How Not To Be A Dick At The Marijuana Dispensary

California is a magical land of medical marijuana, but it is also a land filled with glad-eyed grifters and sneering salesmen (or women) eager to take advantage a naive visitor just out to smoke that good. Let me help you.

Jan 14, 2013 at 2:30pm | Leave a comment

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Isn’t my hair presh? My homegirl Michelle, whose OCD lends itself fabulously to hair, works at a teeny salon on Beverly (LA) that offers dank services at shwag rates. If you drop my name you’ll get 20% off your first service.

Medical marijuana was legalized in California under prop 215. Since weed treats a myriad of illnesses, up to and including the crushing banality of life, you don’t even have to lie about having cancer/AIDS and chance burning in hell.

Almost everyone in America and definitely everyone on the Internet suffers from some ailment that can legally and legitimately be treated by marijuana. Physicians regularly prescribe marijuana for depression, insomnia and post traumatic stress. I cited anxiety because I’m one anxious beezy (you wouldn’t believe how much weed I had to smoke to crush my writing anxiety) but if you feel like getting creative, may I suggest complaining of PMS or, my personal favorite, substance abuse? There’s something charmingly bleak about asking for one substance to stop using another substance.

However, this is LA, not Amsterdam and there are rules, laws, and regulations. California is a magical land of medical marijuana, but it is also a land filled with glad-eyed grifters and sneering salesmen (or women) eager to take advantage a naive visitor just out to smoke that good.

Let me help you, you sweet tourist. Here’s a handy walk-through of your first visit to a dispensary. Since xoJane readers deserve nothing but the best I consulted with homegirl B, an Oakland native and manager of a Venice dispensary. 

Before You Go:

1. What is a "rec"?

A doctor’s recommendation for the use of medical marijuana. In the state of California, you need this very adult version of a doctor’s note to legally purchase and consume dank. Contrary to popular belief, your pass into a dispensary doesn’t come in card form. It comes in the form of a handy certificate, like so: 

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2.What do I need to get a rec? 

A big misconception about obtaining a rec is that you can come to California from anywhere and just get your "weed card," but by law you have to be a resident of California to legally own one. Doctors on Venice Boulevard will take your money because you’re a tourist, then give you a "rec," but if you aren’t residing in California, most dispensaries won’t take you.

3.How much should I pay for a rec?

Depending on the location, you can get them from $35 down to $25. On Venice Boulevard (Mecca of medical marijuana), doctors will try to sell them for as high as $120. Be prepared to haggle and always stand your ground. 

Selecting a Strain

Everyone is different and has different reactions to different strains. Most people find sativa good for daytime jobs as well as focusing, creativity and depression. Indicas are mainly for sleep, pain and appetite stimulation. Hybrids are more difficult to generalize, because some are Indica dominant and some are Sativa dominant. Technically all strains are hybrids, because all the strains you’ll buy at a dispensary have been crossed with others.

Finding your favorite strain will mostly be a matter of trial and error. Higher CBD strains produce a stronger body high, while high THC strains provide a more psychoactive effect. CBD, cannaboid, produces the sedative effects; you can thank CBD for relief from pain, insomnia and anxiety. Most places won’t label THC or CBD percentages, but the budtender should know which strains are higher in CBD or THC.  

Some of my personal favorites are OG (stands for Ocean Grown) (Tahoe OG, Banana OG, Platinum OG, and Fire OG) and Kush (Bubba Kush and Candy Kush).

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Candy Kush

OGS and Kush are generally Indica, but not always. It’s hard to say anything definitively because the grower, who is likely a) high off his ass and b) eager to name the strain whatever will sell best, names strains. Personally, I’m a Sativa girl so my favorite strains are blue dream, trainwreck, sour diesel and white widow.

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White Widow

Hybrids have more subtle differences based on personal preference and therefore out of this guides’ scope. Each person should experiment with hybrids on their own after getting comfortable with Indica and Sativa strains.


Don'ts From a Dispensary Manager

1. Don't refer to medical marijuana as "drugs."

"According to the State of California, marijuana is medicine and we must all treat it as such. The person behind the counter is not offering a drug deal; they are offering compassionate care. Yes, these terms are a bit of a joke. No, you are not sick. We all still have to play along so stop winking like you just swallowed a vat of bath salts and pay attention."

2. Don’t use weed euphemisms.

"It’s not the place. I hate hate hate when people ask, ‘What’s your dankest strain?’ or, ‘What fire?’ Don’t talk like you are out on the fucking streets and just learned a good adjective for weed.”

3. Don’t come in and vent about your whole day.

"We have to hear about 60 others. We are compassionate, but we aren’t counselors."

4. Don’t ask for a discount.

"Don't come in and explain how you want a discount because you're in so much pain because you got stabbed in the leg and you don’t get paid till next week."

I’m sure we can all relate. 

5. Be considerate.

"If you’re finished with the transaction and there’s a bunch of people behind you, it’s your time to leave. Don’t try to chat with the budtender while others are waiting for their weed.” 

6. Empathize.

"Budtenders are like bartenders except we don’t get alcohol to help tolerate customers. And just because it’s weed doesn’t mean tips are out the window."

7. Don’t come to a dispensary already high.

"We all know you smoke. You’re just making it harder for yourself and the budtender while purchasing weed you probably shouldn’t be smoking.”

8. Don’t smoke in the parking lot.

“It throws the whole legitimacy of the business out the window.”

9. Don’t hit on the budtender.

"Like bartenders, budtenders will hit on you if they’re interested." 

10. Don’t come to a dispensary just because you want the first time deal.

“It’s not worth our time or yours for some bullshit joint or teeny grinder.”

I couldn’t agree more. Last time I went to the dispensary, I witnessed another customer throwing a class-a tantrum over the fine print. Being blatantly stingy in any context has to be the tackiest thing in the world.


I’d like to add a final rule to B’s ten.

11. Even if you only smoke weed recreationally, recognize that many people authentically benefit from medical marijuana.

George, my mother’s boyfriend, needed a tracheotomy some years back and still grappled with cancer. In him, I saw firsthand the solace medical marijuana can provide to those bearing a burden too heavy for anyone to comfortably bear. He’d slip me a gram or so under the table, and after dinner we’d self-medicate in companionable silence: him for cancer, me for general bitchiness. On January 8th, 2013,  George died in a sudden and terrible fashion.

This article, however unexceptional, is for George. I’ll be seeing you in the big dispensary in the sky.