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How To Buy Cannabis From a Dispensary

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

Your first time visiting a dispensary can be intimidating. Cannabis isn’t just flowers and edibles. Menus are full of diverse products like tinctures, vape cartridges, topicals and concentrates or dabs. The key is knowing what you’re looking for and finding what is right for you. In this article we will demystify the dispensary experience and prepare you to shop like a pro.

Big Island Grown Hilo Dispensary
Big Island Grown Hilo Dispensary

Adult-Use vs. Medical Market

Currently in the United States there are 18 states and Washington DC that have legalized adult-use, there are 37 states that offer medical use only. Adult-use (or recreational) dispensaries only require a valid state ID to enter, while medical dispensaries will require you to have qualifying conditions to get a medical card. Here in Hawaii we are still a medical-only state so shoppers will need a 329 card to enter a dispensary.

Just remember each state has different requirements and qualifications to get your card. Some states allow you to use your local medical card when visiting an out of state cannabis dispensary. Others require you to get a visitor card through a reciprocity program. You should always search the laws of the state that you are planning to visit before visiting just to be ready. You can learn about how to get a card while visiting Hawaii.

Before You Leave the House

Although it's a very exciting idea to go out and purchase cannabis through a dispensary there are a few things that you won’t want to forget. You’ll need a government issued ID or a passport, and some cash. With the legal industry still evolving, a lot of dispensaries still don’t accept credit cards, although most dispensaries will have an ATM of some sort. Cash just makes the process a little quicker, easier and you can avoid inflated convenience charges.

Having a goal in mind helps narrow down what you’ll be looking for in the dispensary. There’s so many products and effects that it is hard to keep track of and it can be intimidating. Luckily you don't have to be a cannabis expert to shop at the dispensary because dispensary staff is there to help you. Knowing the specific effects (ie. pain relief, relaxation, sleep aid, etc.) is useful information that can be relayed to your patient attendant or budtender to help you find the right product. Most companies have an online menu that you can browse and preorder from before you visit the dispensary.

Check In Time

The first step in the door can be the most intimidating moment. Fear not, a patient attendant or security guard will be there to check you in and walk you through the process. With your ID and cannabis card in hand you can enter the dispensary. Even if you're a regular you still have to present your card every time. Regulations on the cannabis industry are stricter than most. Everything is on camera so expect to play by the rules. Remember, the dispensaries and their staff don't make the rules they just follow and enforce them to stay compliant.

The Basics

Most cannabis dispensaries carry an assortment of product that fall into 5 basic categories:


Flower is the term we use for the cannabis bud, instead of using words like ‘weed’ or ‘buds’ we say flower, and is still the most commonly used product in the cannabis industry. Even though we have electronic vapes and concentrates for dabbing, sometimes you can’t beat the classics.

Cannabis flowers have historically been categorized into three different groups; Sativa, Indica, and Hybrids. While many will argue that these titles are not as significant as they once were (more on that later), they are a good starting point for new patients.

The first one is Sativa, which is more associated with an energetic, uplifting, and euphoric experience. Most time Sativas are recommended for patients that want to be active and productive with their day.

Indica is on the opposite end of the spectrum of sativa. Most people report relaxing body effects, pain relief, and an overall feel of calmness and relaxation. Indica is usually used for night time/end of the day use.

Lastly we have Hybrids, which is a cannabis plant that was crossbred with a Sativa and an Indica plant, so they have a little bit of each of those effects. The truth of the matter is that almost all strains nowadays are hybrids of some sort. Each hybrid will vary and sometimes they lean a little more toward a sativa, while others may feel a little more Indica. It's always useful to speak to your patient attendant to see how each flower varies.

Big Island Grown Cannabis


Vapes are battery powered cartridges with cannabis concentrate in them. When activated the cartridges heat up, vaporizing the concentrate to produce a smooth hit that doesn't have the strong aroma as smoking flowers. Many people love using vape cartridges because they are so easy to use and discreet.