My state has legalized medical marijuana. I smoked a few times in college but it was never a regular thing. However, I suffer from really bad chronic pain, and I've been told by a physical therapist that medical pot might be helpful for me. I'm open to the idea but have absolutely no idea what to expect. I went with a friend to his dealer and it was super sketchy. I definitely don't want that kind of experience again, but I'm willing to try it if it helps with my daily pain.
— Uncertain in Arizona
You're not alone. It's very hard to fight the longstanding stigma that surrounds cannabis, and for some, that leads to uncertainty when it comes to medical marijuana. I'm happy to help dispel some myths and walk you through what it's all about.
The first thing you'll need to do before you even step foot in a dispensary is to get your medical marijuana card. This is what makes it legal for you to access the medicine. Since your physical therapist was the one that suggested it, I would ask them if they have any recommendations for a doctor that specializes in helping patients get their card. It sounds like you might be a great candidate for finding relief with medical marijuana.
Next you'll want to figure out which dispensary to go to. For some folks, there's no real option, as many states limit the amount of medical dispensaries that are allowed to open. You may just end up going to the one that is closest to you. However, if you have some options, look them up online. The MERRY JANE website has a dispensary search function that can link you directly to the dispensary nearest you. See what information they have and decide which one makes you feel the most welcome. And, you can always turn to Yelp to see what others think! (Yes, people review medical marijuana dispensaries on Yelp these days).
As for what to expect, toss away ideas of dark, dingy dorm rooms and instead open your eyes and mind to the professional and welcoming atmosphere most medical dispensaries have. They are a pleasing mixture between serious business and comforting ally. Security is of utmost importance to dispensaries, so don't be alarmed if you might have to show your ID to a camera before being buzzed in. At the dispensary I go to, there is actually a two-step identification process. I have to ring the doorbell and show my ID, then I have to show my medical marijuana ID and my license to the receptionist who checks me in. Once that goes through, I'm welcomed into the actual dispensary.
The dispensary I go to is at the height of green style, with gorgeous reclaimed wooden counters and display cases, high-end lighting fixtures, and a few screens that have stunning photographs of various strains. There's a section off to the side with comfortable couches, and even benches in line for those who may need a rest while waiting. They even have complimentary fruit depending on the season! When you walk in, an employee hands you a menu and is available to answer any questions you may have. If you need to talk to someone in private, there is an area available for that too.
The folks that work at dispensaries are usually professional, polite, and very knowledgeable about what they're dispensing. When you are called up, you can spend some time asking questions or just get right down to business. The folks that work in a dispensary are accustomed to helping a diverse range of clientele and they have seen/heard it all, so you should truly feel comfortable asking them anything. When you come in for your first visit, you'll probably sit down with someone and fill out a bunch of paperwork to get you loaded into their system.
The experience of actually picking and choosing your cannabis is also incredibly professional. When I ask for an ⅛ of Cali Orange, for example, the person who is helping me will get the container of it, open it, and allow me to smell it before making my purchase. The cannabis is weighed, packaged securely, I can pay with a debit card and I'm on my way.
Nobody there will make you feel ashamed for using medicinal marijuana, and nobody will make you feel like a total newb for asking all the questions — in fact, good dispensaries encourage it! And, don't forget, there are many different ways to use cannabis (flower, edibles, tincture, oil pen, lotion, capsules, etc…), which can also help strip away some of the stigma that is still attached. So, while it may be a completely new experience for you, it may be one you end up enjoying. And, better yet, one that can lead to a decrease in your chronic pain!