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The Ultimate Pot Shopping Guide From a Cannabis Industry Expert

Cannabis Dispensary Shopping Guide
PHOTO Gracie Malley


The Ultimate Pot Shopping Guide From a Cannabis Industry Expert

If you’re lucky enough to live in (or visit) a place with multiple cannabis retail options, buying cannabis can sometimes be an overwhelming experience.

I grew up on the East Coast and my earliest weed dealers used to offer only two choices: Take it or leave it.

I always chose “take it.”

Nowadays I live in California and the modern marijuana retail experience offers so many strains, concentrates, edibles, topicals and delivery devices that it requires a concerted effort (and consistent product sampling) to keep it all straight — never mind stoned. So I included a special section on pot shopping in my book, “How To Smoke Pot (Properly):  A Highbrow Guide to Getting High.”

Whether you’re buying recreational weed in Colorado, marijuana in Michigan, or ordering off a coffee-shop menu in Amsterdam, the retail cannabis experience remains both delightful and disorienting to the unaccustomed. So here’s a few tips for keeping your wits about you when faced with all those wonderful choices.

Make a Budget for Getting Bud

Unless you grow your own, or have some lovely hookup, cannabis is most definitely a luxury item. And while it’s certainly OK to splurge on the herb from time to time, that’s a decision best made in advance, not once you’re faced with a menu of enticing strains, concentrates, and edibles. So decide how much you can afford to spend and how long it’s got to last in advance, and you’ll have a lot of fun weighing your options when the time comes, without stressing out about next month’s rent.

Look for Deals, Not Strains

Unless you’re dead set on acquiring some hot new variety that everybody’s talking about on your marijuana message boards, it’s best to let the early adopters pay a premium for the latest craze and keep an eye out for hot deals instead. Retailers discount a product for all manner of reasons, and many also offer special coupons through their website, so there’s no reason to pay top dollar for an all-natural herb that already costs way too much.

Go Sun-Grown

That perfect little nugget in the dispensary display jar may look pristine, but it probably came from a warehouse-sized factory farm-style indoor grow room with thousands of plants packed together in artificial, disposable growing mediums, under energy-intensive lights powered by fossil fuels, and fed chemical fertilizers that are used once then thrown away. At one time, such input-heavy indoor growing was an unfortunate necessity of surviving prohibition, but now it’s time to move the herb back out into the sunlight. Something we can all play a role in by sourcing the most ethically produced, environmentally responsible pot possible.

“As a cannabis consumer, your purchases will directly affect how marijuana is commercially grown, so you have a unique opportunity to encourage and support proper cultivation practices,” an eco-minded outdoor marijuana farmer from the organization Grow It in the Sun once informed me. “Cows should have the right to organic, sun-grown grass, and so should you.”

The Smell Test

Your olfactory sense is incredibly refined when it comes to predicting what your body does (and doesn’t) want to ingest, so if a bud or concentrate smells particularly alluring to you, go for it. For while cannabinoids like THC and CBD are odorless, the plant’s terpenes do provide an effective way to judge both potency and quality by smell. And conversely, definitely “turn up your nose” at any offering that smells funky, moldy, or like chemicals.

Never Buy a Pre-Roll

Every pre-rolled joint on Earth — from Amsterdam to Anchorage — is made by collecting the shake at the bottom of a giant bag of weed and grinding it up with the smallest, least-potent buds, all to make a product you then pay a premium for compared to buying the best buds of the same strain. So if you do know how to roll a joint, there’s no excuse for being so lazy.

Never Hesitate to Investigate

If you’re lucky enough to live in (or visit) a place with multiple cannabis retail options, don’t ever settle for an establishment that makes you feel less than welcome, even if you’ve got a million annoying questions about every little thing. Because if they’re not interested in helping you access the best possible information, odds are they’re not interested in acquiring the best cannabis possible either, or serving as a positive example for the industry. So even if you’ve got to go a little farther to get there, find a marijuana retailer that makes you feel safe and accepted, including by answering all your queries with grace and patience.

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