How to choose a dispensary: 5 questions to ask yourself before making the trip


If you’re new to cannabis, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. The legalization of medicinal and/or recreational cannabis is brand new in many states. Plus, the world of cannabis is vast. In 2021 alone, the cannabis market was worth over $10 billion in revenue, and there are a lot of industry changes to keep up with every year.

Before you head to a local dispensary, it’s important to feel confident and informed. Just choosing a dispensary at random means you may miss out deals available at another dispensary, and you might end up with less-than-high-quality products.

That’s why we came up with several factors to consider when deciding what dispensary to buy from. Ask yourself the following questions before choosing a dispensary. If the answer is “yes” to all five, you should be able to expect a good experience.

Good luck!

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1. Is this dispensary licensed?

Cannabis is still illegal at a federal level, but most states have legalized cannabis consumption for either adult-use or medicinal purposes.

There are some critical differences between the states where medical marijuana is legal and those where recreational use is legal.

If you’re in a state where recreational cannabis use is legal, you won’t need a medical marijuana license to consume. However, you must be at least 21 years old to partake or purchase products at a dispensary. The only loophole around this is if you’re 18 to 21 years old and have a medical cannabis license. Sometimes, minors under 18 years old can get approval for a medical card from the state, but these cases are rare.

States that only allow the use of medical cannabis will typically allow anyone over 18 to get a license. Minors under 18 with certain qualifying conditions can still participate in cannabis consumption with approval from their parent(s)/guardian(s).

On top of all this, certain localities do not allow cannabis dispensaries to operate in their area. And in many states, cannabis dispensaries cannot open within a certain distance of schools and other public spaces.

Basic as it seems, it’s important to think about whether the dispensary you’re eyeing down is legal under state and local laws. You must make sure the dispensary you’re interested in is licensed by the state before purchasing anything with from them, and become familiar the laws around cannabis near you to prevent yourself from accidentally purchasing illegal products.

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2. Does this dispensary offer competitive prices?

You’re likely curious about the affordability of the products at your potential cannabis dispensary. Since cannabis is not a federally regulated product at this time, the cost of cannabis varies by region⁠—a lot.

The pricing of cannabis varies based on how competitive the market is, so it’s essential to be prepared with some knowledge of your chosen dispensary’s competition. If there are a lot of dispensaries in the area, odds are prices will be more competitive. If it’s the only dispensary within 100 miles, you might see some price gauging.

The cost of cannabis products also depends on the availability of cannabis growers compared to the need of users. Consider the differences in medical cannabis pricing. In states where it’s pricey, like Illinois or Virginia, cannabis growers struggle to keep up with market demand. In Oregon, though, dispensaries have so much competition that their prices are almost dirt cheap.

To make matters more complicated, high prices sometimes signal higher quality.

No matter what state you live in, you’ll be able to find high-end and, therefore, more expensive dispensaries. These locations will feel more glamorous, and they’ll also (ideally) provide the best product.

On the other hand, you can always search for budget-friendly dispensaries. These might prioritize affordability over quality sometimes, but you should still be able to find what you need if you know what you’re looking for. The important thing is to understand your budget and prepare accordingly.

Overall, it’s important to be informed on the average cost of the product you’re looking for, and weigh the prices at your local dispensaries against that number. This can require some research, but it will be worth it in the end.

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3. Is this dispensary selling quality products?

Alongside the increase in countrywide favor for cannabis is the overall rise in the quality of the product. As cannabis becomes more mainstream, a wider variety of reliable, well-researched products have become available.

Even if you’re looking for cost-effective options in your area, you only want to spend money on products you can trust. Many legal cannabis products are trustworthy, but some products, even those sold at licensed dispensaries, contain metals and other surprise ingredients that can harm you. This is because cannabis is not federally regulated, so some cannabis products are being sold without undergoing the appropriate health and safety screenings.

The main thing to look for when checking out cannabis products is freshness. Look elsewhere if you spot mold, or if the cannabis has an unpleasant odor.

Healthy, fresh cannabis buds typically have vivid coloring. They may also have trichomes, which are tiny white appendages attached to the bud. They make the flower look like it has been lightly frosted, which typically indicates good quality and a higher THC potency (a nice bonus).

Next, look at customer reviews and any news reports on the brands sold at your local dispensary. Make sure they are not selling products that have a history of harming consumers. If the dispensary seems to be selling well-researched products with positive customer reviews, you should be able to trust the quality of their inventory.

4. How transparent is this dispensary about product ingredients?

Another critical factor to consider before purchasing from a dispensary is the availability of detailed ingredients. Cannabis products all vary slightly in the levels of CBD and THC they contain. Different combinations of these cannabinoids will cause different effects when consumed.

It will take time to get to know what your preferred levels are of these cannabinoids. Some consumers like to experience a euphoric, giddy sensation while others are just looking to feel relaxed and get some help sleeping at night.

Note whether or not the cannabis products for sale are labeled with information beyond what strain they are. You should be able to see a full ingredients list for every product sold, along with the CBD/THC ratio of each product. Some products will even mention terpenes included.

If a dispensary consistently sells products that are not transparent about their ingredients, they’re not worth your investment.

5. Are the budtenders helpful and knowledgeable?

To find out the answer to this one, you’ll have to visit the dispensary. But if you’ve answered “yes” to the last four questions, it will probably be a worthwhile trip.

The last thing to note when choosing a dispensary is the level of customer service you receive. Be willing to question the budtenders as much as you want before buying. A good budtender will be both knowledgeable and friendly.

Before making a purchase, take your time to get comfortable with the staff, the product you’re considering, and the dispensary itself. You’ll probably be here quite a lot, so it’s important that you enjoy the buying process.


If you’ve done your research and are ready choose a dispensary—congratulations! You’ve made an informed purchasing decision. Knowing what to look for in a dispensary is essential to finding high-quality cannabis products that are trustworthy and provide the desired effects.

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