I'm learning about this as I go, so please don't take everything I say as gospel. This should just be part of the research you are doing. I am very careful while researching and am using solid sources (not just the High Times ;)).
Before we start, I'd like to mention the fact that there is a difference between recreational and medical marijuana. I am researching medical marijuana because our daughter, Sapphire, has debilitating migraines and vertigo that have affected her quality of life. We are on the path to getting her medical card (just waiting for it to arrive), and will continue researching and sharing what we learn as we go. We haven't found much information out there for kids, so it's my goal to spread awareness and at the very least just get a conversation going.
This is all new territory for me. My wife, Rachel, is super comfortable talking about marijuana for both recreational and medicinal use. I'm not. I'm getting more comfortable (obviously since I'm writing a blog post!), but it's still very new and makes me anxious. I hope that being open, honest, and completely transparent about our journey, I can help others come to the same conclusion as I have: medical marijuana is a necessity and it should be legal, federally.
How to Choose the Right Dispensary
Just like with choosing a mechanic, a doctor, or even a place to travel to, you'll want to ask a lot of questions and read reviews when choosing a dispensary. After reading reviews on Leafly, WeedMaps, PotGuide, and bud something-or-other, I chose to make a few phone calls rather than drive to each one and ask a few questions. I wanted to get a feel for the customer service and knowledge each dispensary had before taking too much time on them. In places where it's not legal recreationally yet, most dispensaries will tell you to come in and ask more in-depth questions. In some states like Colorado, there are so many dispensaries to choose from it's almost like a Starbucks.
NOTE: This is not medical advice, it's not health advice, it's not advice telling you to smoke marijuana, it's not… anything else other than me sharing my daughter's journey.
Questions to ask when choosing a dispensary
The questions you ask your dispensary will vary based on why you're using medical marijuana. We are using it for migraines and vertigo, so what we need might be different than what you need. The goal here is just to get an open dialogue going because it's important to feel comfortable with the dispensary you choose. If you don't like the vibe of a dispensary you've called or visited, don't give them a second thought. There are more options out there.
Do you have experience with (your issues)? The first question I ask is if they have experience with treating migraines in children. A dispensary is not a doctor's office so “treating” might not be the right word but I want to make sure they don't freak out when I say the word children. Dosing in children is much different, and for legal reasons alone you have to be much more careful! You don't want to get your child high, you just want them to get relief.
Do you have additional resources? I found an amazing dispensary that not only has experience with children, they have a website with additional resources listed (including a dosing calculator for CBD). This was a huge deal to me considering the first dispensary I called was literally no help. Your local dispensary might offer free seminars or classes, or even allow you to schedule some 1 on 1 time with one of their staff, to learn more.
Other questions can include who to speak with about dosing information, where their products come from, etc.
Things to look for when choosing a dispensary
Read reviews! I recommend Leafly and WeedMaps. Scroll through until you find better reviews than “best pot in town!” from the 420 lovers.
Quality. As difficult as it may seem, finding the best (or at least better) quality is important when choosing a dispensary. Not just the quality of the products themselves but the quality of the staff. Sometimes it's trial and error, but it's better to learn now rather than later. Finding a top-quality dispensary is key in finding the right products for your needs. Whether you suffer from chronic migraines and vertigo like our daughter does, or you have debilitating anxiety, each strain is different and each product is different. Some medical marijuana patients vape, while others use oils and rubs. What you use is a personal decision that the right dispensary can help guide you to make.
Education. It's important, especially when dosing kids, to connect with staff that is educated on the topic. I called a few dispensaries and right away I could tell some employed well-educated staff while others were just like “hey dude”… and that's not the type of vibe I want to be dealing with. When I called Harvest, I asked if they had experience with children and told them what we were treating. They suggested I go to one of their free seminars, and meet with someone to discuss everything. That type of customer service is exactly what I was looking for. It showed that they're educated and willing to share that knowledge, which is what I needed. When I called the Reef, they said I should get information from my doctor (which my doctor cannot legally provide), and said they could “tell us what products they had” and that seemed like all they were really interested in. I knew right then that Harvest was a better choice for my family.
Time in Business. Sometimes this is a bit deceiving because if marijuana was just legalized in your state, all of the dispensaries will be new. Ask about experience. Many will be proud to tell you they've been in the business for ten years or whatever else.
Pricing. Price should not be high on the list of determining factors, in my opinion, because quality is most important. However, you don't want to be going to the most expensive dispensary around just thinking they're the best because they have higher prices.
Proximity. Another determining factor that shouldn't be too high on the list (no pun intended) is how close it is to your home. However, you do have to be careful when transporting medical marijuana in states that are not approved for recreational use yet, and when you're on federal property. So for example, we drive to San Diego at least twice a year. During that time, we pass through federal checkpoints. If we had marijuana on us, even though it's medical, it would be seized and we could be prosecuted for it.
Finding a dispensary that is closer to your house is obviously the safest bet, but the dispensary we have chosen is about an hour away and it's worth the drive for us because they hit all of the other bullet points as far as things we are looking for. I was told to carry the product(s) in my trunk during transport because most of the time it would require a damn good reason to have them look there. Some have said a warrant is required but they can say they “smell drugs” and will be allowed to search your trunk, so just be careful. I recommend getting a smell-proof bag if you're worried about it. If you're using drops and oils it's not as big of a concern.
Weigh reviews, quality, education, length of time they've been in business, and pricing together before making a choice.
Read more about medical marijuana for kids.