Cannabis 101 The Beginner’s Guide to Dispensary Etiquette

For people visiting a state that allows recreational cannabis from out-of-town, or for those who have never purchased legal cannabis, going to a dispensary can be one the most exciting aspects about getting ready for the 420 holiday. Budtenders love to induct first-time dispensary visitors into the world of buying legal cannabis for the first time. But there are a few simple rules that should be followed when shopping for cannabis, in order to keep a visit courteous and by the rules. If you’re planning to celebrate the 420 holiday this year within a legal state, here are some basics you should know before you buy.

Don’t Ask Any Shady Questions

This may seem like a no-brainer, but hang around a dispensary long enough, and you’ll be surprised what you overhear. Budtenders are under scrutiny and have to follow legal regulations at all times. Please don’t ask your budtender about illegal smoking spots that are under the radar, how illegal it really is to walk down the street smoking a joint or whether or not you will get in trouble if you pack your cannabis really, really well while traveling on a plane. Your budtender can’t give you advice about how to break the law. They can’t rule out that you aren’t undercover law enforcement and talking about illegal activity reflects poorly on the industry.

Know When to Keep it Moving

Dispensary workers expect that tourists and other first-timers are going to come in and want to look at and ask about every single product. However, there is a time and place for that. Most areas have rules about how late dispensaries can stay open, and even how many people can be inside the facilities at one time. Denver, Colorado for example, just recently extended its hours from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. So if you are shopping and want to take your time, don’t go into a store right before they close. Plan your trip in advance and go in the middle of the day.

Don’t Talk About Illegal Buying Experiences

While there’s nothing technically illegal about discussing underground buying experiences, it’s not appreciated. Since cannabis isn’t federally legal, budtenders would like to keep conversation light and comfortable, not about time spent waiting at your drug dealer’s house or a point when you were almost arrested. Just treat your visit like you would if you were buying ice cream or purchasing a nice cold six-pack after work.

Don’t Try and be a “Looper”

If you’ve been following cannabis news, you may have heard about the allegations of allowed “looping” that lead to the closure of multiple legal cannabis businesses. Most legal states do not allow patients to come back to a store time and time again to buy cannabis. Once you get your legal amount, usually around an ounce, stick to it. Even if you have no intention to illegally distribute the cannabis, you can still get charged with intent to do so if you get caught.

Let Your Budtender Educate You

No one likes a know-it-all, and this is true with cannabis shopping, too. Even if you are an expert in your own right, talk to your budtender with an open mind and try and learn something new. You don’t go to a restaurant and tell the chef you cook better at home, so don’t talk about your home grown buds being better than what they have in the store.

Keep it Cool and Calm

Some folks who visit dispensaries have the opposite problem as those who act like they know a lot about cannabis, talk about illegal activity or buy more than they need. For those who are brand new to shopping, it can make some people nervous. Rest assured, you are not going to get in any trouble as long as you follow the rules and buy within the legal amount, and then keep it smart after leaving the store. Nobody is going to bust into the dispensary to arrest innocent shoppers. So relax, and enjoy your first buying experience.

Be Upfront About Needs and Personal Experience

Remember, this is a fully legal and comfortable experience, so feel free to share with your budtender. If you are new to cannabis and need a low dose, just say so. If you are medicating for a certain condition, be upfront about it so your budtender can help. It may seem unfamiliar if you aren’t used to it, but dispensary workers are kind of like pharmacists mixed with bartenders. They are there to recommend cannabis to those with medical needs, and also to make sure that you feel good.

Tip Your Budtender! (In States Where it’s Legal)

Last but not least, be sure to tip your budtender if your state allows it! They are providing a service, so tip as you would if you were ordering food or drinks. Cannabis retailers rely on tips for part of their income, and especially deserve them for showing newbie cannabis shoppers all the ropes! Note: Tipping budtenders in Washington has been explicitly banned by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. In most other states, it’s important to refer to tips as “donations.” 

What You Need to Know:

Washington:

  • Only adults 21 and over can purchase recreational cannabis, and only at state-licensed stores.
  • Individuals can purchase up to one ounce of dried cannabis, 16 ounces of cannabis-infused edibles, 72 ounces of liquid extract or seven grams of concentrates at a time.
  • Gifting or reselling cannabis is a Class C felony.
  • Consumption is not allowed in public, while driving or traveling out of state.

Oregon:

  • Only adults 21 and over can purchase recreational cannabis at OLCC-approved locations.
  • Individuals can possess one ounce in public, or eight ounces in private.
  • Individuals may possess one ounce cannabinoid extracts or concentrates, 16 ounces in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form, 10 cannabis seeds and four immature cannabis plants in public or private.
  • Gifting is allowed between adults where no money is involved.

Colorado:

  • Only adults 21 and over can purchase recreational cannabis from state-licensed stores.
  • Consuming cannabis in vehicles is illegal for both passengers and drivers.
  • Individuals can purchase up to one ounce of cannabis per visit.
  • Smoking or even consuming edibles is not permitted anywhere in public.
  • Gifting cannabis is allowed between adults.

California:

  • Only adults 21 and over can purchase cannabis from state-licensed recreational stores.
  • Individuals can purchase up to one ounce of dried cannabis or eight ounces of concentrate.
  • Open containers of cannabis are banned in vehicles, so keep your bag stapled/sealed every time.
  • It’s illegal to consume or possess cannabis in national parks, federal lands or out-of-state.
  • Gifting cannabis is allowed between adults.
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