Show Your ID
Upon walking in the door, you will come to a glass window, similar to that of a ticket booth at a movie theater, and be asked for your driver's license. This is taken rather seriously, so don't try any fake-ID shenanigans. Each dispensary is staffed with security, including an officer who scans IDs at the door. Regardless of whether you are an in-state resident or an out-of-state visitor, you must be 21-years-old with a valid ID to make a purchase. Once you are cleared by the officer, you will be buzzed into the back via the adjacent door.
Smell and Look, But Don't Touch
Once through the door, you will approach a glass display case that draws comparisons to a deli-counter. The store's products are displayed both in the case as well as on racks hung behind and overhead. On top of the counter, different strains of bud are kept in glass jars that you are free to examine and smell. You cannot touch the marijuana, though, so be sure to use the provided chopsticks if you'd like to remove any from the jar for a closer look.
Don't be afraid to pick the brain of the store's employees. Because pot comes in a variety of different forms and strains - all with wacky names - you'll want some guidance in navigating the selection. The atmosphere is completely open, and there's no reason to be shy. Tell the associate the frequency, desired effects, and purpose of your pot smoking so that they may recommend the appropriate bud.
Select Your Strain
There are two basic types of pot strains: Indica and sativa. The former will leave you relaxed and have a larger effect on the body than the mind (your classic couching-dwelling strain), whereas the latter is more of a "head high" with less impact on your motor skills and motivation (more energetic). Most strains are a mixture of the two (50/50, 75/25, or 40/60, for example), so you'll want to select one based on your desired feeling and projected activity.
Be a Kid in a Candy Store
Smoking is the most popular way to consume pot, but edibles are also a widely available alternative for those who are sensitive to smoke. Brownies and cookies are the most traditional forms, but marijuana now comes in candy, too. Forgo your usual theater favorites and give peach banana rings or rainbow belts a try on your next movie date. The photo above shows the products sold to medical patients, which operate under a different set of laws. Edibles sold to recreational users will come in a non-transparent, child-proof bottle (basically, a prescription bottle). Don't want to consume anything at all? Try the THC-infused lotions, which are not psychoactive but focus the healing effects (aka muscle relaxation) on the surface of the skin.
Smile at the Pretty Girls
Nothing breaks the visual stereotypes about pot smokers like a trip to the Health Center. If you're picturing a bunch of long-haired hippie dudes working the counter, think again.
Pay, Then Smoke 'Em if You Got 'Em... Once You Are Home
After you select your products, you will be directed to the register to pay for and collect your purchase, which is sealed in a plastic, non-transparent bag. In-state residents can purchase up to an ounce at a time, and those with out-of-state IDs can buy up to a quarter ounce in a single visit. Prices were approximately $15 per gram, $50 per 1/8 ounce (3.5 grams), and $90 for a 1/4 ounce (7 grams).
Besides the "no touch" policy highlighted above, the biggest thing otherwise is to NOT smoke your purchase on the premises. Buying a pack of joints is convenient, but it is illegal and completely unacceptable to light up before you are in the privacy of your residence.
[Photos: Ryan Dearth]