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A First-Timer’s Guide to Visiting a Dispensary in Washington

Visiting a cannabis dispensary for the first time, no matter where you live, can be a nerve-wracking experience for anyone. By doing a bit of research beforehand, however, you’ll know what to expect on your first visit. In Washington, anyone over the age of 21 can visit a retail cannabis store, otherwise known as a dispensary, with either a valid form of identification or a medical cannabis recommendation.

Nearby dispensaries can be found on cannabis directory sites like Weedmaps or Leafly. These dispensary directories feature menus, deals, maps, and sometimes online ordering options for your convenience. Once you’ve found a dispensary you like, grab your state-issued ID (or a valid passport for out-of-country travelers) or a medical cannabis recommendation, as well as cash since most cannabis businesses deal with cash only. Call beforehand to check if they have an ATM on-site.

Walking Into a Washington Dispensary

Every dispensary will have a security on guard and security cameras to ensure customer safety. While these protective measure may seem intimidating, they are there for your protection. The security guard will ask for your ID or recommendation and you may have to wait in the lobby or waiting room, depending on how many customers are being served in the main showroom.


When it’s your turn, you’ll be directed into the showroom where a “budtender” will guide you through every step of your shopping process. Keep in mind, most dispensaries will prohibit cell phone use in their showroom. The budtender will begin by asking what type of experience you are looking for. If you are unsure, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Budtenders can show you what products or strains can benefit your medical or recreational experience.

Types of Cannabis Products

While cannabis legalization has paved the way for new cannabis products to emerge, you’ll still find cannabis flower in dispensary display cases. Cannabis flower is categorized as indica, sativa, and hybrid. Indica strains are ideal for pain and a relaxing body high. Sativa strains feature a more energizing and cerebral experience. Hybrid strains feature characteristics of both sativa and indica strains.


When deciding on which cannabis product to purchase, don’t just focus on the levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Other compounds in the plant, including the aromatic terpenes, interact with each other to amplify the therapeutic effects in a process known as “the entourage effect.” Cannabis strains vary in levels of THC, with some strains reaching up to 30% THC. Besides flower, you can also choose from cannabis-infused edibles, concentrates, topicals, tinctures, cartridges, capsules, and more.


You’ll want to decide whether you’re looking for a psychoactive or non-psychoactive (CBD) experience. Both experiences have potent therapeutic properties, but the non-psychoactive experience keeps your clear-headed. A budtender can help you select specific products for specific medical conditions including pain, inflammation, anxiety, muscle spasms, sleep disorders, and more. Every product breaks down differently inside you body. For example, vaporizing cannabis will provide instant relief for about an hour. On the other hand, edibles can take up to an hour or two to kick in with effects lasting up to eight hours.


Concentrates are the newest cannabis products that can provide intense and quick relief. To get the most out of concentrates in terms of potency and flavor, you can consume with specially-designed “dab rigs,” vaporizers, or add them to your flower. Concentrates are known by many different names, but all are high potency (60%-90% THC) and contain therapeutic cannabinoids without plant matter. One of the most popular ways to consume concentrates is with pre-filled cartridges that easily attach to a vape battery.

Final Tips for Visiting a Washington Dispensary

If you’re planning on buying cannabis, you’ll only be able to buy an ounce of flower, seven grams of concentrates, 16 ounces of edibles, or 72 liquid ounces at a time if you’re a recreational or medical patient. All cannabis products have a 37% excise tacked on, but if you’re a medical patient, you are tax-exempt. Additionally, all cannabis flower produced in Washington is sent to a third-party laboratory to test for consistency and purity. After the product is tested, it’s pre-packaged and features a “potency profile” with exact levels of different cannabinoids, each with its own therapeutic properties. These profiles can help you understand what exactly you’re consuming. For more information, check out our cannabis beginner’s guide.

DISCLAIMER: In compliance with RCW 69.51 – WARNING

This product has intoxicating effects and may be habit forming. Smoking is hazardous to your health; risks associated with consumption of this product. Should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. For use by adults 21+. Keep out of reach of children and pets. Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgement. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of this drug. Nothing is for sale.