Shop Talk

Things to know when choosing a dispensary

For patients with their first prescription for medical marijuana, finding a dispensary can seem like a daunting task. The greater Sacramento area offers many options — apart from proximity, what should patients consider? What questions should they ask when calling or visiting a dispensary? Turns out, the most important question may be the one you ask yourself. According to local dispensary managers, the key to finding the right place for you is finding a dispensary that feels right: comfortable environment, good employees and, of course, the right cannabis. So, that key question is: How do you feel about it? “It’s just like going to a restaurant — no different,” says Kevin Holmes, manager of Cloud 9 in Sacramento. “Everybody’s got different taste. You look for the things you personally like: cleanliness, artwork, what’s the vibe, are they playing good music, are people friendly, what’s the lighting like? And how much attention is your budtender or the person at the window paying to you?” Holmes adds that — just like a restaurant — if you have a good, memorable experience, you’ll keep coming back again and again. Also reflect on what the dispensary staff asked about you. Not only does it show their interest, but it also demonstrates their knowledge about cannabis itself. “There’s such a wide spectrum of what people need to have,” says Matt Vaughn from MMCA (Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association) of El Dorado County. “You want a place to be responsive to what your needs are rather than try steering you into what they want to sell you.” Vaughn says the dispensary should feel like going to a regular pharmacy, where a pharmacist would listen to your questions and help you find what’s best for you, without being too pushy on products. Of course, you need to ask questions of your own to make sure the dispensary carries the variety of cannabis you need and the method of delivery you prefer (for instance, inhaled or edible). You may be able to learn some of the answers online, if the dispensary is part of an informational network (such as or has its own website. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask about price — it can vary from dispensary to dispensary. As Laleh Shakib, manager of Sacramento’s Horizon Non-Profit Collective, explains: “Everyone wants a deal, but some people want the best.”

10 Questions

When shopping for a dispensary, make sure to ask:

1. What products do you carry?

2. Which strains do you carry?

3. Do you carry any exclusive strains?

4. What do you think about the type I’m seeking?

5. Where do your products come from?

6. Do you test your cannabis?

7. What are your security measures?

8. Do you hold fundraisers or patient-support activities?

9. What are your prices?

10. Do you have discounts, sales or specials?