You are more than welcome to roll up to any storefront with a giant marijuana leaf in the window and indiscriminately purchase the local legal limit of good green kush — it’s a free country, after all. However, if you are concerned about your health, about your community, about the environment or about your bank account, you might want to do some research before you pull out your wallet.
While we can’t provide all the information on every dispensary in these United States, we can give you some guidance on what research matters. Here are a few questions to ask budtenders (or Google) before you take another trip to top up your tree.
Where Is It?
This is a pretty fundamental question that is nonetheless important to ascertain. Even if you can order products online from your local pot shop and have them delivered to your doorstep, it is a good idea to know where a dispensary is, in case you are outside their delivery zone or you need to return or review product. It might also be useful to know that you are supporting a shop within your neighborhood, which can benefit your community directly.
When Is It Open?
While it is likely that some states will impose limitations on when dispensaries can operate, for now, most regulations leave hours of operation up to individual shops. Thus, you need to know when your store will be open and available to serve you. Currently, most dispensaries operate on a regular daily schedule, somewhere between the hours of 8 AM and 8 PM, but you might be able to find a 24-hour dispensary near you.
Who Owns It?
Not long ago, almost all dispensaries were owned by local small business owners passionate about pot. Today, however, marijuana has shown itself to be an extremely lucrative industry, and a number of cannabis corporations have grown big and strong. For example, a company called Curaleaf holds more than 131 retail licenses across 19 states. Typically, supporting such vast and faceless companies is less gratifying because it does little to bolster your local community. Plus, larger ganja corporations are more likely to be owned and managed by wealthy people who are hardly enthusiastic about the good green herb, meaning their product selections could be lower quality. Unless you desperately need the savings opportunities from a big box pot shop, you should try to shop local.
Is It Recreationally or Medically Licensed?
Believe it or not, there are a few unlicensed marijuana stores popping up around the country. It should go without saying that you don’t want to buy weed from a black-market dispensary, as it could put you at risk of major fines and even jail time.
However, you also want to be aware of what kind of license your chosen dispensary holds. Medical marijuana stores can only sell their goods to those with medical marijuana cards, obtained through a semi-rigorous diagnosis and application process. Often, medical dispensaries operate not unlike pharmacies, treating patrons one at a time and providing personalized product suggestions. Meanwhile, recreational licenses allow stores to sell goods to anyone over 21. Sometimes, stores hold dual licenses, but they will treat different kinds of patrons differently. Knowing how a store is licensed ensures you get the service you need in your shopping experience.
How Are Budtenders Hired and Trained?
Budtenders make or break the dispensary experience. Friendly, patient, knowledgeable and enthusiastic budtenders will guide you toward products you will enjoy and benefit from; apathetic, rude or untrained budtenders will cause you to feel confused at best and angry at worst. You might inquire about the hiring process for new budtenders to understand what the shop values in its employees. If the onboarding process includes continued education about available product and empathetic customer service, you can trust that your service will be high-quality.
How Does the Shop Source Products?
Some dispensaries are run by growers and manufacturers, meaning their product comes from one specific source. Most often, these shops are branded identically to the products they sell and the farms they source from, so you can get a good sense of the company’s values and intentions.
Other dispensaries operate like boutique clothing stores — they source from all manner of growers and manufacturers to provide a broader selection of products. When this is the case, you should have a conversation about their sourcing practices, asking about how they determine which products to stock. If the shop’s answers highlight quality or purity of product, you should feel good purchasing from them.
Are the Shop’s Prices Competitive?
Finally, there is no reason to give any store more money than a product is worth. You might shop around at a few different dispensaries to get an idea of the price points for different types of products, such as trimmed bud, gummies, pre-rolls and the like. You are likely to find that some stores have prices way above the norm, indicating that either they have much higher-quality products than others or (more likely) they are peddling a more luxurious brand or shopping experience than others. Alternatively, you might find a shop with drastically lower prices, likely for directly opposite reasons. Usually, you can get the best value from products priced somewhere in the middle. It is your job to be a responsible consumer, even when the product is cannabis. By doing some research on pot shops in your area, you can keep yourself and your community thriving.