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What To Expect on Your First Visit to a Recreational Cannabis Dispensary

By Danyal Swan December 31, 2021
What To Expect on Your First Visit to a Recreational Cannabis Dispensary

Your first visit to a dispensary to purchase legal recreational cannabis can be a surreal experience. You’re going into an unfamiliar retail location with a lot of hype—and an even larger set of rules and regulations. Not to mention, you’re going there to purchase an item that might have been illegal in your town as recently as a year or two ago, which can lend a certain sense of accessing forbidden fruit. For some people, that can be a stressful experience.

All that being said, don’t be wary of your first dispensary visit! We’ve gathered some helpful tips to make your first visit as comfortable as possible.

Planning Your Dispensary Visit

As with most unfamiliar situations, a little pre-planning and research will go a long way towards ensuring a comfortable, successful visit. Each of these essential stages can help you prep for your first visit.

Get in a Zen State of Mind Before You Go

Zen State of Mind

A crucial thing to do before any dispensary visit—especially your first—is to establish a positive frame of mind. Many people have complex feelings about dispensaries, and cannabis in general, because of the long history of social stigma, cannabis scapegoating, and prohibition. This causes some people to avoid cannabis and dispensaries altogether, even when cannabis is legally accessible to them.

The simple fact is that if you are of age and live in a state that has passed recreational cannabis laws, it is your right to purchase legal marijuana if you wish to do so. Exercising that right is not all that different than signing up for a card at your public library, voting for the political candidates of your choice, or ordering an alcoholic drink. Be confident. What you’re doing is legal, can be fun, and is good for the local economy.

Choosing Your Dispensary

Before you head out, you need to know where you’re going. First, we recommend searching the web to find a list of dispensaries near you. Then, you’ll need to select one with a vibe that speaks to you.

You can tell a lot about a dispensary’s energy by their online presence, so check out websites, Google reviews, and social media for the dispensaries near you. Some places are very low key and put comfort first, others are run more like serious medicinal facilities, and still others prefer to convey a fun, relaxed spirit.


After you’ve decided which dispensary to try, use their website to browse their menu of products. You don’t necessarily have to make a decision right now or place a pre-order for pickup—an employee can help you with your final selections. Instead, think of pre-shopping as window-shopping, a way to get an idea of what you’re interested in to discuss with your Cannabis Consultant.

If you’re a total cannabis newbie, it may help to think about the effects you want to achieve rather than the types of products you want to use. Do you want to relax or feel energized? Do you want subtle effects or something that floors you? Answering these questions will help the dispensary staff begin finding you the right products.

Popular items for first-time visitors just starting to explore cannabis include:

  • Pre-rolled joints
  • Edibles
  • Vape pens

If you’re an experienced cannabis user but are just getting into the dispensary scene, don’t worry—any well stocked dispensary will also carry traditional flower and a variety of concentrates.

What to Bring to the Dispensary

Now that you know where you’re headed and have a rough idea of what you intend to buy when you get there, it’s time to check your pockets. Make sure you bring:

  • An ID Card. Have your valid, government-issued ID in your pocket or purse and be ready to hand it over. A driver’s license is most common, but any valid, up-to-date government photo ID such as a passport should work as well. If you’re not sure, call the dispensary before you visit and ask which forms of ID they can accept. Since this is your first visit, you may need to show your ID twice—once at the front desk to get registered and again when buying your cannabis.
  • Cash. Dispensaries in some states may offer cashless systems, while others provide an ATM in the lobby. For the most part, legal recreational cannabis remains a cash-only business. Keep in mind that if you placed a pre-order for curbside pickup, exact change is always appreciated.
  • Phone. Most states strictly limit the number of patrons who can shop in a dispensary at once, so be prepared to wait in the lobby a while if it’s busy. If this is the case, you can use your phone to continue researching the dispensary’s menu, product lines, and any specials they may offer.

