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How to Buy Marijuana in a Recreational State

Your complete guide to what to expect when buying marijuana in a recreational state.

If you live in a recreationally legal marijuana state or plan to visit one soon, you may be asking a very common question: How do I buy recreational marijuana?

In this easy to follow guide, we prepare you for your first time purchasing recreational marijuana and walk you through this relatively simple process.

In Which States Can I Buy Recreational Marijuana?

A state ID or driver’s license from any state proving you are over 21 will get you access to legal dispensaries in six of the recreational marijuana states in the U.S.:

  • Colorado
  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Alaska
  • California
  • Nevada

With fully established recreational marijuana programs in these states, dispensaries have been licensed to distribute marijuana to anyone of legal age.

Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont have also legalized recreational marijuana. However, as of now, there are no legal dispensaries licensed in these markets, so consumers aren’t able to purchase marijuana yet.

Recreational marijuana is also legal in Washington D.C., but there is no system in place to purchase it. The only way to legally purchase marijuana right now in D.C. is with a medical card, and it is illegal to bring marijuana in from out of state, putting residents there in a sticky legal grey area.  

finding legal marijuana

Finding a Recreational Dispensary

Once you are in a legal recreational marijuana state, what is the best way to locate the best cannabis dispensaries? There are a few reliable ways to find nearby shops, including online directories, local print media, and even traditional marketing efforts. These dispensaries might be brick and mortar shops or delivery services.

You can find dispensaries listed by location from a number of directories online that keep a database of cannabis dispensaries. Some of these online services also list out a shop’s “menu” or the marijuana strains and products the dispensary has in stock.

Recreational dispensaries often advertise either online, in a city’s free culture and nightlife magazines, or even on billboards in some markets. Sign spinners are also a popular way for dispensaries to get your attention.

States that have legalized cannabis sometimes limit how marijuana businesses can use traditional marketing channels, forcing dispensaries to get creative with how they reach out to their potential customers.

Unsure of which dispensary to choose? Online directories often allow users to rate and review shops. Many markets also have sites dedicated to reviewing shops to give you an idea of where to best purchase your recreational cannabis.

You can learn more about finding the best dispensary near you in our easy to follow guide.

What Do I Need?

To purchase recreational marijuana from a dispensary, like with purchasing alcohol, all that is needed is proof that you are over 21. For this, you can use government issued documents like a driver’s license, state photo I.D., or passport. You do not need to be a resident of the state you are in to purchase legal recreational marijuana.

You’ll also want to make sure you have enough cash on hand to cover your purchase. It is rare for a marijuana dispensary to take credit cards, though some do. Most dispensaries that are cash-only have an ATM on site, but fees for use can be high.

best marijuana delivery

Choosing Between a Shop, Pickup, or Delivery

While most new users have a mental image of walking into a marijuana store when deciding to purchase recreational cannabis, there are actually a few choices in how you get your marijuana, including entering brick and mortar shops, ordering your selections ahead of time for pickup, and having someone deliver your order. Some shops even offer all three options. Other dispensaries may exist only as a delivery service.

Physical shops are a popular way for many consumers to get their cannabis products. Customers can see the range of products for sale, check out the packaging, smell the different strains of cannabis flower, and ask as many questions as it takes to find the best products.

They also offer advantages to those who are new to buying legal marijuana and are unsure what they want. These customers can benefit from having a knowledgeable “budtender” to help walk them through their many choices and help them go home with the right product.

Some brick and mortar dispensaries also allow customers to call their order in ahead of time and then come pick it up, letting them skip the often long lines at some licensed dispensaries. This is helpful if you are in a hurry and already know what you want. As simple as grabbing any other take-out order, picking up your marijuana preorder will get you going on your way without the wait.

Finally, some dispensaries offer delivery for those who can’t or wish not to visit a physical shop. Orders are called in and then brought to your home or office by a delivery person. Some delivery customers are unable to travel to a brick and mortar dispensary, others are short on time and like the convenience, and some simply enjoy the privacy that delivery offers over visiting a store.

