How to Decide What to Buy at a Dispensary

Bethan Jenkins

August 29th, 2017


Ever wondered what to expect when you walk inside a marijuana dispensary? Buying pot legally is becoming the norm for many Americans and so, you will likely come across one or more dispensaries when strolling through a cannabis-friendly neighborhood. In fact, the marijuana industry is predicted to create over a quarter of a million jobs by the year 2020, many of which will involve selling potent plant products inside approved dispensaries.

Just like liquor stores, dispensaries typically sell products in brown bags. However, the time you spend browsing bottles of alcohol will actually be quite different to your experience inside a store that sells joints, CBD oil and dabbing tools, among many other cannabis-based products. Knowing what to anticipate ahead of your green journey will ensure you stock up on the right supplies.

Dispensary or Pharmacy?

Don’t let yourself become confused between dispensaries and pharmacies. Medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries are popping up across the United States, making it easier than ever before for cannabis consumers to get their pot fix.

A life-changing thing for patients who previously lacked access to herbal remedies, a marijuana dispensary is a store that sells a broad selection of products, including:

  • Flowers and buds
  • Concentrated cannabis, e.g. Kief, oils, hash, shatter, live resin and crumble.
  • Edibles, e.g. Cookies, jams and cannabutter.
  • Salves
  • Tonics
  • Items designed for the convenient consumption of cannabis, e.g. Hookahs, bongs, vape pens and dab rigs.

Although dispensaries are known to dispense prescribed medicines to patients, they are dissimilar to pharmacies in the sense that a duty pharmacist will not be present inside a dispensary. Pharmacist-only controlled medicines will not be sold inside a dispensary, which will not necessarily be attached to a hospital quite like a pharmacy will. You can track down local dispensaries using Leafly’s Finder.

Using a Medical Cannabis Card

A question that boggles the minds of most cannabis connoisseurs is whether or not they need to present their medical marijuana card to the budtender at a dispensary, should they reside in a state where cannabis has been legalized. To put it simply, yes. Rather than letting this put you off the idea of visiting medical and recreational pot shops, keep in mind that you can acquire a medical marijuana card on the Internet in as little as 15 minutes. While there is a one-off fee (the price varies depending on your state), once you have a med card, you will gain instant access to marijuana dispensaries/deliveries.

The Cost of Cannabis

Most cannabis dispensaries will not accept card payments. If this is the case, you can avoid being turned away by bringing an adequate amount of cash with you. Every buyer is limited to buying and possessing a certain amount of cannabis, so try not to get too carried away. If you prove yourself to be a loyal customer, consider becoming a member of your local dispensary. By doing so, you could be entitled to discounts as part of their rewards or loyalty programs.

Questioning the Budtender

Generally, patients are served individually inside marijuana dispensaries. Use your time wisely to discover what’s featured on the dispensary menu while you wait to be served. Similar to a restaurant menu, the cannabis products will be listed one-by-one on a dispensary menu. If you feel confused by what you see on the menu, don’t be afraid to ask the budtender for advice.

Take note of the main categories of marijuana below to ensure you select the right strain:

  • Sativa – Perhaps the most popular strain of them all, Sativa plants are ideal for creating oils and tinctures.
  • Indica – Medical marijuana patients favor Indica buds for pain relief and inducing a good night’s sleep.
  • Hybrid – Hybrids can be used as an anti-depressant, muscle relaxant and appetite stimulant.

Perusing high-quality strains, edibles and concentrates can be quite overwhelming for someone who has never stepped foot inside a marijuana dispensary before. With so many aromas to inhale and product labels to read, it wouldn’t hurt to ask a few questions regarding the side effects and characteristics of each strain.


Security measures will be put into place at all cannabis stores, so don’t be alarmed if you notice that the buying and selling of marijuana is being recorded – this is required by state law. Bring a form of identification with you to prove that you are aged 21 or older, as this is essential for anybody who wants to legally purchase Sativa, Indica or Hybrid strains.

Reduce the chances of causing a queue when you visit a marijuana dispensary by researching the best cannabis strains for pain, personal symptoms or whatever condition(s) you may be dealing with ahead of your visit. The Leafly Strain Explorer will come in handy for this.

To learn more about new cannabis medical devices and other news, sign-up for our free newsletter using the form to the right.

Bethan Jenkins

About Bethan Jenkins

Bethan is a full-time wanderluster, traveler, and digital nomad with 7 years of experience in the freelance writing world. She has mastered the art of beating jet lag and using hammocks as an office for content curation.

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