How to buy marijuana legally

How to buy marijuana

Medical marijuana is now legal in a whopping 29 states. It’s recreationally legal in 8 states. Yet when it comes to how to buy marijuana (whether you’re a novice or an expert in the land of cannabis) it can still get a little confusing. 

These days buying cannabis is all about finding a variety (strain) that offers the sensation and taste you want at a dispensary that you like. It’s almost akin to the rise of craft beer. In fact, there are even “budtenders” who can help guide you through the purchase process.

Sure, you can’t try the product in the shop (at least not yet), but a great budtender can get you pretty close to what you want. In addition, you’ll find many dispensaries offering weekly deals, which is a great way to sample products you otherwise might not want to pay top dollar to try.

We’ve put together this guide to help get you up-to-date on the latest from the consumer side of buying marijuana and marijuana products.

And keep in mind that you can use our marijuana price comparison tool to find the best deals in your area of the nation.

Here’s how to buy marijuana:

1. Figure out your state’s rules around cannabis

As we mentioned above, 29 states are medically legal for cannabis, while eight of those are recreationally legal. But that leaves 21 states where cannabis is still illegal.

And it’s important to keep in mind that cannabis, overall, is still federally illegal.

What’s more, each state where cannabis is legal, whether for medical or recreational purposes, has its own laws.

NORML offers a great breakdown of state laws on their site.

And check out this handy map from to figure out where your state stands:

Map of marijuana legalization
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2. Decide what “feel” you want

It pays to do a little research before you dive into the world of cannabis.

We’ll keep it simple. You’ll generally choose from one of three types of cannabis: sativa, indica or hybrid.

Here’s what they all mean:

  • Sativa: These types of strains tend to offer a creative and uplifting feel. It’s often described as a “cerebral” high. Remember that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where Charlie and his Grandpa Joe drink “Wonka’s Fizzy Lifting Drink”? It’s kind of like that but, well, without the floating.
  • Indica: These types of strains tend to offer more sedative and relaxing effects. It’s often described as a “full-body” high. With these strains you’ll commonly hear terms like “couch-lock” thrown around. You might compare it to how you feel after a really big Thanksgiving meal, when you’re full of food with nothing to do but sit around and chat with family.
  • Hybrid: As implied, these types of strains are a combination of sativa and indica — the best of both worlds.

If you’re not a fan of the psychoactive effects of cannabis, try a strain that’s higher in CBD, or Cannabidiol. It’s one of the many cannabinoid molecules produced by cannabis. It doesn’t produce the psychoactive components that strains high THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, contain. In fact, you can buy CBD oil online. If you’re interested in CBD oil, check out our post on where to buy CBD.

3. Comparison shop

Comparison shopping is something you should be thinking about at every stage of the buying process. But it’s important to keep in mind that not everything is an apples-to-apples comparison when it comes to shopping for cannabis.

Undoubtedly, sometimes you’ll end up paying more for a higher-quality product of the same strain, or for the experience at a particular dispensary.

But overall, comparison shopping for cannabis can save you hundreds or ever thousands per year, depending on how much you buy per month.

You can use our cannabis comparison tool to shop for dispensaries near you.

4. Find a dispensary or retail store with a great budtender

Budtenders, or the person behind the counter helping at a dispensary (often used as the term for medical) or retail store (often used as the term for recreational), provide the first impression of a cannabis dispensary. And a great budtender is invaluable to the buying process.

Not surprisingly, a great budtender has many of the same qualities that your favorite bartender probably has. Here’s what to look for in a budtender:

  • They are very passionate and knowledgeable about the products they carry.
  • They get to know you and your specific needs and wants out of a cannabis product, whether that’s for medical or adult-use.
  • They are very patient and answer all questions about their products.
  • They recommend cannabis products specific to your tolerance levels and typical dosage. Never consumed cannabis before? No problem. Budtenders should be able to guide you.

Not getting the answers you need at your local dispensary? Take your business somewhere else. Fortunately, there are now plenty of dispensaries out there and plenty of budtenders.

5. Smell, see, and feel

Once you decide on a dispensary, you’ll naturally want to vet the products as much as possible beforehand.

Since dispensaries won’t let you sample the product — at least none that we’ve heard of — you’ll want to utilize your senses.

First, assuming you’re buying flowers and not an edible or other product, let your nose be your guide and take in a big whiff of the plant. Most dispensaries will let you do this. You want a big aroma. Once they open the container, you should be able to smell it even before you bring your nose closer. But if you smell anything that hints of mold or must, take a pass.

Second, if it passes the smell test, take a closer look. Here you’re looking for trichomes, which look like little crystals all over the bud. If you’re seeing anything that looks like baby powder, take a pass. That’s mildew and is common with low-quality cannabis.

Finally, once you get the cannabis home, give it a squeeze. You’re looking for a bud that’s a little sticky with stems that are dry enough to snap easily.

Why you should buy legally

In this country, many cannabis consumers have been buying on the black market for a long time. But there are certainly benefits to going the legal route, other than compliance with the law. Here are a few of the biggest benefits:

  • Quality control: Many recreational and medical dispensaries and stores test their marijuana product to ensure that there are no mites, mildew or fungus, something that’s hard to find on the black market.
  • Quantity control: Unless you have a scale on you at the time of purchase, you’re going to have trouble figuring out exactly how much you’re paying for on the black market. That’s not the case with a recreational or medical store.
  • Selection: There’s no doubt about it — buying legally gives you more types of strains and products to choose from. Your black-market dealer might have a few varieties, but it’s hard to compete with a dispensary that carries 25 to 50 different sativas, indicas and hybrids.

Wondering how much marijuana costs in each state? Check out our post on the average price for a gram of cannabis.



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