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Sunday December 12, 2021

By Matthew Mongelia

Interior of a marijuana dispensary featuring the point of sale area. Education

This year, countless people will step into a dispensary for the first time. Cannabis tourism is booming, and each election cycle new states are opening up for recreational and medical sales. Purchasing cannabis has never been safer, easier or more convenient. For shoppers old and new alike, we’ve compiled a simple guide of “Dos and Don’ts” to having an optimal dispensary experience, straight from the other side of the counter.

Dispensary Dos and Don’ts

No matter your experience level with cannabis, everyone should be aware of the proper etiquette for visiting a dispensary. Following the guidelines below will help ensure your experience is nothing but smooth.

If it’s your first time at a dispensary, be sure to check out our helpful article on what to expect.

Do Come Prepared

Just like a club or a bar, entry to a dispensary has stipulations. If you’re shopping recreationally, make sure that you have valid, acceptable ID on hand. Call ahead to check if your ID will be accepted if you’re unsure.

Dispensaries will usually be open about what they do and do not accept, which may sometimes be more stringent than the official state guidelines (such as not accepting vertical format ID’s).

If you’re shopping medically, make sure your paperwork is up to date and accurate. If it’s your first time shopping at a medical dispensary, there will usually be some onboarding paperwork to be done before you can start shopping. Be sure to plan for extra time accordingly. Also, some (most) dispensaries only take cash, so hit the ATM beforehand if needed.

Do Some Planning

Give some thought to what you might be looking for — or what you might be open to — before shopping at a dispensary. Most have their menu online, and taking some time to familiarize yourself with the products will keep you from feeling overwhelmed, especially for those new to the dispensary experience. It can even help to take notes beforehand if you’re feeling anxious.

Online Menus
Checking out a dispensary's menu before visiting will save you time and help you find the ideal product for your needs.

If you know what you want and you’re not feeling flexible, call ahead and make sure the items you want are in stock. Inventory moves fast in dispensaries, and that great deal on live resin you were eyeing is going to be as exciting to everyone else as it is to you, so be prepared to move quickly, or have some backup options in mind.

Don’t be a Potency Snob

Walking in the dispensary and asking for the highest potency product is akin to walking into a liquor store and asking for grain alcohol. Sure, it’s potent, but you don’t look classy.

THC content is just one of the many factors that produces the qualities of a high. Feel free to mention if you’re seeking something potent, but don’t assume that numbers are everything. Trust in your budtender. If you’re just looking to get deeply stoned, they will provide the best way possible, and that might not be evident from THC content alone.

Do Ask Questions

Budtenders are there to help. Whether you’ve been smoking since the 70’s or started lighting up when recreational came along, the weed world changes fast. Whatever you think you might know may have changed, and there’s a lot to know, so don’t be shy. Feel free to make inquiries, even “stupid” ones. It will help your budtender help you, and you’ll have better peace of mind as you learn the intricacies of cannabis.

Don’t be Rude (or Accept Rudeness)

The public perception is often that budtenders are dismissive, perma-stoned and half aware. If that is indeed your dispensary experience, we encourage you to seek another shop. In reality, your budtender should courteously carry in-depth product knowledge on an average of 50 rotating items (sometimes many more) alongside a mountain of laws and regulations. It’s a lot to remember, and understanding should be encouraged on both sides. Rudeness can be a quick ticket to bad suggestions and worse service.

Do Make Yourself Comfortable

We turn to Puff Daddy’s timeless advice for arriving on the scene, “act like you've been here before.” It can be unusual and exciting to buy cannabis at a counter, legally, from a vast selection.

Still, make some attempt to be cool about it. Look around; tell the budtender a little about what kind of experience you’re looking to have or other smoking preferences. The more comfortable and open you are, the better your resulting experience will be. Don’t let that comfort slide into being disrespectful, but remember you’re in a place that wants you there and would like to help with your cannabis needs.

Don’t Go Beyond Your Limits

Budtenders truly want their customers to have an enjoyable experience. If you’re cautioned away from something as being too strong, you should probably heed the advice. Cannabis works on its own unique, independent chemical system in the body. Thus, people often base their tolerance assumptions on incorrect factors. Budtenders have experience and want you to have a good time. Listen to them if you’re unsure about dosing!

Don’t Discuss Plans for Illicit Activity

While most customers are pleasant, law-abiding people, there’s at least a few every single day that will walk directly up to a budtender and ask advice on how to circumvent state or federal guidelines. Most don’t even think about the fact that they are doing so openly, on camera. Asking the budtender how to mail weed, telling them you’re going to give it to someone underage, telling them you intend on taking it out of state, or that you intend to resell it are all examples of discussing illicit intentions for your cannabis purchase. Do not do this.

