Walk into a cannabis dispensary nowadays and it’ll leave you feeling quite literally like a kid in a candy store. Cookies and chocolate and brownies and gummies line the shelves. Flower and pre-rolls and concentrates and vape pens are on display, probably in some cute jars and cases. There’s even sort-of weed wines and sort-of weed beers in mini fridges at some spots. The sheer variety of product on display compared to the days of pre-recreational legalization is stunning.
Which is a good thing, of course. But as is the case with any new market, uncertainty abounds. Regulations for cannabis dispensaries vary from city to city, packaging regulations are in a seemingly constant and fast-paced state of evolution, and a lack of consistent and widely enforced safety protocols can create widespread uncertainty and panic, as evidenced by the current vape-pen scare. And while THC and CBD were once the only cannabinoids most casual users knew of, the emergence of other compounds like THCV, THCA, and CBG can make a gal feel like she needs a PhD in organic chemistry just to pop into a dispensary and find something to take the edge off.
So, what’s the cannabis-curious adventurer to do as we strike out into this newly illuminated and ever-changing landscape? Find yourself a guide to navigate those glittering shelves of green. A cannabis retail expert, a.k.a. a budtender, can easily be your best and most accessible resource when it comes to creating your ideal cannabis experience.
Not only is a good budtender well-versed in the technical aspects of cannabis and can confidently answer all your questions about the differences between cannabinoids, how to store your product, and what the heck a terpene is, but ideally, they’re also passionate advocates for cannabis and all its sundry uses, whether you’re using it for medical or recreational purposes.
We spoke to a handful of the best of the best in two hubs for cannabis retail—Los Angeles and Long Beach, California—about how to find your ideal budtender and (beyond that), a cannabis community in which you feel confident and comfortable.
Find a dispensary that fits your vibeIn states that have shifted from medical use to recreational use, a cultural shift has ensued; more and more, dispensaries are leaning more into the ganja-meets-Goop vibe than the Dank Smoke Den Dot Com aesthetic of yesteryear. And while appearances certainly don’t dictate everything, it’s partly a reflection of the fact that women are among the fastest-growing groups of cannabis consumers. Stores that are adjusting to the broadening of the cannabis-consumer demographic are the ones that will continue to flourish.
"In states that have shifted from medical use to recreational use, a cultural shift has ensued. Stores that are adjusting to the broadening of the cannabis-consumer demographic are the ones that will continue to flourish."
“The ambiance of the store has a lot to do with it,” notes Bree Mares, the manager of the Belmont Shore location of Connected Cannabis Co. in Long Beach. “
Have a think about your ideal cannabis experience
Amidst new regulations and enforcement policies (or lack thereof), one of the first and most important things is to ensure that the dispensary you’re patronizing is licensed for recreational use. According to a recent survey conducted by the United Cannabis Association, there were nearly 3,000 unlicensed dispensaries and delivery services operating in California this last year. Only 873 retailers have licenses.
Channel your inner four year old and ask ALL the questions
The number one most important thing to know when it comes to finding a good budtender? There’s no such thing as a dumb question—really. Hussain acknowledges that since the transition from medical to recreational use in California, the average user doesn’t have as much baseline knowledge about cannabis in general. And for Los Angeles in particular, cannabis tourism is a real thing; people who have never used cannabis before are coming in just to check things out.
“The beautiful thing about cannabis is that it’s really welcoming.”
“Don’t be afraid to tell them you don’t know anything if you don’t know anything. They can walk you through it; they want to help you learn,” he says. “The beautiful thing about cannabis is that it’s really welcoming.”