If you are new to medical marijuana then you will have the opportunity to experience going to a dispensary for the first time. For many first timers, it can be a scary experience and full of uncertainty of what to expect. What products should I purchase? Is this really legal? I don’t know what questions to ask, will there be someone there who can help me?
Recently I took my mom to a medical marijuana dispensary for the first time. She suffers from fibromyalgia and has numerous pains from a previous knee injury. Due to a poor tolerance to traditional pain medications, I feel that medical marijuana may be a good option to treat her symptoms. However, she has been too nervous to go to a dispensary on her own. The stigma of purchasing a marijuana product is overwhelming to her.
If you are hesitant like my mom, here are some tips to help make your first experience the best possible. Everyone’s experience will be different and is extremely personal. Whether you are shopping for flower, edibles or topicals these tips will help you find the right products during your first visit to a medical marijuana dispensary.
Do your research
Researching your next purchase is an everyday part of life. About 80% of consumers research purchases online before making their final decision. If you were deciding on going to a massage therapist you would look up reviews or ask for recommendations from people you know. Visiting a dispensary should be the same process. If you have multiple marijuana dispensaries that you can choose from you should absolutely do your homework. Look up reviews online and call to ask if they have a trained medical marijuana consultant on staff. In Washington state, where I live, a dispensary that has state licensed medical marijuana consultants will be knowledgeable about how THC, CBD and terpenes work together and will be able to help anyone who is new to medical marijuana and marijuana products. You can also check out their website which can be found on directory pages like PotGuide and ask for recommendations from others in your community. A good dispensary will happily inform you about the training their consultants complete before helping customers.
Also, do your research on the products that each dispensary carries. Many dispensaries have their menu available on their website with descriptions of the THC, CBD and terpenes content of each item. That will give you an idea of what items will be available before you arrive. You can take your time to read through the menu, and not feel rushed, when trying to decide on the best products for you.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Budtenders are there to help you. If they have had proper training in all types of cannabinoids, terpenes and delivery systems they will be a wealth of knowledge. They want you to have a good experience in their store and with the products they sell. The only way for that to happen is for you to get all your questions answered. However, they can’t read your mind! Ask about how the ratio of THC to CBD will change how a product works? What side effects should you be aware of? Ask about different ways to medicate? What’s their favorite brands and why? What have other patients said about the product you are interested in?
This is especially important with topicals. Unlike when you purchase a regular balm, or lotion, there will not be a tester available for you to try. Ask questions about what it smells like and how it feels. Read the ingredients in case you have allergies to any of the ingredients used to make the topical if you have sensitive skin.
Your budtender is not a doctor
Even though you should ask lots of questions, remember that your budtender is not a physician. By law they cannot give you medical advice about which medical marijuana product will treat your symptoms. They will be able to give you anecdotal recommendations and what items have worked well for other patients for similar symptoms. If you go into your first visit expecting someone to tell you which is the right item for your ailment you will be disappointed.
My Mom’s first dispensary visit
I wish I could tell you that my mom’s first visit was a positive one and she went home with the right item for her pain. We were recently visiting Humboldt County California together and she finally got the courage to go to a dispensary with me. Perfect I thought! California has always been at the forefront of marijuana. They were the first state to pass medical marijuana regulations in 1996, not to mention the history of growing in the Emerald Triangle for over 40 years. Even though the state has a long history with medical marijuana, and black market sales, legal recreational sales only began January 1, 2018. Being from Seattle, where we have had recreational dispensaries since 2014, it was a great opportunity to see how newly licensed recreational dispensaries in another state operate.
She was hesitant about trying flower or vaping, so we went shopping for a topical. Knowing that I could answer some of her questions she felt more comfortable than going by herself. However, the budtender who helped us couldn’t answer many basic questions about the differences between the brands they carried and the ratios of THC to CBD in the topicals. It was obvious this was a direct result of the fact that California does not require training or certifications for budtenders. The budtender who helped us was very nice but had very little knowledge of cannabinoids and terpenes. Mom, already being unsure of what to purchase, decided to wait to talk with a dispensary closer to home that would hopefully answer her questions better. I had hoped she would find something for her pain but I understood she needed to have confidence in her purchase just as much as the relief. It’s still a federally illegal substance and will carry that stigma until that is changed.
After our visit, I feel that even though California may have started the legalization movement, they are being left behind by states like Alaska, Colorado and Washington who all require various forms of training and licensing for employees in the marijuana industry. Those who are a novice medical marijuana users, like my mom, need the help of trained professionals to guide them through the intimidating process of making a purchase for the first time. Now that states are winning the battle to have medical marijuana available to patients, they need to focus on consistent education for everyone working with customers. Right now many states are relying on employees, and dispensary management, to educate themselves. As consumers we can help show the value of education by doing our homework and choosing to shop at businesses that value training on all the medicinal properties of marijuana.
Nikki is the COO and co-founder of Medical Marijuana 411. She has taken on the monumental task of working with medical and cannabis experts to bring accredited CME courses to medical professionals around the world. She is also an avid runner and has a passion for health, fitness and personal wellness. Nikki holds a MBA from Portland State University and a Bachelor of Science in from Humboldt State University.