Anyone shopping at a dispensary should follow these insider tips

cannabis dispensary tips for shoppers

Cannabis retail is growing across the nation. It’s an exciting time for the cannabis industry, no doubt. Yet it can be confusing for those who are canna-curious. With new dispensaries popping up in states where cannabis recently became legal, consumers are struggling to determine which dispensaries are better than others, which products are right for them, and what questions they should ask to get the best-fit product. 

That’s why I’ve put together a list of the top 11 tips dispensary shoppers should know prior to visiting a dispensary. Let’s get started!

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When choosing a dispensary, you should first…

1. Check out the dispensary’s website

A website is typically a digital reflection of a brick-and-mortar business. And the same goes for cannabis dispensaries. Odds are, if the website operates and functions well, has a wide variety of products in a cohesive manner, and offers educational content, the dispensary itself is solid. Overall, use the dispensary’s website as a gut-check before heading over there and checking it out in person.

2. Make sure the dispensary is reputable 

All legal dispensaries will have their license posted on the wall with their license number. The owners and employees should also be transparent at all times. If you want to see the CoA (Certificate of Analysis) for any particular product, the dispensary team should be able to provide you with that information. If, instead, they make excuses for not having their license posted or are avoiding showing you the CoAs… run. It’s time to find another and better dispensary. 

vape box dispensary tips
An employee applies testing labels to a cannabis package. Photo: Boston Globe / Getty

Another tip, check out your state’s Cannabis Control Commission (or similar)’s website to verify whether the dispensary you’re visiting is on the compliant license list. Moral of the story: make sure you’ve done your homework and you’re shopping at a fully licensed, compliant location.

3. Read customer reviews 

If you really want to know whether a dispensary is worth your while, check out their Google reviews and the like. Granted, when there are hundreds of reviews, there are likely to be some negative ones. What to look for when you come across a negative review is whether the dispensary operator responded and, if so, were they respectful? Did they try to make up for their shortcomings, if any? Ultimately, you want to check in on these reviews to determine whether the dispensary team has a good approach to customer service.

When visiting a dispensary for the first time…

4. Consult a budtender

When visiting the dispensary, be prepared to ask any questions you have. If you feel rushed or find the staff unhelpful during this process, it might be best to avoid that dispensary in the future. 

You may be wondering, what questions should I ask to get the right product for me? I’d like to flip this and say it’s on the budtender or associate to ensure they ask you the right questions to help provide you with a product that’s perfect for you. 

For example, staff should be asking you, “What are you hoping to achieve through cannabis today?” If a dispensary doesn’t provide this kind of personalized interaction, it’s worth considering other options. Effective communication is key, and dispensary staff should be proactive in understanding and addressing customer needs rather than just upselling products.

cannabis dispensary tips
A budtender showcases cannabis products. Photo: whitebalance.oatt / Getty

5. Look for product quality and safety tells

If you’re buying from a licensed dispensary, you can be confident in the product’s quality and safety. But one thing I recommend is to pay attention to the age of the products. For example, beverages can lose their potency over time as THC content dissipates. 

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It’s a good idea to look for products with fresh harvest or packaging dates. This trend toward greater transparency about product manufacturing and distribution dates is becoming more common on dispensary menus, helping you make informed choices.

6. Walk out if the customer service is poor

The goal of any dispensary should be to create a welcoming and enjoyable experience. Customers should always be greeted with a smile and a warm welcome. The environment should be clean, inviting, and equipped with easy access to menu information.

Staff should also be available to answer questions and actively listen to your needs and preferences. If you don’t have a high-quality customer experience at a dispensary, walk out. You want to make sure the dispensary you’re getting your cannabis from cares about you and your well-being.

When deciding which cannabis products are best for you… 

7. Be open-minded 

It’s important to be open-minded and exploratory with brands. Personally, I’ve often chosen a product based on its appearance and packaging, in addition to its contents. But I’ve also found that products with simple packaging could be even better. So, be curious, ask questions, and stay open-minded when exploring different brands. 

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8. Speak with the budtender about your desired cannabis experience

Cannabis retailers have a responsibility to clearly communicate the effects and intensities of their products. When curating a menu, it’s important to include information about what customers can expect from each product. 

This information should be readily available from reliable sources and should be shared both online and through team members at a dispensary. For instance, it’s crucial to inform customers if a strain is particularly strong or if an RSO might cause significant drowsiness. By providing detailed information about effects, intensities, and recommended dosages, dispensaries can help customers make informed decisions.

9. Don’t get stuck on THC content

Consumers often focus solely on THC content, but it’s important to consider the terpene profile and freshness, too, especially with flower and pre-rolls. Being open to different product offerings is key; don’t limit yourself to one category.

When consuming cannabis products… 

10. If it’s your first time, take it “Low and Slow”

Low and slow is key when using cannabis, especially on an empty stomach. Since everyone’s different, it’s best to start with a small dose and gradually increase it to avoid overconsumption. Overdoing it can not only ruin the experience but also deter future use. Low-dose edibles, small chillums for smoking, and vape pens with dosage controls are all options that help prevent overconsumption and ensure a positive experience.

cannabis dispensary tips various products
A selection of cannabis consumption methods, including a joint, vape pen, and chillum. Photo: Jamie Grill / Getty

11. Be in your favorite place with nothing to do

For new consumers, it’s important to start in a comfortable, serene setting with no responsibilities. Avoid trying cannabis when you only have a short window of free time. Instead, choose a day like a Sunday afternoon when you have nothing else planned. This way, if you accidentally overdo it, you won’t have any obligations to worry about. Put yourself in your happy place and focus solely on enjoying the experience.

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Final thoughts

Shopping at a cannabis dispensary should feel personalized and tailored to your needs. If your dispensary experiences have been anything short of that, it’s time to find a different dispensary. So keep this list in mind when vetting new shops and, ultimately, have an enjoyable time in and out of the dispensary. 

*This perspective piece was submitted by a guest contributor. The author is solely responsible for the contents.

Brendan McKee Brendan McKee is the Co-Founder, CFO & COO of Silver Therapeutics, New England’s premier cannabis curator and multi-state operator. As an avid consumer and advocate of cannabis for over 20 years, Brendan entered the legal cannabis market in 2017 with a vertical medical license and transitioned to adult use sales in 2019. He opened and operated one of the first adult use dispensaries in Massachusetts and has since opened Silver Therapeutics dispensary locations across Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont.