Going to the Dispensary for the First Time: Massachusetts Edition

A close up of a small glass jar filled with large marijuana buds.

Whether you’re new to cannabis or are a long-time user, you may never have visited a medical or recreational dispensary. Many first-time visitors are impressed by the wide selection available and the personalized service you get to meet your cannabis needs.

Here’s everything you need to know about going to a dispensary for the first time in Boston and its environs, including the identification you need to bring and what the shopping process will be like.

First: What to Bring to the Dispensary

As long as you’re 21 years old or older, it’s legal to visit a dispensary in Massachusetts. You may be able to visit a dispensary if you’re younger than 21, if you’ve been approved for the state’s medical cannabis program. Medical cannabis patients 18 and older who are younger than the age of 21 must bring in their active state-approved medical cannabis card.

All cannabis customers must bring a legal form of identification that displays their age. This can include a driver’s license, passport, or other form of legal ID.

Other than ID, make sure you have the form of payment the dispensary accepts. Some dispensaries will not accept credit or debit cards. At Happy Valley, we accept cash and debit card payments and have an ATM in the lobby for your convenience.

The Recreational vs Medical Marijunana Experience in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, dispensaries treat medical and recreational customers a bit differently. It’s important that you know the differences, so that you can figure out if it would be better for you to go the medical cannabis route or the recreational cannabis route. Let’s go over what the differences are:

Medical Marijuana in Massachusetts

Those with a valid Massachusetts medical marijuana card can be as young as 18 and have access to:

  • Priority or express lines
  • No taxes on their medical marijuana purchases
  • Higher doses than recreational customers
  • 10 ounces every 2 months

To learn more about getting your medical card read our blog post about how to get a medical card in Boston.

Recreational Cannabis in Massachusetts

On the other hand, customers over the age of 21 looking to buy recreational marijuana:

  • Do not have access to express lines
  • Have to pay a 20% state tax on their purchases
  • Don’t have access to the highest doses available
  • Are limited to 1 ounce of flower or 5 grams of concentrates per transaction

When You Enter the Dispensary

When you arrive at the dispensary, you’ll be greeted and asked to show your proof of ID or your medical cannabis card if you’re a medical patient. Most cannabis shopping experiences are one-on-one—meaning, you get personalized attention from a knowledgeable host who can answer all your questions. Most dispensaries staff appropriately, so there’s minimal wait time to enter the shopping area, but in some, you may have a short wait (medical patients have priority).

Massachusetts law states that recreational cannabis consumers may possess 1 ounce of marijuana or have 10 ounces of marijuana at home. According to the Cannabis Control Commission, dispensaries may not sell more than 1 ounce of cannabis or 5 grams of cannabis concentrate to a customer per transaction. Due to the possession laws, most customers will only be able to purchase up to the legal personal possession limit during each dispensary visit, unless you are a medical cannabis patient. Your budtender will alert you if you’re getting close to the maximum amount of legal cannabis for your purchase so that you don’t purchase over the legal limit.

Once it’s your turn to shop, you’ll either be walked to your own personal shopping counter or be free to peruse the shop at your leisure. If you visit the dispensary with a friend, you can usually shop together.

A budtender (or Host, as we call them at Happy Valley) can show you a menu with various cultivars of cannabis, as well as show you other cannabis products such as edibles, tinctures, and concentrates. You’ll be able to see what’s available behind a glass counter or on shelves. When you’re satisfied with your selection, your budtender will bag up your purchase. You may be able to pay directly with them, or be directed to a cashier to check out and pay.

Can you order cannabis online?

Some dispensaries offer the ability to order cannabis online, including our own East Boston and Gloucester locations. Now, you can’t actually make the purchase online—it’s technically called a “pre-order,” and it means you tell the dispensary what you what via an online platform, and your order will be packaged up and waiting for you when you arrive. If you placed a pre-order online, you’ll need to present your ID at the dispensary. Let an associate know you’re there to pick up your purchase.

Online pre-orders of cannabis products in Massachusetts have to be picked up within a specific timeframe, so make sure the pickup window works for your schedule, or you may have to reorder or wait when you do arrive.

How to Get Most Out of Your First Dispensary Visit

Wondering what to expect your first visit to a dispensary? It can be exciting, fun, and a little hectic given all the options that are available to you. Keep these tips in mind for what to know for first dispensary visit.

  • Ask about first time dispensary deals. First-time medical patients may be eligible for discounts on certain products or the overall bill. Ask about what’s available. There are also typically specials being run on various products. If you’re adventurous and want to save on your purchase, inquire about potential savings.
  • Take your time. Your host is available to answer any questions you might have about the selection or purchasing process. Don’t feel like you have to rush. The more frequently you visit, the more familiar you’ll be, but it’s OK to explain that it’s your first visit so you can go at your own pace.
  • Talk to your budtender. Your host is there to help you make the most out of your cannabis shopping experience. Whether you’re in a dispensary for medical reasons or because you want something relaxing, soothing, invigorating or uplifting, talk to your budtender about what you’re in the market for. Hosts should be experts in the cannabis products they’re selling so they can help guide you toward the best purchases.

If you want to shop from that dispensary again later, visit their website. You may be able to sign up for a mailing list or loyalty program to get more savings in the future.

Reminder: Enjoy Your Purchase in a Safe Space

After you shop at a dispensary, be careful to only consume cannabis in a space that’s legal in Massachusetts. Public consumption on the street, for example, is illegal. If you’re a resident, you can consume your purchase at home. If you’re visiting, make sure your accommodations are cannabis-friendly. Check out our list of 420 friendly Air BnBs in Boston to browse some great options, and be sure to read our Massachusetts cannabis tourism guide.

The Happy Valley Difference

At Happy Valley, we take quality and transparency seriously. As longtime cannabis consumers ourselves, we want you to have the best experience possible in our stores and with our products. Controlling the cultivation process from start to finish to ensure only the highest quality cannabis hits our shelves, we display our products proudly in our open showrooms so you can actually see what you’re getting (Happy Valley Insiders can use a scannable QR code on each package to verify the genetics of each flower, too). You can explore the terpene composition of our cultivars as you browse, and even use touchscreen guides in our East Boston dispensary and showroom to match the experience you’re looking for with the best product.

Don’t take our word for it, though.  Read the reviews for our East Boston and Gloucester dispensaries, or stop by for a visit. You can also join the Happy Valley Insider mailing list for deals, specials, news and more.

Have questions? We’re here to help. Chat with us online now by clicking the box in the bottom right, or visit or call your closest Happy Valley dispensary today.

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