These are Our Tips for Shoppers Buying Cannabis Products at a Dispensary/ Retail Store for the first, second, or third time… either way there’s always more to learn.
A cannabis dispensary is a retail shop offering lab-tested adult-use cannabis products for medicinal or recreational purposes. Whether you’re a complete novice or a seasoned consumer, entering a dispensary for the first time can be a daunting experience. This is why we had to develop this article on A Beginner’s Guide to First Dispensary Visit. Each dispensary creates an atmosphere unique to how and where the shop is run. You may avoid future headaches by checking out online reviews of your local shops before you visit. An important step to ensuring your first experience is comfortable and informative is by visiting a shop that has a reputation for prioritizing its customer service.
This article will give a rundown of the experience of visiting a legal cannabis shop and the general etiquette to expect. Before walking through the visit, I’ll first break down the essentials of navigating the legal cannabis market and walk through the basics of cannabis chemistry. Tailored to beginners, I’ll dive deep into the edibles realm serving as the perfect entry-level landscape for effortless consumption with precise dosing. If you were looking for an introduction to shopping for cannabis in 2024, you came to the right place! Ready to get prepped for your first dispensary visit? Let’s dive in!
Exploring the Cannabis Market
Cannabis can be consumed in three different pathways: inhalation, digestion, and topical application. Each method has its own effects, benefits, and drawbacks. The most notable way of consuming Cannabis is through the method of inhalation, either with flower or concentrate. This allows consumers to enjoy the effects of cannabis immediately compared to the delayed onset of their counterparts. If you are looking to avoid inhalation, edibles, and topicals can cater to your needs without the impact on your lungs. Keep in mind that all cannabis forms and products can provide unique experiences. Your cannabis consumption can evolve with your lifestyle as you learn to target your effects. The simplest cannabis form for any new consumer to explore is edibles. With the most diverse offerings on the market, cannabis edibles can easily be thought of as the “entry-level” option.
The Essentials of Cannabis Edibles
Offering the best options for precise discreet dosing, edibles are a wonderfully diverse introduction to the cannabis market. The options you can find on the legal market today are endless, making it easier than ever to integrate cannabis into your lifestyle. From classic baked goods to iconic gummies, each edible product has its own personality. To encompass the expansiveness, below is a list of some edible forms you can find in a dispensary.
- Baked Goods (Brownies, Cookies, etc.)
- Fruit Chews
- Drinks (Seltzer/Soda, Juices, Teas, Tincture, Shots, Syrups)
- Tablets/Pills/Capsules/Sublingual Strips
- Full Spectrum Oil (FSO)/Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)
As you can see, your options in 2024 are much more extensive than a humble plate of pot brownies. Without compromising your lung health, cannabis edibles are great for beginners wanting accurate dosing.
Now let’s talk through some points to keep in mind when browsing your edible options at a dispensary.
What are your preferences for each of these factors?
- Targeted Effects
- Onset Time
- Infusion Method
- Serving Size
- Dietary Preferences
What brings you to cannabis consumption? Are you looking for physical relaxation or calming your mind? Perhaps you need help with sleep or a boost in energy? Cannabis edibles will often market with the “intended effects” of their products, dictated by the infusion containing cannabinoids and potential terpenes amongst other various minor compounds. Key terms suggesting strain-like effects such as “sativa”, “indica”, or “hybrid” can paint the picture of your intended experience. Generally speaking in relation to edibles, sativa refers to energizing/uplifting effects, indica promotes physical and mental relaxation, and hybrid is a combo of the two. Check out this link for a guide to what these terms mean with the cannabis plant (Link). Certain effects may be targeted by formulating with specific cannabinoids such as CBD, CBN, CBG, and THCv. These cannabinoids stand out on the market today for assisting with pain relief, sleep, focus, memory, energy, and much more. Some products may also suggest its intended effects by indicating what strain it was infused with such as “Sour Diesel”, “Granddaddy Purple”, or “Gelato”.
Terpenes are Tantalizing!
The “buzz” word you may see with cannabis edible products is terpenes, often being described as either botanically or cannabis derived. Terpenes are aromatic compounds naturally occurring in plants, offering an array of therapeutic properties. In order to achieve a superior experience with cannabis products, you will want to consume cannabinoids and terpenes together. This will create what is known as the entourage effect, where the therapeutic effects of the cannabinoids become enhanced. Higher quality products will often use cannabis extracts more chemically well-rounded and representative of the starting plant material. More common extraction methods will isolate cannabinoids while subjecting the cannabis concentrate to conditions that degrade the terpenes. Edible products will typically make up for this loss with the addition of terpenes later, as marketed with their packaging. This illustrates how the infusion method of your edibles will dictate the type of experience you have. Keep in mind that to ensure the most positive effects, it is best to be intentional with your cannabis consumption in an environment you find comfortable. Cannabis can impact everybody different and not all products are created equal. Some after effects you may experience as the edibles leave your system are drowsiness, mood changes, and headaches.
