Dispensary Do’s & Don’ts — Because It’s Always Nice to be Nice

Written by BlackbirdGo March 22, 2018
The Industry

Disclaimer: Keep out of reach of children. For use only by adults 21 years of age and older.

As the tide turns against marijuana prohibition, many states with medical cannabis have shifted gears to accommodate adult use recreational weed sales. This can get confusing, even for some existing patients, let alone for recreational customers who are new to buying legal weed. That’s where your dispensary's budtender comes in. These employees are highly knowledgeable about the properties of various strains, concentrates, and edibles, and they can help guide you towards the right medicine or product to meet your needs. To help clarify this transition, I sat down with Julia, a budtender who’s worked in the Los Angeles cannabis industry for the past nine months. She helped oversee the transition in her dispensary from strictly medical marijuana operations to incorporating recreational sales. Here’s what budtenders want you to know when you visit your local dispensary — a list do's and don'ts if you will.

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1. Ask questions.

Visiting a dispensary for the first time can make you feel like a kid in a candy store, but for some people the range of options coupled with a new, foreign environment can actually be overwhelming. Cannabis is often organized by product type or consumption method, meaning a dispensary may have different product displays or even different employees on hand for buying flower versus buying concentrates. If you’re new to weed or if you haven’t smoked in years, you might be amazed to learn that a given dispensary may have dozens of different strains and products to choose from, including wax, oil, vape pens, topicals, and a seemingly endless list of edibles. There’s no need to freeze at the menu if you’re confused or unsure about your options; just ask your budtender.

“Ask as many questions as you want to ask,” Julia said. “The person helping you - it’s their job. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know something.” Budtenders are highly knowledgeable about cannabis strains and the physical/mental effects each option has to offer. If you’re buying weed for medicinal purposes, let your budtender know what symptoms you want to treat. If you’re buying recreationally and you’re not sure which strain or product is best for your needs, talk about the type of experience you’d like to have. For example, are you trying to get motivated to clean your apartment and do something social with friends? Are you looking to unwind and watch your favorite sitcom after a long day at work? Either way, your budtender can help point you in the right direction.

2. Don’t be afraid to try something different.

Some old-school smokers who are returning to cannabis for the first time in years may feel intimidated by the number of different consumption methods available today. But just because it’s new, it doesn’t mean you should dismiss a given product or form of cannabis. Certain options like vaping make it easy to medicate discreetly, even when you’re on the go. “Vaping is really great,” Julia said. “I think people are intimidated because it’s new and it needs different equipment, but I think it’s the right consumption method for a lot of people.” Spending around $20 for a vape battery to go with your new cartridge may deter some people, but the convenience and discretion that come with vaping weed make it an easy choice for most patients and consumers.

Another option that many cannabis consumers may want to consider is Cannabidiol (CBD). You may have heard news reports about parents using CBD oil to treat childhood epilepsy and other ailments. There are many CBD-heavy strains of cannabis flower, such as Harlequin, Cannatonic, ACDC, Ringo’s Gift, and the legendary strain that started all the hype around CBD, Charlotte’s Web. These strains have varying ratios of CBD to THC, ranging from a stoney 1:1 concentration all the way up to a virtually non-psychotropic 27:1 ratio. But you have plenty of other options besides just smoking a joint of CBD-heavy flower. There are also CBD edibles, vape cartridges, and concentrates. While medical patients no doubt understand the benefits of CBD, many budtenders recommend that even recreational users give CBD a shot. “I think that everyone coming in here should know about CBD,” Julia said. “It’s a game changer. Even if you’re not chronically ill, it can still benefit your life.”

3. Treat everyone with respect.

Recreational customers who are new to the legal marijuana market may not have the experience or familiarity that previous medical patients have had. Some budtenders have even noticed a sort of cultural shift: patients come to the dispensary for medicine, whereas customers come to the dispensary to make a transaction. That mentality can lead to impatience and frustration that’s often unfairly aimed at dispensary employees. One of the biggest issues budtenders struggle with is the higher cost of legal weed. Many customers get sticker shock when they find out how much their state and local taxes add up to, but those taxes are not set by a dispensary or its employees. “The most important thing is to treat people who work here with respect,” Julia said. “We don’t want you to be taxed either, but we can’t change that.”

In addition to behaving politely, Julia believes it’s also important to respect the knowledge and experience that your budtender brings to the table. “Sometimes people will ask my opinion on a strain like King Louie, then on another strain like Hash Plant. Folks will try to catch me in a lie sometimes, like checking to make sure it’s not a sketchy industry - but it’s not.” Asking questions is totally acceptable, but trust your budtender when they make recommendations or offer their personal experience with a given strain or product. They have nothing to gain by misleading you; in fact, it’s in their best benefit for you to walk out the door a satisfied customer who will likely return in the future.

4. If you had a good experience, leave your budtender a tip.

With all the red tape and government regulation around how cannabis can be legally bought and sold, it’s easy to forget that at the end of the day, it’s the team of employees at your local dispensary who keep the wheels moving. “It is a tipping industry, but a lot of people coming in for the first time don’t know that,” Julia said. The people making recommendations based on your needs, showing you different products, and carrying out your transactions depend on tips to help supplement their income. You’re not legally obligated to tip, and there’s no hard-and-fast rule about how much you should tip. The work they do can be exhausting. Be polite, say please and thank you, and if you can spare some cash to tip your budtender it’s always considered good etiquette. Everyone likes to be recognized for their work.

Note: This guide was intended to be for persons new to dispensaries as adult use customers, not for medical marijuana patients.