Medical marijuana isn’t exactly new. Cannabis has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries, and since the 1980s, doctors and nurses in more progressive states have encouraged cannabis use among patients suffering from severe disease, like cancer and AIDS.
Plenty of people who lack familiarity with cannabis have been diagnosed with diseases that are easier to manage with cannabis treatments. If you have been recommended medical marijuana by your doctor, you might be daunted by the prospect of visiting a dispensary and using weed — but you shouldn’t be. Here’s a guide that should make the process of visiting a medical marijuana dispensary seem less frightening and more like a typical pharmacy run.
Get a Valid Medical Marijuana Card
Regardless of where you live, your first step in visiting a medical marijuana dispensary will always be to apply for a medical marijuana card. Even in states where recreational cannabis consumption has been legalized, medical marijuana programs remain in effect to ensure that patients of all ages have safe access to high-quality cannabis products when they need them. Often, medical dispensaries operate in a different manner to retail cannabis storefronts, and medical cannabis products typically aren’t taxed at the same rate as recreational goods. Thus, having a medical marijuana card is beneficial if you truly need weed to manage a health concern.
Application processes for different states will vary somewhat, but here is the general process in most places:
- Receive a qualifying diagnosis. Most states require medical marijuana patients to suffer from a condition known to be treatable with cannabis. Some states require the diagnosis to come from a specific type of health care provider, who must submit a certification of their recommendation for medical marijuana use.
- Apply to the state marijuana board. Applications, most of which are available through online portals, require proof of identity and residency as well as a processing fee, which can range in price from about $25 to over $300.
- Wait. Though some states provide temporary medical cards that allow for immediate dispensary access, most states require patients to endure a waiting period, while the board processes the application and sends the card through the mail.
Bring the Card, Personal ID and Cash to a Dispensary
Once you have a valid card in hand, you can legally enter and make purchases from a medical dispensary. You can find maps of dispensaries in your area — but you should know that some states use different terminology to delineate medical dispensaries from recreational ones. Some states restrict the use of the term “dispensary” to medical shops and require recreational shops to use the term “storefront” or something similar. In contrast, some states use terms like “provisioning center” to describe medical dispensaries.
Regardless of where you go, you will need to bring your medical card and a photo ID, which workers within the dispensary are legally required to check. It is also a good idea that you prepare to pay with cash because many dispensaries are unable to process card payments, due to federal law.
Talk to Budtenders About Needs and Wants
Often, medical dispensaries function more like pharmacies than retail stores, which means budtenders tend to see patients one-by-one. You might prepare to wait for a few minutes before a budtender is available to offer their services to you.
When you do get the chance to speak to a budtender, you should feel free to ask questions and explain concerns about cannabis consumption as treatment. You might describe your health condition — with as much detail as you are comfortable with — and request recommendations for weed strains or types of products appropriate for your malady, experience level, tolerance and more. Because budtenders in medical dispensaries are well-trained, they are more than capable of tailoring their suggestions to your unique situation.
Different medical dispensaries will provide different experiences, so you should consider visiting a few different medical shops to find one that suits your budget and your preferences. You might also want to stop into medical marijuana dispensaries in other states that offer reciprocity, or that honor out-of-state medical cards, so you can get a feel for how other states’ dispensaries operate. In time, visiting a medical dispensary will feel much less intimidating and more like stopping into your pharmacy for a much-needed medication.