While all of these methods have their own unique benefits, what is most convenient and comfortable for you will likely be the best choice. Learn more about finding a dispensary here.

buying marijuana at dispensary

Visiting a Shop

Once you arrive at your dispensary, you’ll probably be met at the front door by a security guard. They will likely want to wand you down with a metal detector. This isn’t an indication that a shop isn’t safe. It is simply a precaution and a reality in an industry that is largely still cash-based.

Once you enter the shop, you’ll need to check in with the front desk. They will scan your I.D. to ensure your age and then put you on a list to enter the sales floor. You will then be directed to wait in the waiting room. At any point during your visit, you may experience long lines. As you can imagine, legal cannabis is quite popular, and extended wait times do happen. Try to schedule your visit for when you know you have time.

Once you are called to the back room, you are ready to begin your shopping experience. We will describe the types of products available in more detail further below.

Ordering Delivery

In some markets, it is also possible to order your recreational marijuana products to be delivered to your home. Delivery is a smart choice if you aren’t able to leave your home, there are no nearby brick and mortar shops, or if you already know what you want and don’t have any questions.

Delivery services can be found in the same ways as a physical store. Once you find a delivery service you want to use, typically, you will need to call in to the delivery service to place an order. However, more savvy services allow order by text. Some even have their own smartphone apps.

Before you place your order, you’ll need to choose your products from the shop’s menu. This may be found on directory apps for cannabis businesses or sometimes on a shop’s own website. Once your order has been placed, wait times can vary based on time of day, distance from business, etc.

When your order arrives, most drivers will bring the order to your door. In some cases, they will ask you to come meet them at their car instead. Be sure to check your order to ensure it is correct before your driver leaves.

types of marijuana product

What Products Can I Buy?

Dispensaries will provide a wide selection of brands and product types to satisfy the needs of their many customers. Here are some of the products you are likely to find in dispensaries.

Flower: The flowering buds of the marijuana plant, marijuana flower can be smoked in a glass pipe, in a bong, or rolled into a joint or blunt. It is also possible to vaporize the active compounds in marijuana flower with an appropriately equipped vaporizer. Marijuana flower is available in an incredible range of strains or genetic genotypes. This variety of strains is made possible by cross-breeding different strains, creating new ones with the shared characteristics of their parents. Marijuana flower is typically classified as either an indica, sativa, or hybrid. You can find our list of the most popular marijuana strains here.

Concentrates: Marijuana concentrates include products like kief, hash, oil, shatter, wax, and more. These products seek to concentrate the active compounds in marijuana like its cannabinoids and terpenes into a consumable product. Marijuana concentrates can be dabbed, vaporized, infused into edibles, or added to marijuana flower to increase its potency.

Edibles and Beverages: Using a variety of techniques, companies have infused food products ranging from brownies and candies to frozen pizza and ice cream with cannabinoids like THC. Beverages like soda, coffee, and tea are also available infused with THC. You can find more about edibles here.

Topicals: The cannabinoids in cannabis can also be absorbed by the body through the skin. For this reason, you can find topically applied products like balms, lotions, massage oils, and even patches. Why choose a cannabis topical? Find out here.

Take your time browsing available products and ask any questions you have to your budtender. This will make it easier to choose between the many products on the dispensary shelves. Need help finding the right type of marijuana products for you? Visit our guide here.

There are limitations to how much marijuana and its derived products that you can legally purchase and possess at any given time. You can learn more about the sizes marijuana flower is sold in and typical prices here.

In most recreationally legal states, there is a cap of one ounce of dried marijuana flower. Similar caps exist on how much marijuana concentrate or edibles you can buy or possess.

Find a Dispensary Now

Visit our complete guide to finding the perfect dispensary here, or visit our Cannabis 101 page to learn more about recreational marijuana.

Post by Jeffrey Stamberger

Jeffrey writes media content covering the latest in news, medical research, policy changes, and product education from the cannabis industry.
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