Dispensary 101: How to Buy Weed

It’s finally happened — you’ve decided to buy weed from a dispensary. Congratulations! As with anything, there are certain things you should know to have the best experience when buying bud. In this article, we’ll discuss everything from dispensary etiquette to how to choose the right products for you. So, whether you’re a first-time buyer or simply looking for some advice, read on for more tips and tricks on how to buy weed from a dispensary to get the most out of your experience.

What Should I Bring To The Dispensary?

A great attitude, patience, and kindness are a good place to start. But really, you should bring them everywhere. Aside from being a good human, there are a few mission-critical items that you will absolutely need:

A Valid State ID Or Passport

To purchase cannabis from a dispensary, you must present a valid identification form. This is non-negotiable and one of the most essential things on this list, so be sure to bring your driver’s license, state ID or passport with you when you go.

Your Original Recommendation

If you’re a medical patient, you must bring your original, stamped recommendation to purchase as a patient (medical patients get a tax break and higher purchase limits). 

Cash Is King

Many dispensaries do not accept credit or debit cards. Cannabis is still federally illegal, so card transactions are not permitted. While some dispensaries have workarounds, they’re expensive. Many dispensaries also have ATMs, but there’s typically a hefty transaction fee. So, if you’re even a little budget conscious, bring enough cash for what you plan to buy, and don’t forget to calculate the tax.

Prepare for Your Visit

It’s a good idea to show up with some idea of what you want. Budtenders are there to help, but tips are a big part of their income, and time is money, especially if there’s a long line. Try to be clear about the effect or type of product that you’re looking for. You don’t need to know everything, but having even the slightest idea helps. One way to prepare is to check a store’s online menu before you visit to get a feel for its products.

What to Expect at a Dispensary

While a dispensary may feel like a candy store for cannabis connoisseurs, there are certain rules that all dispensaries must follow. For example, California law requires that all sales be made in a retail location and not in public places like sidewalks or parks.

In addition, most dispensaries have security guards at the door to ensure that only patrons 21 years of age or older enter the premises. Some may even ask to see your ID before letting you in, so be prepared to show it. Likewise, there are regulations that dispensaries must follow that are strict and burdensome — try to appreciate the rules they must follow to operate:

  • Every visitor must be checked in on the Point of Sale (“POS”) software.
  • Every transaction when purchasing cannabis must be recorded on the POS software.
  • Inventory must be reconciled in real-time and provided to the state’s compliance authority.
  • All cannabis retailers must ensure every square inch of a licensed dispensary is under video surveillance that the regulatory authority has continuous access to. 

These regs can make things clunky and slow. Regardless, no one gets a pass. Any non-compliance gives the state or city cause to suspend or revoke that store’s license. So, if you think you’re special and the rules don’t apply to you, leave that thought at home. No dispensary is going to jeopardize its license to accommodate you. 

Dispensary Expectations

Beyond this, there are a few other expectations you should have of your dispensary visit:

Expect to be Amazed

A hundred years after prohibition, we can now buy weed legally in the light of day. This is an amazing feat that should not be taken for granted. Remember when you had to buy weed from a shady dealer? 

Now, look at all the different kinds of weed and products available in dispensaries. If this doesn’t amaze you, then you may as well stop reading now. You don’t need a dispensary if you’re not impressed by what they offer.

Expect To Be Overwhelmed

No matter how much you prepare, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when confronted with many choices. If that happens, don’t worry–just take a deep breath and relax. Then engage the budtender with a friendly smile and let them help you find what you’re looking for.

You Will Be Asked For Your ID (Again)

Before entering any dispensary, you must present a valid photo ID. Remember that this is not optional. When you reach the Bud Tender, they will ask to see your ID again. So be sure to have it handy, so the process can move quickly and smoothly.

You Might Have to Wait in Line

You might have to wait in line if you visit a dispensary during peak hours. This is especially true if it’s your first time visiting the dispensary or if you’re purchasing a large quantity of product. In these cases, budtenders may not be able to give you their undivided attention, so it’s best to be patient and prepared with what you want to purchase.

You Will Be Helped by a Budtender

Once it’s your turn, a budtender will help you. Budtenders are knowledgeable professionals who can find the perfect product based on your needs and wants. First, they’ll ask probing questions to understand what THC or CBD profile, flavors, and effects you’re looking for; then, they’ll make recommendations accordingly.

You might know less about their menu than they do — that’s okay! They’re there to guide you through the process and answer any questions (no matter how stupid they may seem) with respect and kindness.

You Might Get a Discount

Typically, if it’s your first time at any dispensary, you’ll likely score a First Time Patient (“FTP’) discount. Generally, these special offers range from 10-20%. Thank you, FTP! In other words, if you’re lucky, you might leave the dispensary with more than what you came for.

