If you don't live in one of the 11 states where recreational marijuana use is legal, the thought of going to a marijuana dispensary might seem intimidating. But buying marijuana at a dispensary is really no more nerve-wracking that going to a high-end coffee shop with super knowledgeable baristas — if have the humility to ask enough questions, you'll have a positive experience.
Thanks in part to CBD's mainstream appeal for treating health conditions such as anxiety or chronic pain, talking about cannabis use is becoming more normalized. But it's okay if there are still some things that you don't totally understand. Cannabis is complicated, highly scientific stuff, even when it comes to recreational use.
Given the complexities of cannabis culture, we asked Brittney Nelson, marketing coordinator at Oregon's Finest, a dispensary in Portland, to answer some of the top questions you might have about what happens the first time you visit a marijuana dispensary:
What do I need to buy cannabis?
At a medical marijuana dispensary, you'd need to be a certified state medical marijuana card patient or caregiver in order to purchase cannabis. But at a recreational dispensary, you simply need a valid identification that says you're 21 or over, Nelson says. If you're from out of the country, then you'll need a passport. The reason why the rules are so strict is because state liquor control commissions are in charge of regulating the cannabis industry, she says. "The same rules apply to cannabis purchasing as alcohol purchasing," she says.
How do I know what to buy?
Don't worry about seeming like a newbie. Experts, aka "budtenders," are there to answer any questions you might have about strains or different cannabis products, and they should spend enough time with you to figure out the best product for your needs, Nelson says. It's super important to be honest with your budtender about your tolerance level or how much you typically consume, she says. (Many people who don't live in states where recreational marijuana is legal might be surprised by the quality and strength of marijuana elsewhere, she adds.)
While most budtenders at a recreational dispensary can't provide medical counseling (unless they're dual-licensed to also dispense medical marijuana), it's important to tell them what you hope to use the marijuana for, Nelson says. For example, are you trying to feel stimulated, get sleep, help ease aches and pains, or reduce anxiety? This information can help the budtender curate the best products and experience for you.
How do I pay for it?
Since cannabis operates in a "grey area of the law," dispensaries don't have the same access to banking that a typical retail establishment would have, Nelson says. As a result, many don't accept credit cards, only cash, but there will likely be an ATM you can use on their premises.
Where can I use legally-purchased cannabis?
This is a tricky question, because state public consumption laws for marijuana can vary. It's a common misconception that you can consume cannabis inside of a dispensary, but that's not the case. "Typically, the best thing to do is have permission from a property owner," Nelson says. So, your options are either in your own home, or in someone else's home with permission. Some Airbnb rentals will specifically note that they're cannabis-friendly, but it's always a good idea to ask.
Can I travel with my purchases?
Nope. Marijuana is still federally illegal, so you can't cross state lines with cannabis — even if you're going between two states where recreational marijuana is legal, Nelson says.
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws.