What you need to know on your first trip to a California dispensary

Yesterday we were driving by and finally there was no line outside our neighborhood dispensary, Golden State Greens. So we stopped by to see how the roll out of recreational cannabis is going in our corner of California.

Formerly the Point Loma Patients Cooperative, Golden State Greens is in an industrial part of town, between the Sport Arena and Interstate 8, with run-down buildings and few people on the street. Not upscale, but not necessarily scary either.

Upon stepping in the door we were greeted by a) dank and delicious atmosperhic conditions, and b) an armed security guard who asked us to empty our pockets, and then waved us with his metal-detector wand. Once we passed this test, we took a seat and waited in a small room at the front of the store. Then they checked our IDs and had us take a seat in the back of the store. We waited there for another 10 minutes.

People were being called in individually and as couples. Our turn finally came, and we were greeted by our customer rep / budtender. He was a burly Rasta-looking guy and seemed well- and recently acquainted with some of the better product in the store. In other words, he was totally stoned.   

He asked if we had an idea of what we were looking for and then ushered us into the business part of the store, an oblong room with glass-topped displays, bustling with activity, even though according to Google Maps, it was the one of the slowest times of the week. While the budtenders were mostly in their 20s, many of the customers were older; I spoke to two women who were looking forward to their 50th high school reunion. They  shared that they have been smoking weed for 50 years, and were tickled to be there.  

I told our budtender I was interested in microdosing and getting some help sleeping. He  obliged by retrieving some Petra mints. Then we looked at some flower and selected a gram of Hell’s Fire OG. Our guy placed it all in a plastic pouch with a zipper seal, processed our payment, and we were on our way. 

Things to keep in mind before you go to the dispensary

  • Give yourself enough time. Plan on waiting at least 15 minutes or more, so don’t go when you’re on a tight schedule. You can avoid peak times by checking the Google listing for your specific dispensary.
  • Have an idea of what you want. The amount of products can be overwhelming, so decide ahead of time if you are looking for flower, vape or edibles; whether you’re going for pain relief, help sleeping, or you want something you can relax with. Don't rely on your budtender, do some research ahead of time at a site like Leafly.
  • Bring cash. Federal banking policies mean dispensaries still can't accept checks or credit cards. If you’re stuck, there might be an ATM on site, and presumably you’ll pay a couple extra dollars for the privilege of accessing your bank account from there.
  • Be prepared for a hefty tax bite.  I paid a 5% state tax, a comparable city tax, and an additional sales tax, pushing my $44 purchase to $52.50. (You can avoid some of these taxes by getting a doctor’s recommendation, but that will cost $40 to $60 annually.) 
  • Enjoy the experience. Baby Boomer or not, it’s a great time to experiment with cannabis. If you’re an adult in California, you have the freedom to shop, ask questions and make choices about cannabis consumption, without worrying about getting busted for doing something elicit.

About eight weeks into legal recreational cannabis in California, after a lifetime of prohibition, the notion of walking into a store and simply buying cannabis is still kind of unbelievable. But it is happening out here, and it’s going to spread across the country.

Because here’s the thing: Regardless of what Jeff Sessions believes, cannabis is a safe and effective medicine — and relaxation / recreation is a legit medicinal application. Most people recognize this, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the visionaries who engineered Prop. 64 and helped bring about a major victory for direct democracy.

It really is amazing how far we've come. In the 70s you had to buy what they were selling and you had no idea what you were smoking. Now you can get very particular about the effect you are seeking. You can buy a regulated product that has been tested for pesticides. And you can walk out without fear of being arrested.

That in itself is worth the trip.


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