Your Practical Guide to Buying Cannabis Online
The marijuana market has evolved over the years. Before the days of professional, legal dispensaries, marijuana customers weren’t aware of where their cannabis was coming from, let alone whether it was grown organically or if it remained free from tampering. With the legalization of medical and/or recreational cannabis in 36 states and the District of Columbia, marijuana products are now more easily accessible than ever—especially with the availability of online shopping.
Why Buy Cannabis Online?
Of course, shopping for marijuana online provides a variety of benefits. The ability to select a product to meet a specific need, add it to your cart, and receive it a few short days later from a professional, discreet delivery driver is both convenient and practical for individuals who are unable to shop in person. Since its implementation, online cannabis shopping has created a hassle-free experience that has made cannabis even more accessible to everyone.
Purchasing cannabis online also allows you to carefully consider each of the details regarding your purchase. Online descriptions can break down product details at great length, providing much more information than you would receive when purchasing cannabis in person. For example, you can often read about the different strains of cannabis used to produce your product, potency details, dosage indications, and even the physical and cognitive effects you can expect to experience with that product. Accessibility of information has made browsing cannabis options more productive and more enjoyable. And that’s not to mention user-generated reviews, so you can read what real consumers thought about specific products and their effects.
Exercise Caution When Buying Weed Online
As you may suspect, purchasing marijuana products from disreputable sellers online can be likened to the old days of purchasing marijuana from the black market—both extremely dangerous and highly illegal. That’s why ensuring the legitimacy of the organization you choose to supply your cannabis products should be a top priority. Often, that means refraining from discount shopping. All too often, when trying to find cheaper alternatives, you may come across THC and CBD products that are not third party tested for quality and safety control.
Unfortunately, many cheap or shoddy cannabis products are handled in unregulated environments, risking contamination with pesticides, heavy metals, and more. When you are purchasing a product for ingestion, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Legitimate companies conduct third-party testing to ensure the safety and quality of products, of which you can request a copy.
Before you can even consider shopping, ensure you are eligible to order cannabis products online.
Are You Eligible?
Before you learn how to buy cannabis online, it is crucial to ensure you can purchase cannabis from your location. When researching if you are eligible to receive THC and CBD products delivered to your doorstep, it’s best to consult your state laws. Fortunately, if you live in the ever-growing number of states where marijuana is legal both medicinally and recreationally, purchasing online is a fairly straightforward process. You’ll just need to find a dispensary you are interested in and place an online delivery order. However, if this is not the case in your state, there are some stipulations.
In states where cannabis is only legal on a medical basis, the process can become more complicated. To place an online order, you must first obtain a medical marijuana card. The process of applying for and receiving a medical marijuana card differs by state— first, check your state regulations to see if you have a qualifying health condition. Then, consult our state pages to learn more about how to apply and regulations unique to each state. Keep in mind that you must be 21 years of age and have met the qualifications necessary to receive your MMJ card.
Is Your Dispensary Legitimate?
If you’re eligible to purchase, your next step is finding a reputable dispensary. Unsure if the dispensary you're purchasing THC or CBD products from is legitimate?
In short, you'll need to:
- verify the dispensary is MMJ certified, if you’re a medical user
- ensure products are tested
- receive clear communication from dispensary staff
When taking all the above into consideration, you may see your dreams of adding marijuana to your online cart and clicking “buy now” for instant delivery fading away. However, online marijuana purchasing can be extremely simple with the right knowledge.
Here are four key signs of a reputable online dispensary to search for before you buy:
- A great website. A reputable dispensary should have a professional website with advanced e-commerce capabilities. The site should display the full variety of products transparently, including detailed product information and working links. Professional graphic design, positive customer reviews, and a message from the dispensary team expressing their pride all signal that you are shopping at a legitimate online dispensary.
- Trustworthy payment options. Vendors who are authorized to sell marijuana will typically require cash payment upon delivery, though some dispensaries can now accept debit or credit cards.
- Age qualifications. Licensed dispensaries will nearly always require age verification when you are accessing the online store.
- Testing verification. US retailers must typically publish the results of such testing, or provide a Certificate of Analysis (COA) when requested, which will show the cannabinoid content, terpene content, and the results of heavy metal testing.
How to Spot Disreputable Distributors
Knowing how to find a reputable online store can give you peace of mind that you are buying from a credible distributor with quality products. However, there are also many signs of fraudulent or illegal online operations to be aware of before you place your order.
Some signs include:
- Promises like “we deliver everywhere!” This is simply an untrue statement since nationwide shipping isn’t a valid option quite yet. Recreational and medical marijuana laws vary from state to state, and any shop that promises to send marijuana to an illegal state may engage in other shady practices.
- Unbelievably low prices. Suspicious product pricing can indicate illicit operations with lax safety and product standards. Others may simply be peddling promises and products that just don’t hold up. If you see products at abnormally low prices, steer clear.
- Limited contact information. Many illegal and uncertified online operations run their businesses as untraceable web stores with insufficient contact information—if any at all. Companies that insist on returning messages via phone call or text may be illegally run companies.
- Missing product or company information. Unclear return policies, terms of agreement and privacy policies on online stores are one of the tell-tale signs you are dealing with an unreputable online shop. Similarly, be wary of any shop that hides product or dosage information.
