Your complete guide to what to expect when buying marijuana in a recreational state.
If you live in a recreationally legal marijuana state or plan to visit one soon, you may be asking a very common question: How do I buy marijuana?
In this easy to follow guide, we prepare you for your first time purchasing recreational marijuana and walk you through this relatively simple process.
In Which States Can I Buy Recreational Marijuana?
A state ID or driver’s license from any state or a passport proving you are over 21 will get you access to legal dispensaries in six of the recreational marijuana states in the U.S.:
With fully established recreational marijuana programs in these states, dispensaries have been licensed to distribute marijuana to anyone of legal age.
Recreational marijuana is also legal in Washington D.C., but there is no system in place to purchase it. The only way to legally purchase marijuana right now in D.C. is with a medical card, and it is illegal to bring marijuana in from out of state, putting residents there in a sticky legal gray area.
Can Out-Of-State Residents Buy Recreational “Weed”?
If you are from a state in which recreational marijuana is not legal (such as Alabama or Idaho) and you travel to a state in which recreational marijuana is legal (such as California or Massachusetts), are you allowed to purchase marijuana?
The answer is yes! Cannabis tourism is a growing industry in states around the country, as residents of states with more restrictive marijuana laws are flocking to states where recreational marijuana is legal, allowing them to use cannabis products freely without the fear of criminal charges, fines, or other penalties. There are even marijuana tours in some states that let you take a look at all of the best dispensaries.
State marijuana laws will vary regarding what is needed in order for people from outside of the state to purchase marijuana, but in general, all you need to do is find a local recreational dispensary and show your ID. Once you do, you are allowed to freely purchase a variety of marijuana and cannabis products.
Can Out-of-State Residents Buy Recreational “Weed” and Bring it Back to Their Home State?
The answer to the question “Can out-of-state residents buy recreational weed?” is no, they legally cannot.
Anyone who does this is breaking the law and asking for trouble. While many states have made recreational marijuana legal, it is still federally illegal. Therefore, when you are crossing state lines with marijuana, you are technically breaking federal law. Even if you purchased the marijuana legally in your state of origin, it is against the law to cross state lines with any marijuana on your person.
This also applies to individuals who are crossing from one state in which recreational marijuana is legal into another state in which it is legal, such as driving from California to Oregon with marijuana on your person. Even though marijuana is legal in both California and Oregon, when you cross state lines you are in the jurisdiction of federal law enforcement and are subject to hefty fines and penalties. We recommend, no matter what, that you should never cross state lines with marijuana.
Finding a Recreational Dispensary
Once you are in a legal recreational marijuana state, what is the easiest way to locate the best cannabis dispensaries to buy marijuana? There are a few reliable ways to find nearby shops, including online directories, local print media, and even traditional marketing efforts. These dispensaries might be brick and mortar shops or delivery services.
You can find dispensaries listed by location from a number of directories online that keep a database of cannabis dispensaries. Some of these online services also list out a shop’s “menu” or the marijuana strains and products the dispensary has in stock.
Recreational dispensaries often advertise either online, in a city’s free culture and nightlife magazines, or even on billboards in some markets. Sign spinners are also a popular way for dispensaries to get your attention.
States that have legalized cannabis sometimes limit how marijuana businesses can use traditional marketing channels, forcing dispensaries to get creative with how they reach out to their potential customers.
Unsure of which dispensary to choose? Online directories often allow users to rate and review shops. Many markets also have websites dedicated to reviewing marijuana dispensaries and products to give you an idea of where to best purchase your recreational cannabis.
You can learn more about finding the best dispensary near you in our dispensary guide.
What Do I Need?
To purchase recreational marijuana from a dispensary, like with purchasing alcohol, all that is needed is proof that you are over 21. For this, you can use government issued documents like a driver’s license, state photo I.D., or passport. You do not need to be a resident of the state you are in to purchase legal recreational marijuana, opening the door for cannabis tourism.
You’ll also want to make sure you have enough cash on hand to cover your purchase. It is rare for a marijuana dispensary to take credit cards, though some do. Most dispensaries that are cash-only have an ATM on site, but fees for use can be high. Plan ahead, check the online menus for the dispensary, and bring enough money to cover your purchase.
Choosing Between a Shop, Pickup, or Delivery
While most new users have a mental image of walking into a cannabis shop when deciding to buy marijuana for the first time, there are actually a few choices in how you get your marijuana, including entering brick and mortar shops, ordering your selections ahead of time for pickup, and having someone deliver your order. Some shops even offer all three options. Other dispensaries may exist only as a delivery service.
Physical shops are a popular way for many consumers to buy their cannabis products. Customers can see the range of products for sale, check out the packaging, smell the different strains of cannabis flower, and ask as many questions as it takes to find the best products.
Brick and mortar shops also offer advantages to those who are new to buying legal marijuana and are unsure of what they want. These customers can benefit from having a knowledgeable “budtender” to help walk them through their many choices and help them go home with the right product.
Some brick and mortar dispensaries also allow customers to call their marijuana order in advance and then come pick it up, letting them skip the often long lines at some licensed dispensaries. This is helpful if you are in a hurry and already know what you want. As simple as grabbing a take-out order, picking up your marijuana preorder will get you going on your way without the wait.