When it comes to edibles, they are the most precise way to dose your cannabis consumption. They are also notoriously known for risk of overdosing due to a lack of education on how to consume edibles. A single dose of THC for the adult consumer is widely considered 10mg. This is what will be advertised most commonly as a single serving for edibles, with an entire package typically containing 10 servings totaling to 100mg THC. This should be any beginner’s baseline for how to dose based on experience and comfort. If it is your first time consuming THC edibles, then dropping the dose to 5mg or 2.5mg is a great start to gauge your dose to feel the effects. The biggest point to keep in mind when consuming edibles is that there will always be a delayed onset compared to inhalation since your body is using the digestive tract to absorb the THC. Always give your edibles a 2 hour window of time to take effect before dosing more. The average onset time can be from 30 minutes to 90 minutes depending on various factors. Just like cooking up the perfect pot roast, you’ll want to take your dosing “low and slow”.
The “onset time” of cannabis edibles refers to the time it takes to feel the effects. Like mentioned above, the typical onset time is in the range of 30-90 minutes. Once the edibles start to take effect, the full experience can last 4-12 hours. Peak effects will take place typically after 2-3 hours and fade slowly as the THC is metabolized. Onset time depends on a variety of factors, some unique to your body and others unique to the product. Everyone’s body has its own metabolism and cannabis tolerance that will individually determine how fast edibles take effect. If you also just ate a meal, the effects may be delayed in the process of reaching full digestion.
Now you may be wondering how this relates to your options on the market. Thanks to science and technology today, products are being created with an offer of a faster onset time. This is achieved with a couple aspects, through form and/or infusion method. A popular product on the edibles market are drinks, coming in options like seltzers, sodas, iced teas, or juices. The benefit of drinkable edibles is it cuts down on the time for digestion, allowing the THC to easily enter the bloodstream soon after consumption. Some that can be consumed stand-alone or mixed into other drinks are syrups, shots, and tinctures. You can also consume cannabis products sublingually under your tongue for faster onset, including tinctures, tablets, sprays, and strips.
Go slow, you can always eat more, but you can’t eat less.
Another way edibles will achieve a rapid onset is with the infusion technique, often using nanotechnology. Nano-edibles use a manufacturing technique with the cannabis oil used for infusion to make THC more bio available. By emulsifying the oil into nano particles and becoming water-soluble, the THC has a faster absorption with an onset average of 15 minutes. This technology has made its way into cookies and gummies, but you can find an especially quick onset with drinkable edibles that also claim to be nano. If you are looking for edibles with a faster onset time, be sure to ask your bud tender (cannabis sales personnel) what drinks, sublingual, or nano options are available.
The infusion of food is what transforms a standard treat into a therapeutic experience. The cannabis edibles on the market are not created equal and the biggest factor of the consumer effects is rooted in the infusion method. The most common form of infusion for edibles is using distillate oil, a cannabis extract created using solvents and heat to isolate cannabinoids. This widely used extraction technique loses its terpenes as the heat degrade these volatile compounds. As mentioned in the Targeted Effects section above, achieving a superior cannabis experience involves a high from a more chemically diverse source, including both cannabinoids and terpenes. Edibles infused with distillate will often add in botanical or cannabis-derived terpenes to still create the entourage effect for the consumer.
Different Levels of Infusion to Consider
Going up a tier are products using live resin, an extract that prevents the terpene loss by avoiding heat but still utilizing solvents. This form of infusion will be able to represent the identity and intended effects of the original plant strain. This more extensive processing creates a well-rounded experience without the need to supplement with terpenes. Taking this extra care with the plant allows the consumer to embrace the effects of what is considered full spectrum concentrate. The top level of full spectrum extraction that is promoted in edibles are those considered solvent-less or rosin-infused. As suggested by the name, this infusion method doesn’t require solvents or excessive heat for extraction, making it the cleanest option utilizing mechanical pressing. Think of consuming solvent-less or rosin products similar to consuming an organic diet. As people chose to avoid pesticides with their produce, regular consumers of cannabis may want to avoid solvents in their concentrates. The quality of the infusion typically becomes more important when consuming it independently either with vaporizing or dabbing.
The main takeaway as far as the importance of the infusion with cannabis edibles is to ensure there is the inclusion of terpenes. Distillate is a common concentrate that can still create wonderful edibles if paired with terpenes. Going the route of live resin or rosin will offer a natural full spectrum experience more true to the starting cannabis material. If you’re unsure how an edible product is infused while shopping, your bud tender is a great resource to help you understand your options. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
One point to note as you explore incorporating cannabis edibles into your lifestyle is the amount of product you want to consume to reach your perfect dose. If you’re a beginner with a lower tolerance, this may be less of a point of concern for you. Staying in the realm of dosing 10-20mg doesn’t get impacted much if it equates to a couple small cookies or gummies. For consumers looking to take higher doses, eating 5-10 cookies can be inconvenient or undesirable. This is where the area of the market for high-dosers flourishes, often leaning towards 100mg shot, 1000mg syrups/tinctures or even max dose single 100mg cookies. If you are on the other spectrum and want to embrace the low dose, micro-dose edibles are sometimes available in 2.5mg or 5mg so beginners can have more freedom. If you want to dose in the most hassle-free way, capsules, tablets, and mints take the cake for cannabis consumption at its simplest. There truly is a product for everyone on the market regardless of your experience level and tolerance.
