, be sure to keep your identification at the ready throughout the process as some dispensaries will ask you to show it once more at the point of sale.

If you are traveling from out of state, are over the age of 21 and have a vertical driver’s license from your home state, it would be within your best interest to call the dispensary before you visit.

In Colorado, vertical driver’s licenses are made specifically to indicate that the individual is under 21. Due to this law, some dispensaries will not accept any vertical identification from outside states, even if you’re over the age of 21 and the ID is 100% valid. Only a select few dispensaries choose to enforce these rules just to make sure no one under the age of 21 is getting into the building.

If you do have a vertical ID, simply call the dispensary ahead of time and ask if it will be accepted at their store. If it is not a problem, the associate will tell you that as long as the ID has not expired and you’re over the age of 21 it will be accepted. It is very common that the associate will have no idea what you’re talking about, however, it’s always good to be prepared.

You May Have to Wait

Usually after walking into a dispensary and providing valid identification, you will be asked to sit down and wait until the next available budtender can assist you. This waiting can occur in a lobby or a waiting room consisting of things you would find in every other waiting room such as a television, (cannabis) magazines, (cannabis) art work and even faux (cannabis) plants and flowers to give the room an official waiting room vibe. While each waiting room is different, the activity is always the same – waiting for weed.

Not all dispensaries have waiting rooms though. Some dispensaries check your ID, then allow you to browse about the store until the next budtender is available.

While less common than those with waiting rooms, dispensaries that are set up this way allow the customer to look around at their own pace and provide a more typical retail experience.

Sometimes the waiting room and assigned personal budtender style dispensary can make the customer feel like they are being forced to rush. This is especially true when you know there is a long line of customers in the waiting room behind you. If you feel rushed or flustered, don’t hesitate to ask for some extra time to think before making your decision. It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed during your first few visits and you are absolutely welcome to ask for additional think-it-over time. After all, choosing the right marijuana product is a big decision.

You Will Have to Interact with a Budtender

As a patron at a cannabis dispensary, you will be interacting with a budtender during your experience. Bottom line, this person is there to answer any and every question you have and help you find exactly what you’re looking for. That being said, unfortunately not all budtenders are cannabis experts.

The good news, however, is that dispensaries must provide strain name, ingredients, warnings, contaminant testing, potency, batch number and license number for all cannabis products within the dispensary. This means that if your budtender is a dudtender, you’ll still have enough information to make an informed decision. Additionally, with the power of the internet, most cannabis questions can be answered through your favorite search engine. Be aware though that a large majority of cannabis dispensaries do not allow cell phone usage within the store, so please respect the rules of each dispensary and act appropriately.

When browsing products, if you would like to take a closer look at the cannabis flower or concentrate, ask the budtender. They will be happy to give you a closer look and even let you have a smell. Every budtender is different but for the most part, you will encounter someone very nice and pleasant. You may even make a new friend!

Budtenders are always there to assist you
Budtenders are always there to assist you during your dispensary visit.

The Selection Might be Overwhelming

In most dispensaries, you can expect to find multiple strains of high-quality cannabis flower, a wide variety of concentrates and edibles, as well as many other exciting items to try. The sights and smells are sure to impress and you may find yourself wanting to purchase more than you can handle.

When selecting products to purchase, be aware that there is a limitation on how much you may buy at once, as well as how much you may possess at one time. So reign it in at the point of sale and purchase a reasonable amount.

You'll find lot of purchasing options
You'll find lot of purchasing options at most dispensaries

Many Dispensaries Offer Loyalty or Rewards Programs

Just like your favorite grocery or department store, many dispensaries offer incentives for loyal customers. Some dispensaries have apps that you can download directly to your phone while others have text message alerts for deals and steals of the week. Some dispensaries might ask you to become a member which can be as easy as giving the budtender your email and phone number. Members are then given special deals from time to time.

Many, if not all dispensaries have a deal for every day of the week so again, it doesn’t hurt to call ahead to ask questions before you visit. Savings are in everyone’s interest, so be sure to always browse deals before you buy. Plus, if you save money on weed, you’ll have extra money for weed in the future!

Payment Methods May Vary

Due to federal law and restrictions against banking for cannabis, dispensaries are mostly forced to only accept cash payment. Some dispensaries have found loopholes around this however, allowing customers to pay with a debit or credit card for an additional fee. Again, it’s best to call ahead and see what your dispensary is currently accepting.

Some dispensaries in Colorado force you to carry your purchases out of the building in a special exit bag as a legal safety net. This little bag is usually a few extra dollars at purchase, however as a returning customer you are allowed to bring the compliance bag back with you during your next visit.

Buying Cannabis Legally is Fun

Besides the occasional time spent in the waiting room, you as the customer are going to have a pleasant experience your first time at a dispensary. It is so exciting that first time entering the building, getting hit in the face with a pungent and fresh cannabis scent, knowing you are about to legally purchase cannabis!

It is an absolutely thrilling experience, and the budtenders are always happy to help you so remember to ask questions. Another good thing to remember is to relax. As a society, we are in the middle of an enormous shift in how we view cannabis.

Many people find themselves extremely nervous their first time buying cannabis legally because for their entire lives, they have been taught that cannabis is bad, illegal, evil, etc. This is perfectly normal and will go away after your first few visits. If you are new to town, it often is a great idea to ask your budtender if they know of any cannabis events happening in town. They usually can provide you with a couple things to go and see.

At the end of the day, buying cannabis from a dispensary is an easy process. You might find yourself walking in and out of the building as fast as if you were rolling into a gas station for a bag of chips. Other times, you might have to wait in a line. Either way, you’re pretty much guaranteed a positive experience. You’re buying weed after all, right?

How did YOUR first dispensary visit go? Was it a good experience?


Samuel J. Smith Samuel J. Smith

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Samuel J. Smith is a modest Green Bay Packers fan who enjoys creative writing, cooking and inventing useful products. As an unaffected youth of the war on drugs and 1990s DARE program, Samuel seeks to spread his passion of cannabis to other like-minded individuals.

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