Pro Tip

Don’t be pressured into buying anything. If you’re not feeling it, don’t buy it. Cannabis is expensive and heavily taxed, and all purchases are final. Once it’s rung up and in the bag, that’s your weed (Most returns are illegal). 

Choosing the Right Cannabis Products for You

The three most important words when weed shopping at a dispensary are Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid. Maybe it’s the first time you’ve heard those words. Or perhaps you know those words well. Either way, those words don’t mean what they used to. Cannabis has evolved. Indica and Sativa were once landrace cultivars, unchanged for millennia.

In the modern era, cannabis breeders have taken control of evolution to create Designer Weed. This means that nearly all Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid strains have been crossbred with each other to create unique blends of effects, flavors, smells, and colors. This also means that the old lines between “Indica” and “Sativa” have blurred.

The first step in choosing the right cannabis product is understanding what you’re looking for. Do you want to relax? Do you want to get things done? Do you want to sleep better? Do your research and find the product to help you meet your goals.

To give you a quick cheatsheet to understand the difference between Indica, Sativa and Hybrid:

  • Indica strains are physically sedating and can be perfect for pain relief, sleep disorders, and anxiety.
  • Sativa strains are invigorating and can be perfect for creativity, focus, and depression.
  • Hybrid strains are a mix of both indica and sativa effects.

Understand Cannabinoid and Terpene Profiles

In addition to the effects of a strain, you should also consider its cannabinoid and terpene profile.

What are Cannabinoids? 

Cannabinoids are the active compounds in cannabis that interact with our bodies to produce various effects. The two most well-known cannabinoids are THC and CBD. Presently, 113 cannabinoids have been identified in cannabis. Some, like THC, are psychoactive. Others, like CBD, are not psychoactive but may relieve anxiety or reduce inflammation.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are aromatic oils that give cannabis its smell and flavor. They also play an important role in how cannabinoids interact with our bodies. For example, the terpene myrcene is known for its sedative effects, while limonene is known for its uplifting effects.

There are approximately 400 known terpenes in cannabis, but you won’t find them all in every cultivar. Some commonly found terpenes include Linolol, Pinene, and Myrcene.

We don’t want to blow your mind, but any given cannabis strain may have a different balance of over 100 cannabinoids and 400 terpenes to create unique effects. The variations are literally endless. 

When you’re looking at a dispensary menu, you should be able to see the CBD and THC percentage as well as the terpene profile. If you don’t see it, ask! A good dispensary will be more than happy to provide that information.

Understanding Cultivation

One more thing! How flower is cultivated makes a difference. Four different cultivation methods exist — Indoor, Mixed Light, Greenhouse, and Outdoor.

Indoor Cultivation

Indoor cultivation controls all the environmental variables with no exposure to the elements. Think of it as lab-grown weed. It is typically the highest testing and most expensive. It offers the best consistency and predictability.

Mixed Light Cultivation

Mixed light is a combination of natural and artificial light. It’s typically less expensive than indoor but more expensive than greenhouse or outdoor.

Greenhouse Cultivation

A cannabis greenhouse is just what it sounds like: A structure that uses the sun for light but protects the plants from the elements. Greenhouses can be small, like a walk-in closet, or massive, acres in size.

Outdoor Cultivation

Outdoor cultivation is exactly what it sounds like: growing cannabis in nature. It’s typically the least expensive but also the most inconsistent.

Typically, most feel that outdoor is the lowest quality. But there’s significant overlap, and some users prefer sun-grown flower. Beyond that, indoor cultivation consumes massive amounts of power, while outdoor may be grown organically and use sustainable farming practices. 

So how do you choose with all these variables?
  • Be curious: Like life, exploring cannabis should be a journey that you savor every step of the way – go slow, be patient, and have fun with it!
  • Lean on the shorthand: Indica. Sativa. Hybrid. 
  • The nose knows: Give that weed a sniff. The nose knows. If it smells good, it will likely feel good. 
  • Ask your budtender questions: That’s what they’re there for. 

With this information, you should be able to confidently walk into any dispensary and purchase the cannabis that’s right for you!

Navigating the Cannabis Counter

Shopping for cannabis is not like shopping for groceries. You will not be cruising the aisles, filling a cart and eating grapes you probably should have paid for (at least, that’s how we do it). Most dispensaries do not put cannabis on the floor. There is no grab-and-go. Cannabis is expensive, the packaging is fragile, a broken tamper seal voids a product, and the risk of loss is a serious issue. 

When you hit that cannabis counter, you will meet your dedicated budtender — your guide. This is where you get to tell them what you’re looking for and do that whole curious thing.

Remember: The budtender knows all. They’ve probably blazed every strain on the shelf and heard countless testimonials from their regulars. They may not be doctors or therapists, but no one is in a better position to help you. Do not underestimate them! 