Strictly on a vegan or no-sugar diet? Many cannabis edibles target health points to increase accessibility and inclusion in the market. This means you are likely to find options with emphasis on being vegan, organic, sugar-free, low-calorie, non-GMO, etc. If any of these aspects are important to your diet, check with your bud tender to see what options best work with your lifestyle.
Often an afterthought, the portability of your edibles is a perk that can take a product to the next level as far as function. This may be a minor point if you dose only at home, but packaging is everything when it comes to consuming on the go. A compact container of gummies pops easily into your bag compared to a large bag of cookies. The smaller edibles such as tablets, capsules and mints also reign top-tier with portability. Another great option is individually wrapped edibles such as fruit chews or chocolates. This gives you the option to easily pop a few in your pocket, being superior for coupling portability and discretion. Just some more food for thought when trying to find the best cannabis edibles for your lifestyle.
The Basics of Cannabis Chemistry
Taking the time to learn about the chemistry behind cannabis consumption will help you tailor your experiences. First and foremost, the human body is predisposed to respond to cannabis consumption with unique receptors in the brain as part of the endocannabinoid system. When experiencing the benefits of cannabis, these receptors get activated by the chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. The most well known cannabinoids include Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). The cannabis plant has a whole plethora of beneficial chemical compounds, some psychoactive and others simply therapeutic. In order to be an informed consumer as a beginner, the main components to focus on when exploring cannabis are the cannabinoids and terpenes. These elements go hand-in-hand, working together in what scientists suggest as the entourage effect, where the addition of terpenes to cannabinoids shows a synergistic response.
The Synergistic Entourage Effect
If we were to visualize this concept, you could picture a car driving towards the high, where the cannabinoids are the gas and the terpenes control the steering wheel. With terpenes being a clear dictator of your high destination, this illustrates how important of a role they play in the consumer experience. Terpenes are aromatic compounds produced most commonly by plants. Utilized in nature, terpenes help plants attract pollinators or provide protection from predators and diseases. When it comes to cannabis, the various terpenes to learn also occur in familiar plants such as lavender, lemon, pepper, and pine. Products will often list the terpenes present to suggest the intended effect. Terpenes profiles help make up each cannabis strain’s unique properties, such as pain relief, sedation, or mood boost.
Below are graphics listing the major cannabinoids and terpenes common in cannabis products across the legal market today. These can be used to prompt personal research for finding products that target your effects of interest. The terpene profile can be relevant to essentially the whole market, where cannabinoids will be most diversely available with edibles.
15 Common Cannabis Terpenes are as Shows:
Most Common Cannabinoids discovered thus far (because there are plenty of Cannabinoids yet to be discovered and their purpose or effect):
The Dispensary Visit and Etiquette
Cannabis shops can present a variety of environments with ambiance from sleek medical to casual retail. As you enter a dispensary for the first time you may see an armed guard onsite. This level of security can be normal due to location and/or consequential criminal activity often tied to the cannabis industry. Keep in mind they are simply there to ensure you have a safe experience. You will be expected to show a form of ID for age verification at some point before purchase. The age restriction will depend on whether the state allows recreational use or if you are using a medical-issued marijuana card. Recreational access is typically available to adults 21+ and medicinal access with a card can be available to adults 18+. Check out this resource to see the specific cannabis laws for your state!
Look for signage posted for security purposes
Keep an eye out to respect the rules of the shop you visit. This may include no touching the products, no taking phone calls, no bags allowed, no food or drink, etc.. Every legal shop takes its own level of precaution and operates to local regulations. This will also influence the taxes you pay on your products. Always feel free to ask dispensary workers what the tax breakdown is and if it is included with the total product price or applied later with checkout. The nature of the cannabis industry results in a high taxation on products, combining various levels of government-issued tax with consequences for cannabis still being classified as a Schedule I drug. For example, in California this means you may be paying anywhere from 25-35% tax depending on your location, including excise tax, sales tax, and local cannabis tax. To learn more about the current movement to reclassify cannabis as Schedule III, check out this congressional research article.
Check out the Menu
It can be helpful to reference the dispensary’s online menu if available so you can have some idea of the products you’re interested in. Online menus can also be a good way to see what is currently in stock as they are often updated by inventory software. While browsing in a dispensary, the bud tenders (cannabis sales personnel) will assist you in finding the products you’re looking for. Explain the types of consumption you are interested in and address your points of preference as described in the above sections. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions to ensure you find the right product for you. When checking out, there’s a chance the shop is cash-only, however many dispensaries have evolved to allow card transactions. It can save a headache to check ahead of time what forms of payment are accepted and if there’s an ATM onsite. Of course just like any other service, don’t forget to tip your bud tender for their help!