Finally, some dispensaries offer delivery for those who can’t or wish not to visit a physical shop. Orders are called in and then brought to your home, office, or hotel by a delivery person. Some delivery customers are unable to travel to a brick and mortar dispensary, others are short on time and like the convenience, and some simply enjoy the privacy that delivery offers over visiting a marijuana store.
It is even possible to buy marijuana online or with smartphone apps. These apps and websites allow you to easily place your marijuana order as you would any online purchase and some even let you schedule your delivery ahead of time for delivery when it works best for you.
While all of these methods have their own unique benefits, what is most convenient and comfortable for you will likely be the best choice. Reference our dispensary guide to learn more about finding a dispensary.
Visiting a Shop
Once you arrive at your dispensary, you’ll probably be met at the front door by a security guard. They will likely want to wand you down with a metal detector. This isn’t an indication that a shop isn’t safe — it is simply a precaution and a necessary reality in a marijuana industry that is largely still cash-based.
Once you enter the shop, you’ll need to check in with the front desk. They will scan your I.D. to verify your age and then put you on a list to enter the sales floor. You will then be directed to wait in the waiting room. At any point during your visit, you may experience long lines. As you can imagine, legal cannabis is quite popular, and extended wait times do happen. Try to schedule your visit for when you know you have time.
Once you are called to the back room, you are ready to begin your shopping experience.
In some markets, it is also possible to order your recreational marijuana products to be delivered to your home. Buying marijuana through delivery is a smart choice if you aren’t able to leave your home, there are no nearby brick and mortar shops, or if you already know what you want and don’t have any questions.
Delivery services can be found in the same ways as a physical store. Once you find a delivery service you want to use, typically, you will need to call in to the delivery service to place an order. However, more savvy services allow order by text. Some even have their own smartphone apps or allow you to order online through their website.
Before you place your order, you’ll need to choose your products from the shop’s menu. This may be found on directory apps for cannabis businesses or sometimes on a shop’s own website. Once your order has been placed, wait times can vary based on time of day, distance from business, etc.
When your order arrives, most drivers will bring the order to your door. In some cases, they will ask you to come meet them at their car instead. Be sure to check your order to ensure it is correct before your driver leaves.
What Products Can I Buy?
Marijuana dispensaries will provide a wide selection of brands and product types to satisfy the needs of their many customers. Here are some of the products you are likely to find in dispensaries. If it is your first time at the dispensary, take the time to browse the products and ask questions until you find something that sounds right for you.
Flower: The flowering buds of the marijuana plant, marijuana flower can be smoked in a glass pipe, in a bong, or rolled into a joint or blunt. It is also possible to vaporize the active compounds in marijuana flowers with an appropriately equipped vaporizer. Marijuana flower is available in an incredible range of strains or genetic genotypes. This variety of strains is made possible by cross-breeding different strains, creating new ones with the shared characteristics of their parents. Marijuana flower is typically classified as either an indica, sativa, or hybrid. You can find our list of the most popular marijuana strains here.
Extracts: Marijuana extracts include products like kief, hash, oil, marijuana shatter, wax, and more. These products seek to concentrate the active compounds in marijuana like its cannabinoids and terpenes into a consumable product. Marijuana concentrates can be dabbed, vaporized, infused into edibles, or added to marijuana flower to increase its potency.
Edibles and Beverages: Using a variety of techniques, companies have infused food products ranging from brownies and candies to frozen pizza and ice cream with cannabinoids like THC. Beverages like soda, coffee, and tea are also available infused with THC are also available. You can find more information about edibles in our marijuana edibles guide.
Topicals: The cannabinoids in cannabis can also be absorbed by the body through the skin. For this reason, you can find topically-applied products like balms, lotions, massage oils, and even patches.
Which Marijuana Product Is Best for Your Needs?
When it comes time to buy marijuana at a recreational dispensary, the sheer amount of products available for purchase can be overwhelming. Not only are you asked to choose between marijuana flower, extracts, edibles, and topicals, but there are also a seemingly endless amount of strains and brands to choose from. So how do you know which marijuana product is best for your needs?
The first step is to take your time browsing available products. A recreational marijuana dispensary can be staggering at first glance, so take your time to slowly look through all of the products offered. Marijuana products often have information on their labels that give the user more information about the possible effects of use.
The next step is to ask any questions you have to your budtender before you buy marijuana. Your budtender is a cannabis expert, and they can answer a wide range of questions regarding marijuana products and expected effects. No matter how simple or complex your question is, do not be afraid to ask! Your budtender can help you find a product based on your desired effects, health issues, or other requirements. Asking your budtender a litany of questions will make it easier to choose between the many products on the dispensary shelves.
If you need help finding the right type of marijuana products for you and would rather walk into a recreational marijuana dispensary with a product in mind, we are happy to offer a guide to help you make your purchase decision. Visit our medical marijuana product guide to learn more.
How Much Marijuana Can I Purchase?
There are limitations to how much marijuana and its derived products you can legally purchase and possess at any given time. These amounts will change by state, so check with your budtender to find out how much marijuana you can buy at one time.
In most recreationally legal states, there is a cap of one ounce of dried marijuana flower. Similar caps exist on how much marijuana concentrate or edibles you can buy or possess. We break down the sizes marijuana flower is sold in and typical prices in case you’re looking to learn more.