What a beginner should know before visiting an LA dispensary.

California’s recreational cannabis retailers have been operating for nearly five years, but there are plenty of weed enthusiasts out there who have yet to darken the door of a brick-and-mortar SoCal dispensary. Why is that? Some are out-of-state visitors. Others live in the vast swaths of California known as “weed deserts,” where, despite being legal by the state, pot shops are still banned at the county or city level.

Still others, including a co-worker who contacted me a few months ago, live within walking distance of a legal dispensary but prefer to have someone else deliver their pot products to them. “I’d like to walk in there and buy something with confidence,” said my colleague (who I won’t identify because he’s not out of the cannabis closet, and the potential for stigma at work is still alive and well). it’s a little intimidating.”

My co-worker went on to say that he imagined it would be the same kind of experience as walking into a snob record store or a high-end musical instrument store where the knowledge gap between customer and clerk is more like an abyss and there is a palpable risk of embarrassment from wrong questions. Those comments stayed with me. Intimidation is not something I have felt in a dispensary for a long time. After all, my first dispensary experience was almost seven years ago (in Seattle, where recreational pot sales have been legal since July 2014, I bought a single-use vape pen from a strain called Headband) and my job as a journalist it’s for asking questions, even those that might telegraph an embarrassing lack of basic knowledge.

So I began to look at the whole experience with new eyes. What should a beginner expect once they decide to take the plunge? (To begin with, to be overwhelmed by the breadth of options.) What’s important to know before are you going (Just a few key things: no weed masterclass required.) And what about the uniformed guard out front? (It is mandatory). Those questions, and a whole bunch more, are answered in more depth below.

What should I do? before am i going

The good thing is that you don’t need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of cannabis before visiting a dispensary for the first time because that’s what the professionals behind the counter are for. What they can’t know but only you can know what you want from your visit and how you want to get there. Are you looking for pain relief, a full psychoactive, out-of-body experience, or a bit of both? Do you want to consume your cannabis by smoking it, vaping it, eating it, drinking it, or rubbing it on a sore part of your body? Is there a product you’ve tried before that you really liked but couldn’t find again?

“[The] no 1 thing is to know what kind of high [you’re] looking,” said Cal Laveaux, manager of the Woods, a new dispensary in West Hollywood. “You want something you can smoke and hang out on the beach and feel a nice vibe? Or do you want something to put you to sleep?

Nikki Horton, budtender at Wyllow, a 350-square-foot microdispensary in the Mid-City neighborhood, echoed the importance of doing a preflight, calling it “setting intentions.” “What are you looking for from your experience and your consumption?” she said

A dispensary interior flooded with neon lights and mirrored walls.

At only 350 square meters, the Wyllow micro-dispensary is a good choice for beginners worried about being overwhelmed.


If the dispensary you’re heading to has an online menu (almost all do), spend some time browsing through it to familiarize yourself with the offerings. This is helpful, especially if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. Even deciding on basic things like how you want to consume (whole flower vs. pre-rolled joint vs. concentrate vs. edible) and how much you want to spend (remember that city and state taxes will increase the listed price by more than a third). ), which are among the sorting options on most online menus, will help keep you from feeling completely overwhelmed once you walk through the dispensary door. (All these years later, that kid-in-a-candy-store feeling from my Seattle experience is still clear.)

In addition to thinking about what you want ahead of time, it is important to think about what you no want, as in couch-lock, paranoia or munchies. This is information that will help your budtender help you. Laveaux and Horton suggest sharing any known allergies, as terpenes from other plants also exist in cannabis.

What do I need to bring to the dispensary?

The most important thing you need to bring with you, the first time and every time, is a valid government-issued photo ID (eg driver’s license, military ID card, or passport) that verifies you’re 21 years old or more That minimum age is lowered to 18 for those with a valid medical marijuana recommendation from a California physician. Dispensaries are going to be picky at this point.

The second most important thing to have on hand is cash. This is because dispensaries cannot legally accept credit cards (due to the illegal status of cannabis at the federal level). It’s true that most dispensaries have an on-site ATM or a portable debit card reader, although using either carries a fee, typically around $3. Having cash ready is a smart hedge against an unexpected offline ATM.

Should I be worried about the security guard in front?

If you think a uniformed security guard standing outside a legal pot shop means you should be concerned about the safety of the establishment or the neighborhood, you’re wrong. You should be concerned if there is it is not a security guard out front or inside because Cannabis Control Department regulations require security personnel to be on site during business hours. “It’s for our protection as well as their protection,” Laveaux said of Woods. “Because cannabis companies are operating with a lot of money and a lot of product.”

