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Many of us have waited a lifetime to visit a legal cannabis store. And, it’s true: There’s no denying the rush of looking around you and seeing hundreds of cannabis strains and products for sale. It’s a feeling like no other, and it’s one that more and more of us now have the opportunity to experience. So, it makes sense to be prepared for that first visit. Having a game plan in place beforehand means that you’ll maximize the probability of a positive experience once you’re in the weed store. Here are a few things you can do.

1. Know the rules ahead of time (have your ID)

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Depending on where you live, you may need your medical authorization papers or “green card” to visit local dispensaries. In states where recreational cannabis is legal, like Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, and soon, California and Nevada, the only requirement is that you be an adult, 21 or older, and that you have a photo ID.

But no matter your age, you will be carded and you will need valid identification.

2. Bring cash

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While many dispensaries have an ATM on hand, most won’t take plastic. Use that debit card ahead of time and avoid the ATM line at the dispensary.

3. Research what’s available before your in-person visit

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While browsing the weed store is lots of fun, your friendly budtender will very much appreciate it if you’ll have at least some familiarity with the product selection before walking up to the counter. Are you shopping for mainly medicine or fun? Do you want edibles, flowers, vape cartridges, concentrates, or topicals?

Does the dispensary have an online menu? Study it and identify the products of interest. And don’t be afraid to ask the budtender for his or her recommendations; most will enjoy sharing their expertise and familiarity with the products.

4. Zero in on which strains might be best for you

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Learn the differences between sativas, indicas, and hybrids before you enter the store. Your budtender will be glad to help with your bud-ucation, but it really helps to have a grasp of the basics before being on the spot.

5. Ask questions

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The old saw goes, “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask,” and that definitely applies in a dispensary. If you don’t understand something, ask about it. If the answer doesn’t clear it up, ask a follow-up.

6. Don’t expect to take weed out of the container

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And especially don’t expect to smoke on-premises. Recreational cannabis rules in most states forbid open containers of bud in the store (although medical cannabis rules are looser in some locations). And it’s a no-no almost everywhere to actually consume any cannabis on the premises.

7. Subscribe to dispensary newsletters

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Many shops, perhaps even most these days, offer email updates on their latest offers and special deals. These are worthwhile to the value-conscious consumer, as you can find some killer deals with just a little effort.

8. Don’t be obnoxious

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Put that cell phone away, please. Many dispensaries have a “no photo” policy, and therefore by definition restrict phone usage inside. Even when they don’t, chatting, texting and shooting photos can be very distracting and annoying for fellow customers and for dispensary employees.

Have some consideration and put that phone away for a couple of damn minutes; you’ll be fine.

9. Respect the personal space of other customers

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Many of the more popular shops typically have waiting lines. This should go without saying, but after visiting a few places, it apparently needs repeating: Give ample space to the person in front of you. Besides just being good manners, you are also giving them an opportunity to discuss their medical conditions and other personal information in privacy.

10. Do not haggle, harangue, or harass your budtender

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Your budtender, while often a wonderful source of information and advice, doesn’t control the inventory. He or she cannot “front you a sack.” He or she cannot “throw you an extra nug.” Cannabis products are closely tracked, from seed to sale, and in Washington state, for instance, it is unfortunately illegal to give any away.

11. Don’t smoke in the parking lot

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If you make this rookie mistake, you might well be asked to leave. In a worst-case scenario, you could actually be ticketed for public consumption, an expensive and silly mistake. Get your stoner ass out of the dispensary parking lot before firing up.

12. Lab results are useful, but they don’t tell the whole story

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While the THC and CBD numbers on laboratory test results are quite useful (for instance, if you are comparing all the $10/gram strains for potency), there are plenty of important factors that don’t show up in those numbers.

Things like types of terpenes (the aromatic compounds that not only smell wonderful but actually can potentiate the high) can greatly impact your experience. Some people love the smell and taste of Sour Diesel, for instance; others would much rather have Girl Scout Cookies or Cherry Pie.

Other things not reflected in the lab numbers include cure quality and conscientious trimming.

13. Cosmetic factors like trim and smell aren’t the be-all, either

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Having offered a few cautionary words about lab results, let me quickly add that cosmetic factors such as appearance and terpenes give you limited information, as well.

While attractively trimmed, expertly flowered buds are undeniably things of beauty (and great to show off to your smokin’ buddies or significant other), the best trim and smell in the world pale in importance next to the high you get from the weed.

Don’t lose sight of how it makes you feel. There’s no weed trimmed expertly enough to compensate for not getting you where you want to go, mentally.

14. Now, go and have yourself some fun!

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Remember that buying weed, when done right, is a joyful and fun experience. Re-upping your cannabis supply is a happy occasion, and one that is to be properly approached with a healthy sense of fun and adventure.

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