Tips for Arizona's Bewildered Dispensary Newbie

The Flower Shop in Ahwatukee
The Flower Shop in Ahwatukee Full Spectrum Creative
From the unassuming exteriors of marijuana dispensaries, it's hard for newcomers to imagine the ambiance inside can be welcoming or even chill. Plus, of course, it's hard to envision the wide range of products for any and all needs that awaits.

The experience can be overwhelming for a newbie, who doesn't know what to expect. Displays showcase a dizzying array of products, ranging from marijuana buds, concentrates, and edibles to cartridges, paraphernalia, and more.

Anyone unfamiliar with cannabis may not know where to start.

Rob Lemberes, chief operations officer at The Flower Shop, which is currently remodeling its three stores in east Phoenix, Ahwatukee, and Mesa, offered some ideas.

“Don't be afraid to do a little bit of research and look at what you think you want,” Lemberes said, adding it helps when customers enter with an idea of what they are looking for.

Also, don't feel rushed just because there is a line, he explained. Take time to get the most out of being in the store.

Many first-time dispensary customers are people turning 21, people such as Emily Fehrenbach.

Since her recent milestone birthday, she has been to Territory Dispensary in Chandler, now Zen Leaf, three times. Like others reaching legal age, she had no experience with cannabis products. Her main intention was relaxation.

“The first time I didn't know what I was doing and I didn't know what to get. So I just went up and talked to the guy and told him what I was looking for,” she said. “It was a good experience overall.”

Dispensaries can carry a wide variety of products, some more unusual than others.

“I was shocked at how many different selections I could choose from. They had a lot of products ranging in the strength of the strain. That was interesting to me,” Fehrenbach said.

After her few trips, Fehrenbach explained she will definitely be going back and is interested in going to different dispensaries.

Theo Ash, who turned 21 last fall, has yet to go to a dispensary, mainly because he hasn't felt the need.

“If I was dealing with a chronic injury or just stress, and I got into cannabis, obviously I would need a place to start,” Ash said. “I wouldn't really know what to do or what I needed to get.”

He said the dispensary, along with some internet research, is a good place to start.

Most marijuana dispensaries are cash-only so look up the prices of potential products before you go and tack on the state excise tax of 16% for recreational customers. Some larger dispensaries do accept debit cards with an extra fee and many dispensaries have ATMs indoors, which also add a processing charge.

Don't forget your identification card. A security guard out front and the budtender at the counter need to verify that you are old enough to legally purchase the products. You have to be at least 21. Some dispensaries have different sections of the store for medical patients and recreational sales.

You can skip the line by ordering ahead.

One hump to get over, if you are unfamiliar with products and lingo, is understanding what things are.

“Getting started on things is the toughest part because you can look like an idiot. That's true for many hobbies,” Ash said. “It would be more comfortable if I went in [to the dispensary] and I just sounded like I knew exactly what I was talking about. I would prefer that but it's just not a realistic starting place.”

Lingo can range from indica, sativa, and hybrid when talking about types of strains, to shatter, crumble, wax and dabs, in reference to cannabis concentrate. Then there are all the accessories that go with different products such as cones, dab rigs (for concentrates), bongs, and various electric vaporizers.

This can be overwhelming for anyone unfamiliar, so here are some of the more common terms a newbie might hear.

Flower/ Bud: What most people think of when they think of weed. The bud of the plant is ground up and smoked.

Edibles- THC-infused food or drink items. Commonly gummies, chocolates, and brownies are available, but products like soda and savory foods can be found as well.

Concentrates- The extracted cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant. Cannabinoids are psychoactive ingredients, while terpenes give different strings different smells or tastes. Concentrates can come in different textures and forms—some need to be heated for consumption while others don't. The kind that does not need heat can be infused into edibles.

Cartridges - Another form of concentrate that is used with battery-powered vaporizers. They work like e-cigarettes.

Indica - An overarching classification for some marijuana strains. They are generally known to be more relaxing and can give a sleepy effect.

Sativa- An overarching classification for some marijuana strains. They are generally known to be more stimulating.

Hybrid- Strains of plants that are a mix of Indica and Sativa.

Once the lingo is mastered, then the new customer has to get used to the layout.

The inside of many dispensaries have cases reminiscent of jewelry stores, explained Josiah Stuart, who has been a patron for about a year and a half. He explained that many places have a counter with display products to see the selection.

"On top [of the counter], they have edibles and jars out as well, that isn't all below the display cases. Some have stuff along the walls in the back," he said. "I don't look into display cases too much because I'd know what I'm going for."

The packaging is sleek and even fun. Now that is legal thought and branding can be put into these products as much as any other.

"It is a lot different than what you would expect if you only saw drugs on TV," he said.

Lamberes said another group new to dispensaries is middle-aged adults. Kimberly Donohue, a new Phoenix resident, who is temporarily escaping the Midwest winter, could be a part of this new customer base, but isn't so sure yet.

Donohue hasn’t used cannabis products mainly because she doesn't know how they will affect her. For now, she and feels like she is able to relax without that little extra something.

“The whole thought of it is a little intimidating,” she said.

She has never gone to a dispensary, nor has much knowledge of cannabis products.

“I would have to rely on the expertise of the staff for sure,” she said. Donohue, like many others, would be interested in products in order to get a better night’s sleep.

For her, the other major plus to legalization is knowing what you are getting.

“That makes me feel more confident in what I'm purchasing,” she said.

While she does not consume cannabis products currently, she is open to trying it in the comfort of her home when she and her husband retire in the near future.

If that sounds like you, don’t be afraid to do research and try something out if it is intriguing. And enjoy the experience. That's what marijuana consumption is all about.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.