Top 10 Tips for Finding a Good Marijuana Dispensary

For those who are new to cannabis, or returning to cannabis after a long absence, the prospect of visiting a marijuana dispensary seems to be an intimidating proposition.

We say this because we consistently get a LOT of questions about how to find a good dispensary.

What constitutes a “good” dispensary or – a legal store that sells cannabis and cannabis products – is somewhat subject subjective and is dependent on the needs of the individual shopper.

We could give you our recommendations of some of our favorite dispensaries, but these will only do you good if you live in nearby proximity to one of them.  So, we thought it a far better idea to suggest things to consider when choosing a marijuana dispensary at which to spend your cannabis budget.

When Considering a Marijuana Dispensary – Avoid Judging a Book By Its Cover

In the course of running this website, we get to visit a fair number of marijuana dispensaries.   One of the best pieces of advice we can give to those checking out new dispensaries is to not necessarily judge a book by its cover.

One acquaintance of ours, in his late 50s, was bemoaning the fact that the first dispensary he visited was staffed by a tattooed, pierced, 20-something. He rolled his eyes questioning how much she could possibly know about medical marijuana.  

Now we're not saying that every stereotypical budtender babe is a marijuana expert.  Far from it. But the fact is, many of them are.

Wait for more evidence than age and appearance before passing judgment.

As an example, a member of our staff recently visited, as a “secret shopper,” two dispensaries in Torrance, California. The budtender at the first shop appeared respectable by conventional standards. She looked like she would have been equally at home working in a law office.  

However, her conservative appearance did not buffer the fact that she had no interest whatsoever in spending time talking to our staffer or answering her questions.

In fact, the few times she did offer an opinion, she demonstrated her profound lack of knowledge on the subject. This budtender had a cursory knowledge of the shop's products at best, and little to no real knowledge about cannabis in general.

The second dispensary, just down the street, was (wo)manned by a dreadlocked, tattooed young lady with multiple piercings.  She is the exact type our friend had automatically and foolishly written off.

Anyone writing off this young lady based on her style and appearance would have been making a huge mistake! She was an outstanding “cannabis sommelier,” and extremely knowledgeable about marijuana in general.  

She was also well versed in the specific products stocked in the marijuana dispensary where she worked. She asked intelligent questions to determine what our staffer was looking for and what she needed.

She then made excellent suggestions based upon the answers and our staffer left with exactly what she  needed.

This kind of staff helps make a good marijuana dispensary great!

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Weed* 

*But were afraid to ask
A Crash Course in Cannabis

10 Points to Consider When Evaluating Cannabis Dispensaries

 These points will help you find a good cannabis dispensary. Some points will have more importance to some people than others. Weigh each one against what is important to you as a cannabis consumer.

  1. Keep an Open Mind
    This point goes hand in hand with not judging a book by its cover. Because of the marijuana’s quasi-legal status – it is still federally illegal even in legal states – and because of decades of reefer madness to overcome -- marijuana dispensaries are often relegated to less than ideal areas of town. When you see many dispensaries in close proximity to one another, it is usually because that is the only area they are allowed to exist. It is pathetic that legislators see fit to classify marijuana dispensaries, even medical marijuana dispensaries, in the same category as strip clubs and adult DVD stores.  But sadly this is often the case. Until more laws change, shopping in a less than desirable part of town is a reality for many cannabis consumers and patients.
  2. Safety
    That said, you should feel safe when visiting a cannabis dispensary. You should feel confident about walking into the shop and returning to your car. Good dispensaries always have security on duty. In fact studies have shown that the security presence at marijuana dispensaries have been known to positively impact the overall security of their surrounding neighborhoods.
  3. Service
    If you know exactly what you need/want, then perhaps service does not matter. But most people have questions and most are not up with the latest strains and new edible or topical products. As in the example in the beginning of this post, a well-trained staff can make all the difference between a positive or negative dispensary experience.
  4. Quality
    What is the quality of the dispensary's products? Is the marijuana fresh?  Did it deliver the effect or potency you were expecting or what the budtender described?  Are the products lab tested and well labeled?  Is that testing accurate?  If it is a legal licensed dispensary, quality lab testing will be mandatory.
  5. Price
    Marijuana is expensive. Part of this is because of all the taxes and fees state and local  governments add to the price. That said, some dispensaries offer better deals than others and it pays to shop around. Marijuana is no different than any other commodity, you need to balance price versus quality and find the balance that makes sense for your needs. (Our free Stoner Hacks e-book has some good marijuana money saving strategies. )
  6. Specials and Senior Discounts
    Some dispensaries offer various sales and discounts and promotions.  These can result in substantial savings.  Likewise if you like a given dispensary, be sure to get on their email or text list so you will be able to take advantage of these.  Many dispensaries also offer  senior discounts or senior discount days.  Others host customer appreciation days.  Bud & Bloom in Orange Country, CA even has a free monthly bus trip that brings seniors from Laguna Woods retirement community to the dispensary.  Not only can seniors shop with discounts, the dispensary hosts a free  educational seminar each month as well.  
  7. Selection
    There are some people who like to smoke the same strain, or eat the same edibles every time. If that’s you, selection won’t matter much as long as your marijuana dispensary stocks what you like. But most people like to switch it up and try new things. A good dispensary will have a wide selection of buds, concentrates, edibles, and topicals in varying price points and potencies.
  8. Location
    Sure there are cannabis dispensaries going well out of your way to visit.  But overall you will be happier with one that’s conveniently located to your home or work. Sometimes you have a choice, sometimes zoning laws force you to shop in only one area of town.
  9. Does the Dispensary Offer Other Member Benefits? 
    The best dispensaries often offer other services such as classes and sometimes other holistic health services such as massage, chiropractics, acupuncture, etc.
  10. Does the Dispensary Give Back?
    The best dispensaries are about more than just making money. The best dispensaries give back to the community, either the cannabis community, the local community where the shop is located, and in the best instances both! Magnolia Wellness in Oakland, CA is an excellent example of a dispensary that gives back. Not only do they pour money into local Oakland causes and charities, they support marijuana prisoners by organizing their members to send cards and letters to prisoners each month, collecting support letters for marijuana prisoners’ clemency efforts, and more.

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Senior Stoner Staff Writer

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