The Green Room
The Green Room Dispensary. Courtesy photo

What to Expect on Your First Trip to a Dispensary


So you’ve decided to visit Boulder, and while you’re here you want to make the most of it. Visit our beautiful mountains, bask in our 300-plus days of sunshine every year and enjoy our food, drink and hospitality. Of course, while you’re here, you may have decided to partake in another commodity that isn’t available everywhere. That’s right. We’re talking weed.

According to a study commissioned by the Colorado Tourism Office, the marijuana business brings huge numbers of visitors to Colorado every year, and whether you’re a longtime smoker, medical-only user or never tried marijuana in any form, your first trip to a dispensary can be nerve-wracking. There are a few things everyone needs to know before walking into a Colorado dispensary.

Luckily, we’re here to take you through the process from start to finish, so you don’t make any rookie mistakes (or unknowingly break any laws).

Before You Arrive

The first thing you need to know is that not all dispensaries are the same. While it is legal for anyone over 21 to buy and possess a certain amount of recreational marijuana in Colorado, there are still dispensaries that are medical only. If you don’t have a Colorado-licensed medical card for marijuana, these dispensaries won’t serve you. Check online or give the dispensary a call to make sure they sell recreationally.

Another thing to keep in mind is what you’re looking for. Shops offer different products, often at difference prices. We talked to Karli Adams, the manager of The Green Room, a recreational dispensary here in Boulder, to get some advice.

She says, “For first-time dispensary visitors, the amount of options available can be daunting. Before coming to The Green Room, it’s a great idea to view our menu on our website, Weedmaps or Leafly to get an idea of what you want to purchase.”

This is great advice for any dispensary and is especially important since stock changes so frequently. Many locations have sale specials that sell out much faster than usual, and stock entirely depends on which of their growers’ plants are in bloom. Plus, different strains have different popularity, so checking with the dispensary to see what they currently have in stock is a good idea.

The Green Room in Boulder. Courtesy photo


You may be imagining a dispensary to be similar to a natural foods store or supermarket, but that’s not quite the case. Some dispensaries are both medicinal and recreational, with separate doors for each. Be sure to enter through the correct door.

Once you’re inside, you may be surprised by the security measures. Some dispensaries have an armed guard at the door. Others have someone behind a glass window and still others will have someone behind a traditional desk, with a waiting room that has a locked door that leads to the actual product room. Each dispensary is different; some have really strict security, and others are a little more relaxed.

Whatever the setup, the first person you see will take your ID and scan it into the system, so be sure to bring it with you. Once they have checked your ID, you will be able to go look at their products or sit in their waiting room, if they have one, until it’s your turn. You’ll be called into the back, and that’s where the magic happens.

Marijuana Dispensary
A “budtender” shows a customer the menu. Courtesy photo

Choosing Your Product

You may be overwhelmed by the options you see. Products are almost always behind your budtender’s desk, so you won’t actually be able to see anything up close without your budtender retrieving it. Edibles, tinctures, vape oils and flower are all stored out of the customers’ reach.

Even if you have no idea what exact product you’d like, Adams says not to worry. Staff is there to help.

“Our budtenders will go above and beyond to answer your questions and find the right strain or product for your specific needs,” she says. “Whether it is flower, concentrates or edibles, we can at least narrow down the type of high you are seeking.”

If you’re totally new to marijuana, you may not even know that there are different types of highs, and that’s just fine.

The most basic thing you should know is that there are two main families of marijuana: sativa and indica. Many people say sativas tend to boost their creativity and can be uplifting. Indicas have a reputation of being more relaxing and are more likely to cause the munchies. Those are the absolute basics, but there are a variety of hybrids and every plant is slightly different. Many budtenders are passionate about what they do and more than happy to talk about what’s available, how you’ll probably feel and which method of consumption is best for you.

Buying Cannabis

You’ve found the perfect plant, the perfect hand-carved wooden pipe and are ready to check out. But you’re not out of the newbie waters yet. There are still a few quirks that you should be ready for.

Some dispensaries are cash only. Also keep in mind that there are limits on how much product you can buy at a time. You can only purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana at a time. It doesn’t matter what form it’s in; edibles, flower and topicals (like lotions) are all taken into consideration.

Once you have your total and have paid, it’s good form to leave a tip for your budtender, especially if they’ve done a lot of work to help you find the right product. How much you leave depends on how much you buy and how helpful your budtender was; if you bought flower, did they de-stem it for you? Did they seem knowledgeable? Were they able to answer all your questions? There’s no set standard, so leave what you think is appropriate.

Taking it Home

Don’t be tempted to try your newly purchased products as soon as you walk out the door. Consuming marijuana in public is still illegal in Colorado, and driving while high has a variety of consequences.

It’s also a good idea to check with the location that you’re staying and make sure that marijuana consumption is allowed on the premises. Different locations have different rules, and you wouldn’t want to end up without a place to stay. Most hotels prohibit cannabis consumption on site.

You should also be sure you’re following all Colorado and Boulder-specific laws throughout your stay. Check out this article for the basics.

“There are so many reasons to visit Boulder, Colorado, but with the excitement of recreational marijuana sparking everywhere … why not come see for yourself?” Adams says.

3 Responses

  1. Good to know that some dispensaries are cash only. I’ve got a buddy who’s interested in getting some product form a dispensary. He’s hoping to find one near him.

  2. Thanks for your tips for first-time dispensary trips. It makes sense to keep what you are looking for in mind. I think it would be smart to look for a well-reputed dispensary.

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