No Illegal Talk
Talking about breaking the law in a dispensary is a bad idea, plain and simple!

These are all illegal and discussing them with your budtender requires that they immediately refuse service, and may ask you to leave the store. Some will give you a warning, but they are not required to.

Every single dispensary in every state is under continual surveillance as part of the regulatory guidelines of legalized cannabis. So, next time you think about nonchalantly asking for help committing a felony, please pause to reconsider before speaking up, and forcing the budtender to intervene. They can and will refuse a sale; it’s a part of the job. It also really ruins their day, so just don’t.

Do Tip

Seriously, you should tip in a dispensary. It’s standard. Budtenders aren’t well paid, and are required to know much more than they are compensated for. A good guide for tipping is to give $1-$2 for small purchases, $5 for bigger buys, and don’t be shy to give more if they really went all out. What exactly does good service look like? In general, it means being attentive and efficient while offering detailed, helpful advice when asked.

Tip Jar
Tipping your budtender is always a good idea, especially if they provided good service. photo credit

Yes, cannabis can be expensive, and yes, sometimes it doesn’t feel like the budtender did much more than facilitate a transaction. Still, have a heart and give a little something, especially if you intend on making it your regular spot. If you looked at six different products and wanted to know the effects of each, you certainly should be tipping. However, a good cannabis purchasing experience is also based on what you want it to be. Want the budtender to be fast and quiet? Communicate that. If they gave the service you wanted, show your appreciation in the tip jar.

Don’t Linger

Most dispensaries are not set up in a way to take large volumes of people at once as a security feature. Unfortunately, strict regulation adherence often takes priority over customer experience. Budtenders have to be hypervigilant on the clock, but won’t let it show.

If you’re done with your purchase, it’s a big help to them if you’re on your way in a timely manner. Budtenders enjoy shooting the breeze as much as any other person under regular circumstances, but in the dispensary, it can be stressful.

Happy Shopping!

There you have it, some simple guidelines to be aware of the next time you decide to visit a dispensary. Remember, budtenders are there to help so keeping in mind these simple dos and don’ts will help improve both of your experience. Finally, if you ever have a particularly pleasant dispensary experience and want to commend your budtender, be sure to leave the dispensary a review on PotGuide to show some love!


What is the best thing to get at a dispensary?

Edibles, pre-rolls and vape cartridges are the most popular items, and are good beginner items, however the best thing at the dispensary is the one that’s right for you. Be sure to ask questions and discuss with your budtender to find the perfect product for your desired experience.

Do dispensaries track how much you buy?

In general no, they do not for recreational cannabis purchases, though some states will track medical cannabis purchases to ensure that a patient does not go over their limit. Recreational dispensaries have purchasing limits, but tend not to share specific purchasing information between them. A dispensary will know how much you bought at their location on a given day, but this information is not retained for longer than 24 hours in most cases. However, regardless of what you wind up purchasing, it is illegal to possess an amount of cannabis over a given state’s legal limits.

How many times can you go to a dispensary?

You can typically visit a dispensary once per day if your purchase limit has been met. Purchase limits will vary by local legislation. If you’ve purchased under the allowable sales limit, you’ll be able to return and purchase up to your remaining limit. Possession limits will also still apply.

Why are cell phones not allowed in dispensaries?

Many dispensaries do not allow cell phones to be used in the store as it can be viewed as possibly facilitating illegal activity. If you call someone on the phone to discuss a purchase, the budtender has no way of knowing if the person you’re talking to is legally allowed to purchase or discuss cannabis. Budtenders are responsible for following state guidelines when making sales, and that includes knowing who they are selling to. Some dispensaries do allow for cell phones, but in general you should assume they don’t.

Are you supposed to tip your budtender?

It’s a good idea to do so, and is the standard practice in most places. Most budtenders are not well compensated, while being required to know an incredible amount of information. Especially if you made use of that knowledge base, it’s nice to acknowledge it with a tip. However, if you receive bad service, remember that tipping is not compulsory, and you don’t need to reward bad behavior.

Do you have any tips for visiting the dispensary? Share them in the comments below!


Matthew Mongelia Matthew Mongelia

Matthew Mongelia is the Content Manager for He holds an MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BFA in Creative Writing from CUNY Brooklyn College. He has worked in the industry in numerous roles for over 5 years while covering cannabis content from coast to coast. Like so many in the industry, he first became acquainted with cannabis as a medical patient, and has been a passionate advocate for the plant ever since. He is a writer for the comic Dark Beach, and has previously covered music and cultural content for SOL REPUBLIC.

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