A University of Pennsylvania Penn study found that 70 percent of CBD products purchased online are accompanied by inaccurate labels. The FDA found that less than half of all CBD products are correctly labeled.
The ability to spot these signs of a disreputable company before ordering cannabis products can help prevent scams as well as any issues with inadequate or incorrect THC and CBD products.
How to Identify High Quality Marijuana
Even after you’ve avoided illegal or black-market dispensaries, it is important to remember that not all cannabis products are created equal. When you are spending your precious health or recreational dollars on a marijuana product, it is crucial to search for the best product possible. In many cases, companies producing high quality marijuana participate in ethical farming practices, including regenerative farming, minimal pesticide use, and other sustainable agricultural practices. Additionally, you may want to consider supporting companies that are family or minority owned to support the smaller marijuana farmers who often have higher safety standards.
Whether you’re browsing the review section for hints at overall quality or are simply examining your marijuana after its arrival, consider these major factors of marijuana quality:
- Positive smell. Marijuana that has been properly harvested, dried, stored and distributed has a very potent, pleasant aroma, though this aroma varies by strain. The flowers emit an herbal fragrance that can fill up an entire home with its scent. High quality cannabis is typically listed under online shopping terms like “dank” or “loud” odors. Many cannabis strains are crossed with one other to bring out the most fragrant notes, including pine, skunk, and diesel—and product names and descriptions often highlight these notes.
- Vibrant appearance. The appearance of high-quality cannabis can include a variety of colors like dark or lime green, and sometimes even deep blue and purple. It should look fresh and vibrant with tiny orange and red hairs—these visible pistils can indicate top-shelf flower, as, too, can trichomes. Trichomes contain the majority of the flower’s terpenes and cannabinoids, featuring the distinctive cannabis flavor, aroma, and desired effects. These milky-white hairs are also what give cannabis its frosty appearance. Not every online menu has real or up to date images, so look out for mention of appearance in the user reviews.
- Distinct feel. A sticky, almost spongy texture in the flower can be a sign that your marijuana is high quality. When harvested, processed, and dried correctly, cannabis stems should be brittle and easily snapped, and the flower should be completely dried. However, flower that is too dry or old can lose its potency, so it’s best to look for one that has reviews that hint at a bit of buoyancy.
- Optimal flower structure. The structure of a cannabis plant’s flowers can indicate whether the plant is good quality. Distinct, intricate flowers have often been carefully tended and may thus result in a better therapeutic experience. Quality flower normally stacks. That’s where flowers will start to form on the stem then, as they blossom and mature, the buds fill out and creating a lush, stacked appearance. If you can’t smell or touch your flower, look for a dense bud for a fuller experience.
What Are Some of the Signs You’ve Received Low Quality Marijuana?
First and foremost, it is important to point out that purchasing average quality marijuana doesn’t necessarily mean that you will miss out on the plant’s varied benefits. Unfortunately, however, poor-quality marijuana handled incorrectly has the potential to cause negative side effects.
For example, spider mites can wreak havoc on the cannabis plant during production, and when the flower is dried, the bugs may remain. Cannabis that is inhaled with spider mites can be very unhealthy for the lungs—not to mention disturbing.
Ensuring the marijuana products that are offered on any online dispensary are third-party tested can help prevent the purchase of products that are not treated correctly. Be wary of reports that your online cannabis shop sells marijuana with the following qualities:
- Strange or musty smell. Low quality flower can have strange fragrances which can mean that the plant was part of a bad batch or was handled improperly. Musty aromas can indicate that the cannabis was stored in direct sunlight or that it is overly aged.
- Discolored appearance. Discolored flower is a key sign your marijuana isn’t high quality. Often, companies distributing marijuana improperly will allow more seeds and stems to enter the products. This practice increases the total weight of your purchase yet provides you with much less flower. Be on the lookout for amber colored trichomes, which can indicate that your flower is old and stale with undesirable potency and flavor.
- Inadequate feel. Flower that is dry, stiff, and not sticky to the touch is a clear sign of stale, old marijuana. Conversely, overly wet flower can create an environment for mold and mildew to grow, neither of which should be inhaled or consumed in any capacity.
- Flower structure. Improperly cultivated cannabis plants may have an overly compact flower structure, resulting in inferior looking flowers. Bad lighting and growing conditions can produce a flower harvest that is too “fluffy” or “larfy.”
Safely Purchase High Quality Marijuana Online
As you can see, it’s extremely important to be discerning when shopping online for cannabis. Making sure you are buying THC and CBD products from a reputable, transparent company with quality products can prevent you from falling victim to a scam or taking part in an illegal purchase that may put your freedom in jeopardy.
First research your cannabis state laws, find a reputable, certified dispensary, and select a product that best suits your therapeutic or personal recreational needs. Then, legally buy marijuana from your chosen dispensary.
Having your cannabis delivered directly to your door can be a useful way to access your most important products when you cannot do so in person. Even more significantly, online marijuana shopping has supplied unparalleled convenience for cannabis consumers all over the country. With the proper research and attention to quality, you can begin experiencing the benefits of this marvelous plant. Wondering if your local dispensary delivers? Find a Zen Leaf location near you to discover your local state cannabis shopping options.
Digital Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.
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