What NOT to do When Visiting a Dispensary

BY: Lee Burgess


The question I see more often than anything else online from Missouri medical marijuana patients is “When are dispensaries going to be open?!” Unfortunately, license winners are at the mercy of the predetermined time line outlined in the amendment. There isn’t a lot for most of us to do except maybe fire up the grow tent to hold us over and dream about the day when we can finally enter a dispensary and see walls of well light display cases lined with elegant little glass jars filled with all the different varieties of beautiful buds or concentrates for our eyes to feast on.

Whether you prefer fruity or diesel terpenes, edibles or flower, topicals or tinctures, or concentrates. Oh yes, the concentrates; solventless, CO2 extraction, rosin, wax, shatter, butter crumble, sugar, or diamonds and sauce. If you happen to find yourself behind me in line at the dispensary, just know that I will be taking my time and trying to look at every product on the shelf until the helpful budtender behind the counter starts to get annoyed…then just let me see that Sour Diesel one last time while I end up settling on the first thing I looked at. (more on this later)

Until that day, what can we do? Well for many Missouri patients, it will be their first time stepping foot inside a legal dispensary. The number of selections and options may be dizzying for some to take in all at once. What’s the etiquette inside a dispensary? What can I expect when I get there? I know that’s what I was thinking my first time I visited a dispensary. I got quite a few looks and chuckles from the more experienced locals who could tell I was new to this. If there are such things as dispensary faux pas, I might have done them all. After a fleeting, mildly embarrassing moment, they were nice enough to explain the ins and outs of what is considered the norm when visiting a dispensary. Allow me to share a few things I learned the hard way so you don’t have to go through the same thing I did.

Don’t think you know everything.

Ask questions…and lots of them! Cannabis is a new thing for a lot of Missouri patients, and it might feel intimidating the first time you walk into a dispensary. Someone with out a lengthy history of cannabis use might feel silly or embarrassed to ask ‘stupid questions’, but don’t be. Don’t worry, you are not the only one by far. Budtenders are there to help you not challenge you. Budtenders, like most cannabis enthusiasts, enjoy talking about their favorite subject…Cannabis! Ultimately, with their help, you are trying to find the right strain, with the right terpene and cannabinoid profile, and the right delivery method, that works best for you and your condition. It may take a couple trips to find the right combination but that’s what budtenders are for. To help you navigate the different options until you find what works best for you.

Put away your phone!

Most dispensaries have a strict “No Phones’” policy so it’s best to keep your phone tucked away while you are inside a dispensary. Casually using your cellphone is discouraged because you could easily snap a pic at any time. It’s also very rude to be on your phone while someone is trying to give you excellent service. Trust me, scrolling until you find the bottom of whatever social media platform you’re on can wait a few minutes while a budtender focuses their time on you.

Don’t Linger

Visiting a dispensary can be exciting and while it may be tempting to try and make the experience last as long as possible, please keep in mind there may be other patients waiting for you to finish looking at every strain twice only to finally settle on the first thing you looked at. (…wow deja uv, this sounds familiar) Once you have completed your purchase, most dispensaries would prefer you be on your way and not hang around for longer then necessary. If you are wondering why the security guard is staring at you, it may be time for you to politely exit stage left.

Don’t talk about illicit activities

This is a big no-no. You will most likely be asked to leave if you break this rule. We all know recreational cannabis is inevitable eventually. But not now, and its probably a few years off in Missouri at least. Missouri passed a medical marijuana law, key word being medical, so saying the wrong thing like sharing with non-patients, driving while smoking, needing party favors, or taking cannabis across state lines, is all frowned upon and should be discouraged by all responsible medical marijuana patients. Your right to consume cannabis should NOT be taken lightly. Many people fought really hard for a long time for us to be able to enjoy the healing powers of cannabis. Rights are hard to earn, and easily taken away. You don’t want to be the person that ruins it for everyone else. (I will hunt you down!)

Don’t Haggle

The price is the price. There is a reason some cannabis is more expensive than others. There is a reason some growers charge more for their best stuff. A lot of love and hard work went into growing that cannabis. Some strains are really hard to get and highly sought after. All the usual rules of commerce apply the same in the cannabis industry. And just like some of your favorite spirits and liquors….the goods ones are normally more expensive, but you also get what you pay for. I hate comparing the two, but facts are facts. And don’t even complain about the tax rate. The budtender selling you your eighth can do absolutely nothing about that tax rate, and they didnt decide what it should be. Trust me when I say that Uncle Sam is collecting his due from not just the patient, but also every cultivator, dispensary, and processor. Render unto Caesar and all that….oh, and businesses can’t deduct expenses. But thats a whole other bag of worms.

Don’t draw attention to the dispensary

Most dispensaries operate on a fragile truce with their surrounding neighborhood. A lot of dispensaries exist without any issues or complaints. However, there will always be that one neighbor just waiting for someone to do the wrong thing and try and get the place shut down. As tempting as it may be, leave your meds in its packaging until you get home and for heaven’s sake, don’t even think about sparking up in the parking lot.

OK, I think that covers most of our bases on what not to do. Now, what TO DO…

Bring your ID

Medical marijuana dispensaries are governed by some of the most stringent regulations out there. They are not going to let you in without an ID. Even if you were to go to your favorite dispensary everyday, at the same time of day, wearing the same clothes, they are not going to let you in. It’s not that they don’t know you, or that they don’t want to help you, it’s that any slight misstep could mean they will lose the license they fought so hard to get. Before you can leave the waiting room and enter the sales floor, you are going to have to show the front desk your ID and Patient ID Card

Ask Questions

I know I shared this already, but I think it bears repeating. Don’t make the mistake by thinking that you know everything. The science is always changing. A lot of things we took as facts 10 years ago are being debunked as “Bro Science” , or things you might have heard from your ‘bros’ that you take as fact. Good dispensaries are going to have an ongoing training program for their staff. Asking a few questions can tell you a lot about what a budtender does or doesn’t know, and by that, if a dispensary is worth visiting again.

Check out the menu online

If there is something specific you would like to try, it’s smart to call ahead and make sure their online menu is current. This can help you avoid a disappointing trip when your favorite strain is also a popular one and the dispensary runs out before you can get there. Some dispensaries may even be able to pull your order and have it ready for pickup when you get there!

Tipping your budtender is common…

Some people are surprised to learn that tipping a budtender is more common than you think. $1 or $2 for small buys, $5 for bigger buys. Some might consider a dispensary as a retail business. I will argue the fact that a great dispensary is judged not only by their product, but also by the service they provide their patients. Sometimes more so the latter. Budtenders, like a barista or bartender, provide a service for patients. Budtenders help patients with all kinds of things like finding the right dosage, mode of delivery, or finding the right product with the right terpene profile that best suits their needs. Budtenders often develop long-term relationships with the patients they help as they craft the individual patient therapy plan for that specific patient.

I share the same excitement that I’m sure most of you feel when I think about when dispensaries will finally be open for business here in Missouri. Bottom line, the thing to remember is to have fun and enjoy your trip to the dispensary. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, the budtenders are there to share their vast knowledge and passion they have for cannabis with you and help make your visit an enjoyable one. Could really use a pic of the KC Cannabis coming soon banner….