The First Visit

Your First Dispensary Visit

Expect to spend some time at the dispensary on your first visit. Depending on your state, you may have to spend a few extra minutes filling out intake paperwork and getting registered into the system. You’ll also want to give yourself time to get acquainted with the dispensary, its layout, and its procedures. If you’re a complete cannabis novice, just let your dispensary’s staff know so they can explain both the process and the menu to you.

The best dispensaries are staffed by well-trained Cannabis Advisors who are on hand to teach and guide you through every step of your cannabis journey. Your first visit will be mainly focused on your goals, how you plan to use cannabis, and what product types might work for you.

Figuring out what administration methods and potency you need is an important part of a great cannabis experience, and qualified dispensary staff can play a major role in helping you get it right on your first visit.

Remember that every state has unique cannabis laws. If you have any questions about purchase limits, transportation, storage, or anything related to your local laws, be sure to ask dispensary staff for guidance. If you ever find yourself in a dispensary where staff seems unfamiliar with, uncertain about, or not concerned with state cannabis laws, consider it a red flag.

After the Visit

You’re out the door with a bag of treats and a smile on your face. Congratulations! But wait - the  journey isn’t over yet. There are some important things to keep in mind after your visit.

You can’t just light up on the sidewalk unless you want to risk your first dispensary trip ending on a very harsh note. Public consumption of cannabis remains illegal under almost all circumstances, and laws regarding the transportation of cannabis are equally serious.  And, purchasing legal cannabis isn't like a fast food drive-through, where you should double-check your order before you drive away. Instead, you’ll want to keep your purchase sealed shut until you reach your private residence, where it can be legally consumed. Never open your order in public or in the car, no matter how badly you want to check out your haul.

The exact laws regarding the transportation of recreational cannabis will vary from state to state. In general, you’ll want to keep it out of easy reach of the driver, away from any minors, and in a secure location. The trunk is usually a safe option.

At Home

You made it! Now, it is time to enjoy the fruits of your new experience. Make sure to follow these steps when you reach your destination:

  • Remove your product from the bag and check the receipt. Check that all the products match the types, brands, strains, and potencies you wanted. If something is missing, broken, or otherwise seems off, call the dispensary and ask for advice regarding how to proceed.
  • Find a safe place to store your products at home. Some dispensaries will send you home with everything in a very cute, fancy-looking bag, but they’re not secure storage containers. Storing cannabis safely requires more thought than just tossing it on a shelf. A lockbox or safe is a great investment for anyone using cannabis products. In addition, tools and paraphernalia should be locked away with the cannabis when not in use. Decide where to keep your cannabis before you begin using it, while you’re clear-headed.
  • Enjoy! Be smart and courteous. Keep your cannabis use away from minors, pets, and anyone else who doesn’t want to partake, especially if you’ve chosen smoking as your preferred method of consumption. Even those short-lived vape clouds can be obnoxious to someone who isn’t partaking. Dispose of packaging and used filters properly. It’s a very easy way to fight harmful stereotypes about lazy, thoughtless cannabis users.
  • Rate your experience. After your first visit, reflect on the customer service, the quality of the product, and overall atmosphere. If you find yourself so inclined, leave a review on your dispensary’s Facebook, Google My Business or Yelp company page. Or, you can use cannabis community websites like Leafly or Weedmaps to post your rating.

Leaving reviews helps dispensaries improve their service, get to know their customers better, and allows you to give credit where it’s deserved. Now that you’re an experienced dispensary veteran, your review also provides future patrons a sense of what to expect on their own first visit.

Ready to Shop Recreational Cannabis?

Shop Recreational Cannabis

Zen Leaf currently operates state-of-the-art dispensaries in eleven states nationwide. Before you set out to start shopping for cannabis without a medical marijuana card, check your state cannabis laws - each has their own, and many are still medical-cannabis use only. To make navigating state laws easier, we’ve  created this handy guide to understanding cannabis laws in your state. Be sure to bookmark it and visit often for the most up-to-date information on the constantly evolving cannabis policies across the US.

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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