What to know before your first Dispensary visit

Since recreational cannabis became legal in October of 2018, dispensaries have been popping up on every street corner, quite literally. If you live in a Canadian province that allows it, almost anyone can request to open their own private retail dispensary, creating ample variety for cannabis consumers. Of course with more variety, comes the difficult decision of which to choose. Knowing which pot shop to visit can be overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. Keep it simple and look for stores local to your area. Smaller dispensaries are great for one-on-one sessions with budtenders and perfect for first-time visitors.


Always Bring ID

Once you’ve selected the store you’d like to visit, make sure to bring a valid piece of government-issued photo ID. Remember to always have a physical piece of ID as digital photos or files cannot legally be accepted. Dispensaries also have the right to refuse entry if a valid ID cannot be produced. Budtenders can receive hefty personal fines, in addition to store fines, for allowing underage patrons into the store. 


Entering the Store 

When you first enter any dispensary, there will be a barrier or door separating the entryway from the rest of the store. Reason being, cannabis products cannot be displayed in a way that would make them visible to anyone under the minimum legal purchasing age, even from outside the store. Once inside, expect to see someone at the door, usually accompanied by a sign that reads “Please Wait Here”. It’s possible smaller shops may only have one or two budtenders on shift and in the event someone isn’t at the door, be patient, respect the procedure and don’t enter until someone has checked your ID and given the all clear. 


Cannabis Displays 

Unlike liquor stores, dispensaries cannot sell cannabis or cannabis accessories from a display that allows self-service, meaning anything for sale will be locked in display cases. Don’t expect to see any actual cannabis either, everything is already packaged when shipped to their respective stores. You may get lucky if a dispensary has glass viewing jars or sniffer pots, which allows you to see (and smell) cannabis flower. While the process of purchasing cannabis from a dispensary differs greatly from the purchase of tobacco or alcohol, remember that recreational cannabis is still in its early years of legalization and there are many regulations retail stores must abide by.


Legal Possession Limit

It’s important to note that across Canada, the personal possession limit of dried recreational cannabis is 30 grams. Based on this, the daily purchase limit across the provinces is 30 grams of dried cannabis (or equivalent). There are distinctions across the country however, with respect to at home possession limits, age limits and retail models. It’s a good idea to educate yourself on the specific regulations in your respective province. 



Budtenders will be the main point of contact when shopping at a dispensary and are essentially the sommelier’s of the cannabis world. They will be able to answer any and all questions from strain profiles to consumption methods and everything in between. While budtenders are extremely knowledgeable, they are not medical professionals and will not be able to answer medical related questions or offer medical advice. They can however, offer recommendations and work with you to find products to best suit your needs. 

If at the end of your visit, your budtender provided you with excellent customer service, feel free to leave them a tip. While tips are never expected, they are always appreciated. Budtenders have your best interests in mind and provide a vital service. They are a key component of the recreational market and can guide you through how to make your dispensary visit a positive one. 


Cannabis Goals

When visiting a dispensary, it’s a good idea to have a cannabis goal in mind. Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, try thinking about the effects you’d like to feel or the flavours and aromas you like or dislike. Conversely, if you have a specific strain or product in mind, don’t hesitate to ask your budtender if they carry it. Product inventory varies between dispensaries so if the store you visit doesn’t have the exact product you’re seeking, a budtender can direct you to an alternative option. 


Knowledge is Power

Be prepared to encounter a line at some point however, when it’s your turn at the counter you should not feel the need to rush. Take your time, chat with the budtender and ask questions about the products. The more knowledgeable you are about what you’re consuming, the more confident you’ll be exploring other products and visiting future dispensaries. 


There’s a First for Everything

While legal dispensaries have been open for a few years, it’s never too late to take your first trip. Dispensaries provide a safe space to explore the recreational market which ensures Canadians have the tools to exercise their legal right to purchase cannabis. We understand it can be nerve-wracking for some but now that you know a little more about what to expect, we hope you feel educated, confident and empowered when purchasing cannabis.