My First Time Shopping at a Cannabis Dispensary

I’m the gal who only smoked “pot” once in a while in the 80s and 90s when a girlfriend had some. My dugout contained “herb” given to me by someone else. I never bought black market “weed.”

Today, I call “pot” Cannabis, and I buy my own product a few times a month, as needed, in a number of different forms: flower (bud or dried herb, concentrates (CO2 extracted), and the occasional joint or edible.

Mustering up the courage to walk into a cannabis shop for the very first time (in the legal state where I live, mind you) and asking for product of any kind took a lot of time. I was a little freaked out about the whole thing.

My First Dispensary

I chose a family-owned cannabis retail establishment as my first cannabis shopping experience. The shop, owned by a mother, daughter and son, immediately felt welcoming the moment I walked in with a comfortable lobby with seating and a greeter/ID-checker who smiled and said hello.

The retail space itself was a single large room with a warm, pleasant feel to the decor. Displays were uncluttered and easy to view products in large glass cases. A few accessories, such as pretty stash bags, were arranged on shelves.

Both male and female budtenders helped customers from behind the counter. I gravitated toward a female one and explained that I had menopause-induced insomnia and was looking for something to help me sleep. She pointed out some dried cannabis flower in small plastic pouches and showed me product with higher THC levels.

I wasn’t well-versed enough to ask any questions – such as the cannabinoid or terpene profile and the ratio of THC to CBD or what strain she was showing me.

At the time, I didn’t know I could ask for the test results of each product to see for myself. Licensed cannabis retailers in some legal states are required to get their products tested. They should provide those test results to you, the consumer, if you ask. Some shops even use their testing results as marketing materials for what they sell.

While my first transaction purchasing legal cannabis was fairly uneventful,  my heart was pounding the entire time. I don’t know what I was more nervous about:

  • someone I know seeing me
  • a police raid
  • making a fool of myself, or
  • all of the above.

I left the store elated that I had overcome my fears and purchased cannabis to help with my insomnia for the very first time.

My Second Time

Feeling confident after my first time shopping for legal cannabis, I decided to venture to another retailer for my next purchase. The shop was also beautifully appointed with a comfortable sitting area that looked like a living room out of a home decor magazine and modern glass displays with select products. My first thought was “This place is perfect for Instagram.”

There were two guys and a gal behind the counter. When it was my turn in line, one of the guys asked if he could help me.

“I’d like to get something for my insomnia. I’m in menopause and just need something to help me sleep,” I explained.

He thought for a moment and looked me over. I’m clearly a “mature” woman with silver hair and more than a few lines on my face. He nodded then led me to a display.

“This one will get you really f–ked up,” he told me.

I was mortified. And ticked off. I wanted to ask to speak to the manager, but I didn’t want to make a scene and draw attention to myself. So I quickly made the purchase and left. Yes, I was also afraid to leave empty-handed so I just bought what he recommended even though I wasn’t sure it would be helpful to me. All of my hangups and insecurities seemed to surface all at once while shopping there.

Needless to say, I haven’t been back to shop there.

Their First Time

I thought I’d see what other women’s “first time” was like. Here’s what they had to say.

Marcy’s First Time (in her own words)

I can only describe the dispensary I first visited in San Francisco as “Why am I in a Western Union. It is somehow scaring my mom…”

I went in hopes of CBD-heavy stuff for my mom and myself as I was low on my typical supply. I went to buy an 18:1 vaporizor cartridge and 20:1 capsules.

The whole plexiglass Western Union thing was intimidating, and I did not like it. I had to bend down to “speaking holes” in the plexiglass in order to speak to the very newbie employee. He didn’t know their inventory that was displayed on a huge LED TV we watched while waiting in line.

I think the open retail concept works better for me. And more knowledgable budtenders!

Paige’s First Time (in her own words)

My first trip to a dispensary was in Denver, Colorado in July 2016. Hard to believe it was only two years ago!

I’ll be generous and say it was a little rough around the edges. We went up a dingy elevator into a dingy anteroom where a guard stood waiting to keep out the riffraff. After checking our IDs and verifying that we were seeking recreational cannabis, the front-desk guy buzzed us into a small room crowded with buyers.

I had NO idea what I was looking for; all I knew was that I didn’t want to buy flower – and at the time, I didn’t even know to call it flower. I settled on a container of watermelon-flavored gummies and shortbread cookies. I didn’t know the strain or even whether they were indica or sativa. They all tasted like skunky, indiscriminate weed and gave me a weird, paranoid high.

Anyway, I didn’t feel like I’d been guided to any particular good result by the budtenders in that dispensary, if you could even call them that.

I didn’t know the questions to ask, honestly, and now that I’m more educated, I think I could have been a better customer.

We just need more educational resources available to us and budtenders who are just as welcoming to the newbie rec user as they are to experienced medical folks, or just regular stoners, who know exactly what they’re looking for.

Your First Time

If you’re going to a dispensary for the first time, here are some of our recommendations:

  1. Do your homework. Check out the archives in our Learning resources on our website to get some basic terminology and definitions.
  2. Ask a lot of questions. You deserve to have your questions answered patiently and authoritatively. If the person behind the counter isn’t helpful, ask to speak with someone who will be more supportive.
  3. Ask for the testing reports. You should shop at a place that will provide testing breakdowns and take the time to explain them to you.
  4. Buy a small amount first. Don’t let anyone convince you to buy something you don’t need or don’t know if you need. Walk out of the shop with one thing to try to see if it works well for you.
  5. Get instructions. Nothing seems to come with instructions when it comes to cannabis so ask – and write down – step by step instructions on how to properly consume.
  6. Start low and go slow. Every body is different so your body may be sensitive or simply react differently to cannabis than someone else’s. Don’t go overboard.
  7. Have a “high-dampener” on hand. Chewing on peppercorn or biting into a lemon can help you naturally reduce the feeling of being too high. Or have a product like Undoo on hand to “undo” your high quickly.
  8. Keep a journal. Make a note of each strain you try or product and dosage and how you felt before and after consumption. Bring the journal with you on your next visit to any dispensary to make sure you ask for – and receive – exactly what you like.

Finally, see if there is an Ellementa Gathering in a city near you. Women gather together each month to speak openly about cannabis for health and wellness. You can ask any question and there are experts – and experienced consumers – on hand with helpful information.

Remember: Only a doctor can dispense medical advice. What you read on this website or hear at our Gatherings is NOT medical advice and NOT meant specifically for you – just food for thought as  you explore cannabis for health and wellness.