Field Trip: A Beginners Guide To Dispensaries

There are those among us who never thought that we would see the end of cannabis prohibition in our lifetime, users for whom cannabis provided more just pain relief or a temporary escape. For many, cannabis represented both a movement and a subculture, one that you could immerse yourself in, alongside some like-minded friends looking to unwind.

Access to legal cannabis has removed a major boundary for those unable to obtain and enjoy this formerly illegal substance. Now anyone with a passing interest can easily venture into the wide world of legal recreational cannabis safely and confidently through a million different paths.   

With many different ways to access and obtain, legal cannabis has birthed an entirely new movement of people eager to try the many different permutations of cannabis, THC and CBD.

If you’re new to the world of cannabis and are looking to learn more, here are a few ground rules that you should know before making your first legal purchase. 


  • Know the rules and regulations around legal purchasing in your own province or state. Common sense isn’t just good manners, and knowing the law as it applies to legal cannabis purchasing where you live can prevent serious social faux-pas.

    For example recreational marijuana use is legal in Canada, and laws around cultivation, public consumption and purchase vary by jurisdiction . Smoking on the sidewalk is banned in New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador and the Yukon; in Ontario and Alberta it’s legal to smoke anywhere you can smoke tobacco, with some obvious restrictions.

    Rest assured that impaired driving laws against cannabis are on the books no matter where you are. Never smoke & drive.
  • The above precautions also apply to travelling, both domestic and international. Canada allows you to travel within the country with your purchase but won’t allow you across the border with it — even into countries with similarly chill cannabis consumption laws.


  • Knowledge is power. Always feel free to ask the staff about any of their products. Remember, there’s an entire world of cannabis products, different strains and different ways you can consume. It might mean holding up the line, but getting the answers you need before purchasing are more important. A good budtender may ask you about what kind of effect or experience you’re looking for, so it helps to think about this beforehand. If you have something specific in mind there’s a good chance your budtender will help you find what you’re looking for much quicker with a good description.
  • Dispensaries aren’t the place for selfies. Since taking photos is generally prohibited at all times in most shops, you’re best off keeping your phone in your pocket while you wait. Most places will have clear signage in place about phone use while purchasing; most of which have to do with using your camera. However, in some shops this also includes taking personal calls. Planning your next vacation on the phone while in-line to purchase cannabis can get you refused service.
  • Tip your budtender. They’ve provided you with a service, and in doing so hopefully provided you with more knowledge than you had when you walked in. There’s no formal structure around tipping budtenders so it pays to use a model similar to that of light food service. Budtenders also don’t work for tips either, so you shouldn’t feel as though not doing so would be bad. Any offering — provided it isn’t low enough to count more as an insult — is a classy move and always appreciated.
  • It needs to be said: budtenders aren’t like their pint-slinging bar equivalents and shouldn’t be approached with that cringe-inducing, assumed familiarity. It’s hard to imagine someone harassing a budtender the way they might a bartender at a club, but there’s just no getting through to some people. Don’t be that person.

Once you’ve finally done the deed, you can now partake totally guilt-free. Like all recreational drugs, bear in mind cannabis is there to make good times even greater, and not as the sole reason for them. You may even feel emboldened to spark your newly acquired herb outside the premises based on the regulations in your area, but that’s not for you. Because after all, once you’ve read this short list, you’re already well on your way to being a higher level stoner. 

Check out my follow-up on how to observe the finer points of shared and single use cannabis consumption. Spoiler: it’s more than just making sure you don’t bogart that herb when it’s your turn.

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