Menu from a cannabis dispensary in Massachusetts

My First Legal Cannabis

With the last of my personal stash running out and my dealer on vacation for the next two weeks, I decided to give a recreational cannabis shop a try for the first time.

The nearest store to me is in Wareham MA, a 45-50 minute drive from my house. Expecting a crush of weekend shoppers, I decided to go early Thursday morning to avoid a long wait. Arriving about 15 minutes after the store opened, I was able to find on-street parking about a quarter mile away. Guards in lime green vests directed me to the entrance, which was discretely hidden behind a large lilac bush in the rear of the building. I ducked around the bush and found myself queued-up under a smallish tent, where I waited about five minutes to present my ID, then stood in a second line to enter the building.

After a short wait, the guard (who’d chatted me up about my first time at a dispensary) escorted me and the four people behind me up to the door, used his badge to unlock it and ushered us into a miniscule lobby, where I was greeted by a second ID taker, who processed my ID, and then told me, in an inviting tone, to wait behind “that guy over there”. At this point the store split into two sides—medical on the left, “adult” (recreational) on the right. “That guy” was the last in a short line to enter the adult side, which consisted of one roughly 12’ X 12’ room, with a counter running from side to side separating the customers from the bud tenders and their products. The room smelled discretely of weed and had the kind of cacophony of voices you get in a bar during happy hour. I’d been expecting something along the lines of a gourmet shop or a wine store, but this was quite different—no display cases, no inviting jars of recently harvested bud. Just a counter with six registers and six bud tenders, and behind them a large floor-to-ceiling, glass-doored storage cabinet. Think a repainted soviet-era grocery store with cheery millennials in attendance.

While waiting my turn I checked out the other customers—a surprising cross-section of our state: young, middle-aged and old; black, brown and white; hipsters, housewives and preppie vacationers. Everyone (including me) had the eager look of a child in a candy store.

When my turn came, I found myself at a loss for all the questions I’d been prepared ask. “I’d like to buy some bud!” I blurted out. The bud tender’s calm and friendly demeanor put me quickly at ease. “And I think I’d like to try strains that are as different from each other as possible.” I asked what she thought of Ingrid and Flo (the names of two of the handful of strains available). She gave me a synopsis of Ingrid and Flo’s qualities, and her own personal experience with each: chill-out/relaxing, and energetic/creative. A chronically impulsive buyer, I was ready to purchase those two on the spot, but thought, in the interest of caution, I should enquire about other options. “What about these pre-rolls you have?” I asked, “How much comes in each?” “A gram.” she said, “The eighth of an ounce jars of bud are about 3.5 grams for comparison.” When she explained the profile of each of the three pre-rolls, Red Dragon sounded like a good Indica choice that would relax but not knock me out. “OK,” I said, “let’s go with Flo and a Red Dragon.” While she gathered my product choices from the cabinet, I saw on the product list they had one type of hash available: Fitchburg’s Finest. I hadn’t had any hash in at least three decades, and remembered loving the taste and smell. “What about the hash?” I asked. “What’s it like?” She confessed she wasn’t certain of the strain, looked it up and told me it was a hybrid that combined relaxing and energizing qualities. “I’ll take that!” I said. 30 minutes after leaving my car and I was ready to check out, drive home and begin sampling my purchases—without ever having seen, touched or smelled anything. So much for cautious shopping.

Including the three gallons of gas it took to get to and from the dispensary, I paid $140 for an eighth of an ounce of bud, a pre-rolled joint and a half-gram of hash. Compare that to the entire ounce I’d bought earlier in the year from my dealer for $260…

So how would I sum-up the experience for someone considering their first trip to an adult cannabis store? Imagine you like wine, but the only wine store around is almost an hour away. When you get there, you go through more security checkpoints than an airport on orange alert. The wait, if you go early, isn’t terrible, the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, but they have only eight different bottles for sale. And you can’t see them or taste them before you buy.

I’m glad cannabis is legal now in Massachusetts, but I think it will be sometime before retailers are allowed to present and sell it in an appealing and transparent fashion as alcohol is in most states. In the meantime, I’m happy with my little carry-over stash, and am looking with even greater anticipation now to the harvest of my own (starting to bud!) weed.