Why does the dispensary track my purchase?

After showing your ID upon arrival, you will probably be asked again when you complete your purchase. That’s when the budtender will do what seems like an inordinate amount of tapping, tapping, tapping a computer. That’s because, thanks to the state’s tracking of seed-to-sale cannabis, dispensaries are required to account for everything they sell and who they sell it to for potential audit purposes. It is also to ensure that the store does not sell to any customer more than is allowed by California law. For recreational users, this is 28.5 grams (one ounce) of unconcentrated cannabis, 8 grams of concentrate and six immature cannabis plants per day.

Wyllow’s Horton noted that there is an added advantage for the dispensary and the customer to keep track of their purchases. Help fine-tune your buzz even more on your next visit.

Can I taste, touch or smell before I buy?

No, no and yes, in that order. State regulations prohibit on-site consumption of cannabis (unless the dispensary also has a dispensary license) so you won’t be able to sample or even handle the unpackaged product. But knowing that selling cannabis is all about the appeal, most dispensaries have samples on display. They’re usually in clear plastic bottles or boxes with a magnifying glass built into the top (connoisseurs like to marvel at the tiny THC-containing crystals called trichomes that appear in the buds) and air holes so they can sense the volatile compounds. called terpenes) that influence the taste and effect of the herb.

A wooden cannabis dispensary counter with indoor plants on shelves behind.

The interior of Woods Dispensary in West Hollywood.

(Diana Dalsasso)

Am I being judged in silence?

All jokes of paranoia aside, given the vast disparity in weed wisdom between the seasoned customer and the first-time shopper, it’s easy to feel insecure as you find your footing in a dispensary. This can be especially the case if you have a lot of questions. But I’ll let you in on two little secrets. First, when it comes to budtenders and their bosses, the more questions the better. This is because they have a vested interest in making you a satisfied repeat customer. And that means gauging your comfort level and experience and answering any questions you have. No one wants you to go home with a relaxer at the end of the day, but you end up pulling up the curtains.

Second, for the most part, those weed pullers behind the counter i want to talk about weed. When I shared the snobbish analogy of my colleague’s record store clerk, Laveaux said, “We never want anyone to feel that way. The fact of the matter is that anyone in this industry is passionate about teaching other people. Personally, I’ve studied this plant for 14 years and I don’t expect you to have that level of knowledge.In other words, ask your questions until the cows come home.

What if I ask a stupid question?

“There are no stupid questions,” said Horton of Wyllow. For example, asking, “What is the highest THC content?” not a false step if that’s what you want. (Just like walking into a liquor store and asking for the highest proof isn’t a bad thing. But either way, it’s probably not going to be exactly what you had in mind.) Neither is asking a budtender to explain things. such as cannabinoids, terpenes or the entourage effect. (Hint: That last one has nothing to do with what they smoked on an HBO show.)

What should I ask then?

While there are no stupid questions to ask, there are definitely smarter ones that will help you dial in your desired buzz or expand your horizons without failing or burning out. Among them are:

  • What products/dosing do you recommend for my experience level?
  • What is it for [insert your desired effect here: socializing/sleeping/focusing/pain management]?
  • What do you recommend if I’m worried about being paranoid?
  • What’s new/new/exciting right now?
  • What social equity, BIPOC and/or LGBTQ brands and products do you have?
  • What have you grown outdoors/indoors?
  • What clean weed products (ie solvent free concentrates or comparable to organic flowers) do you have?
  • Do you have anything similar to any other products I’ve tried and liked?
  • What are you really excited about right now?

Do I owe my friend a tip?

Was your friend helpful? Did they listen to you, answer your questions, and calm any fears you may have had when you first arrived? So, as usual, you should show your appreciation by dropping a few extra bucks into the tip jar.

Can I travel with cannabis?

If you are in a car and the cannabis is in a sealed container, you will not be in violation of the California Vehicle Code. (As a reminder, you should never operate a motor vehicle or anything more complicated than a television remote control while under the influence of cannabis.) Due to its status as a federal Schedule I drug, driving with it into another state, even one where weed is legal — it’s not legal.

Also, if you’ve arrived at Los Angeles International Airport and plan to check out, consider buying only what you plan to consume while in Southern California. This is because the Transportation Security Administration (the people who screen your luggage at the airport) are under federal jurisdiction.

Burning questions?

Are you a relatively new cannabis consumer with a burning question about the wide, wide world of weed: Do you visit the dispensary or not?

Then email me at adam.tschorn@latimes.com. If I can’t answer, I’ll find someone who can.

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