We’ve covered Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid and how to use those words. We’ve touched on cannabinoids and terpenes. You know about Indoor, outdoor, and everything in between. But there are a few more things to consider when navigating the counter.

Top Shelf, Mids, Or Value

These categories break cannabis down by quality and price. 

  • Top Shelf: This is the best quality, typically the highest testing, and is usually grown indoor.
  • Mids: Mids are just that. Middle quality. They may be indoor, mixed light, or greenhouse.
  • Value: Value is the bottom shelf. Almost always outdoor. 

Weights and Measures

Cannabis is also almost always sold by weight, but it’s a little funky as the trade mixes English and metric systems. Generally, cannabis is sold in grams, 1/8ths, Quarters, Halves, and Zips.

What’s a Gram?

Aside from a single pre-roll, a gram is the smallest amount of weed you can buy. It’s enough for a joint or two, depending on how fat you roll them. A gram may also be called a “Dub,” slang for $20 of weed in the black market days. 

What’s an Eighth?

One eighth of an ounce or 3.5 grams. This is a good starting point for first-time buyers or those with a smaller budget.

What’s a Quarter?

One-quarter of an ounce, or seven grams. This is double the size of an eighth and will last most people a couple of weeks, depending on how much you smoke. 

What’s a Half?

One-half of an ounce or 14 grams. This is double the size of a quarter and should last most people a month, give or take. 

What’s a Zip?

An ounce, which is 28 grams. An ounce is also called “a zip” because it used to cost $250 on the black market. So if you’re buying an ounce, you probably have a pretty good idea of what you’re doing. 

Get to Know Your Cannabis Products

Now, let’s talk about what you can actually buy with all this knowledge. When you walk into a dispensary, you will find several types of products: 

  • Pre-rolls: These are joints that are already rolled and ready to smoke. You will find them in singles or packs of two, three, or more. 
  • Flower: This is the traditional cannabis that most people think of when they hear the word “weed.” It is dried, and cured bud of the plant smoked in a joint, pipe, or bong. 
  • Edibles: Edibles are food products that have been infused with cannabis. They can come in the form of gummies, candy, cookies, brownies, drinks, and more.
  • Concentrates: Concentrates are cannabis extracted to remove all the plant material. This leaves a potent product typically vaporized in a device called a “dab rig” or used to make edibles. 
  • Topicals: Topicals are cannabis-infused lotions, oils, and balms absorbed through the skin. They are used to treat pain, inflammation, and skin conditions. 
  • Sublingual: Sublinguals are cannabis-infused products placed under the tongue and absorbed into the bloodstream. They come in the form of tinctures, oils, and strips and are used to treat various conditions.

Now that you know the basics of how to buy weed, you’re ready to walk into a dispensary and make your purchase. But before you do, there are a few more things to remember. 

What Is Cannabis Courtesy?

It starts with the basics. Be patient, kind, and respectful. But there are some courtesies specific to the dispensary:

  • Do not touch any products without asking first. Please keep your hands to yourself.
  • Never open anything. After all, it’s not yours…yet. 
  • If you want to smell something, just ask. Simple.
  • Don’t ask for illegal advice like how to smuggle cannabis home or where to smoke weed nearby. Your budtender could get fired, and that’s what the internet is for.
  • Do not smoke weed on the premises. The entire property must be under video surveillance, you will get caught by security, and the dispensary could lose its license. It’s just bad JuJu.
  • Do not cut in line or otherwise disrespect other customers. Wait. Your. Turn. 

With these courtesies in mind, you are ready to enter a dispensary and purchase cannabis.


What if I Don’t Like What I Bought?

Typically, all purchases are final. But some stores permit exchanges. This works best when most of your purchase is still in the packaging. If you have already used most of it, your exchange is questionable. You may look like someone who just wants free weed, and they may put a note in your account.

What if I’m Under 21?

You will not be allowed into the dispensary. Most dispensaries require that you be at least 21 years of age and have a valid ID to enter. There are a few exceptions for medical patients, but they are rare.

What’s the Best Way to Store My Weed?

You should store your weed in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Glass jars work well for this. You can also buy special storage containers designed for cannabis. Do not store your weed in the fridge or freezer, as this can cause it to dry out. 

Hopefully, this guide has helped you feel more comfortable purchasing weed from a dispensary. Remember to take your time, ask questions, and be respectful. And most importantly, enjoy your cannabis!

WHTC is Here to Help

WHTC is the go-to dispensary for the best weed in Studio City. We always put craft and quality first. At WHTC, the focus is on providing our community with products we trust. We never carry a product we haven’t tried or don’t believe in. Quality and effectiveness are everything!

Visit WHTC today, or buy weed online for discrete delivery!