Van der Pop

Dispensaries Demystified


6 tips for those new to buying weed


When I got invited to a friend's wedding in Portland earlier this year, hitting up a dispensary was at the top of my tourist to-do list. OK, I might seem like a loser for admitting this, but here goes: Despite being close to 30, I had never touched weed before. Sure, I know plenty of people who smoke on the reg, but it's just not something I ever felt compelled to do — mostly because I can’t stand the smell.

That being said, I was curious about what it would feel like to be high, so I decided to buy some edibles at a recreational marijuana dispensary near my Portland hotel. Because I was such a pot newbie, I really didn't know what to expect when I stepped foot inside. If you're as green as I was (pun intended), or if you've simply never been to a dispensary before, here are six things to consider before you go.

1. Have a current photo ID with you. Recreational marijuana is legal in nine U.S. states (plus Washington, D.C.) for those 21 and up. And you will be carded before going inside a dispensary. This isn’t like the liquor store you frequented in high school, praying you wouldn’t be ID’ed when you headed to the register with a bottle of cheap vodka. I visited two dispensaries on my west coast trip (one in Portland and one in Seattle), and both times, I was carded before heading inside. One of my friends had a passport card with her, which she hadn’t signed — and the security guard outside the dispensary in Seattle wouldn't let her in because of that, even though she was clearly over 21-years-old.

2. Bring cash. I'm someone who charges everything (what can I say, I like racking up credit card bonus points). A dispensary is not one of the places where you can just swipe and go, though. Most dispensaries are cash-only, so fill your wallet up first (some dispensaries do have ATMs). Prices will vary depending on what you get, so don’t be stingy with your withdrawal. I bought a chocolate bar for $24 in Portland (I split the cost and the bar with three other people) and four individually wrapped brownie bites in Seattle for $4 each. If you want to smoke, the price will differ by strain and could be more than $10 per gram.

3. Every dispensary's setup is different. I did zero research before visiting my first dispensary in Portland, so once I walked through the front door, I wasn't sure how the store would even look. This particular dispensary had a waiting area where an employee checked my ID. I got there right before the dispensary closed on a quiet Sunday night, so I didn't have to kill any time in the waiting area. I was let right into the next room, where all the goods were kept under lock and key behind the counter. In Seattle, the dispensary I went to was a lot bigger. You could walk around and look at everything behind the display cases lining the walls, and the store had a dark, moody vibe.

4. The employees are there to help. I knew I wanted to get high, and I knew I didn't want to smoke, but I didn't have a clue what edibles I should try. So, instead of taking a random guess, I asked the woman working at the dispensary in Portland what edibles she'd recommend for someone who'd never had any weed before. She suggested a chocolate bar because it was broken up into servings of 5 mg THC. She recommended having one serving, waiting an hour, then having another if I didn't feel anything. I’m glad I took her advice — after about an hour, I felt slightly buzzed, and then I ate another half serving.

5. Which is a good thing, because the selection can be overwhelming. In Seattle, the dispensary I visited had so many more options than in Portland — I kind of just stood there for a few minutes taking it all in. I asked a guy who worked there if they sold any single-serving edibles since I'd need to finish them before heading to the airport the next day, and he steered me to the corner of the store where I found exactly what I was looking for. (Peanut butter brownie bite? Sign. Me. Up.)

  Photo by Vela Cannabis | Seattle, WA

Photo by Vela Cannabis | Seattle, WA

6. Don't psych yourself out. Although there was absolutely no reason to be, I was nervous before going to a dispensary for the first time. Because marijuana has been illegal for the majority of my life (and somehow still is in New York City, where I live), I felt like I was doing something wrong on the walk over. I’ve had it drilled into my head for so many years that pot is dangerous, which I know is completely wrong. Once I got over the irrational fears that were ingrained in my head, I was able to fully enjoy the (very legal) experience. Here’s to hoping I get to shop at a dispensary — and enjoy a high — again sometime soon.

Story by Christina Heiser

Van der Pop does not endorse or condone the illegal consumption of cannabis.

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