For people who are making the choice to try marijuana for the first time, making your debut at your local dispensary can be unnerving, uncomfortable and just plain confusing. Marketwatch.com understands the pain people go through so they compiled a list of the 10 things you can expect to see when you visit a dispensary.
MarketWatch reporter Charles Passy visited the Terrapin Care Station, a recreational (as opposed to medical) dispensary in Aurora, Colorado and here are the 10 things he learned from his visit:
1) There’s a lot of security involved–Sure, you might occasionally get carded at a nightclub. But at a Colorado dispensary, you’ll definitely be asked to show photo ID, even if you’re old enough to be an AARP member (I should know — I am an AARP member). And don’t be surprised if the person checking your ID is an armed guard: Dispensaries are often run as cash businesses — many banks are hesitant to take their money since pot is not federally approved — so they usually put extra security measures in place. Oh, and if you don’t like being on camera, perhaps forego the visit altogether: State law requires that dispensaries record who’s doing all the buying and selling.
2) A dispensary is not a head shop–I figured a dispensary might resemble one of those hippy-dippy head shops from long ago — except with the key distinction that the shop could sell actual marijuana alongside the marijuana paraphernalia. But in fact, the dispensaries can be quite professional, even sleek, in their design. I’d describe Terrapin’s atmosphere as high-end pharmacy-meets-high-end cigar shop. Moreover, the dispensary wasn’t located in some sketchy part of town; instead, it was part of a strip mall on a busy suburban stretch. Heck, I even had supper at a Golden Corral across the street right after my visit. (And, no, I didn’t have a case of the munchies. I was just due for dinner.)
3) You’ll need to time your visit (or plan on traveling)–Sure, Colorado state law allows recreational dispensaries to stay open as late as midnight. But cities often take a harder line — Denver, for example, requires they close at 7 p.m. Which means if you have a nighttime craving for marijuana in the Mile High City, you’ll be traveling outside it. That’s why I ended up visiting a dispensary in Aurora — about 15 miles outside downtown Denver.
4) Be prepared to peruse the menu–You might think the selection process at a dispensary would be as simple as picking your weed in joint or loose form. But it’s more complicated than that. A lot more complicated. At Terrapin, I was presented a menu — and I mean a physical menu like you’d find at a restaurant — listing more than 20 types of marijuana available in loose form (with names ranging from “Permafrost” to “Oaktown Crippler”), along with more than 50 types of edible products (cookies, candies, you name it). And that’s on top of yet other products, including concentrates in wax or “shatter” form(shatter is the “purest and most potent” form, according to High Times). Frankly, it can be very confusing for the uninitiated – or those who simply know pot in its classic, pre-rolled joint form. But for old-school types, dispensaries fortunately sell joints, too.
5) Then again, you can always seek advice from the ‘budtender’–You read that right — a budtender. Like a bartender who serves buds (as in pot). And the professionals behind the counter at places like Terrapin are clearly trained to answer questions. Or more important, they’re trained to ask questions of customers to help in guiding the selection process. Key among them: Do you want a “head” high or a “body” high? Different types of marijuana — the major categories are sativa (head high), indica (body high) and hybrid (just as its name implies) and they’re listed as such on the Terrapin menu — will affect you in different ways. Apparently, being a budtender requires so much in knowledge, skills and savvy that cannabis-centric schools teach classes in how to become one. And good budtenders are clearly valued: At Terrapin, I met the “Budtender of the Month” — one David C., who “enjoys long walks on the beach” and “making art and jewelry” when he’s not behind the counter, according to the store’s menu.
7) Like liquor stores, dispensaries have their own version of brown bags–When you make your dispensary purchase, you may feel as if you’re buying a prescription drug rather than pot. That’s because dispensaries are required to put all pot in childproof packaging. But unlike those clear pill bottles at the pharmacist, the marijuana container must not be see-through. My pill bottle (er, pot bottle) was as white as the Colorado snow.
9) And there’s no taking your pot out-of-state–If you’re an out-of-towner, forget about bringing home any souvenirs. Dispensaries will be the first to tell you that’s strictly forbidden and could result in a trip to jail.
10 But you can always buy a T-shirt–Yes, dispensaries sell more than pot. And more than pot paraphernalia. At Terrapin, they carry T-shirts with the store’s name and logo. And at $15 a pop, they’re cheaper than the pot.