Best Practices:  Shopping at a new dispensary – PART ONE, by PA Murphy

https://www.okkush.org/articles/read/best-practices-shopping-at-a-new-dispensary

A little over six months ago, Oklahoma voters showed up to the polls in record numbers to vote on and pass SQ 788, and now everyone is witnessing a growing and evolving medical marijuana industry spread around the state. Dozens of dispensaries have opened over the past few months, both small Mom & Pop’s and larger corporate entities, carrying diverse selections of medicinal cannabis products in many various different forms, under countless different names, at a lot of different price points. This has led to more than a few questions, especially from the patients who are new to most of the nuances of the medical marijuana industry, on how to “shop” at a dispensary.

The dispensary shopping experience can be frustrating and intimidating at times, even for seasoned consumers in states where the industry is much older and more standardized, but there are several things that can be done before, during, and after a trip to a new dispensary which will make it a much more pleasant experience.

First and most importantly, PLAN a trip to a new dispensary. With everything being so new, there are communication issues, distribution issues, supply issues, and technical issues, which are just a few among many issues that can and will at some point slow down or halt business. Being unprepared or feeling pressed for time will only complicate and exasperate the problem(s). Schedule plenty of time to actually spend inside the dispensary- time for license and identification verification, time for waiting (just in case you have to wait), and plenty of time for browsing and asking questions. Shopping for medicinal cannabis products should not be a hurried process at any time, but right now, the more thoughtfully people approach making their purchasing decisions the better.

Researching a dispensary before heading out is an absolute must. Licensed dispensaries are listed at omma.ok.gov accessible by clicking on the Licensed Dispensary button. It’s updated fairly regularly (as of 01/22/2019 there have been 12 days since the last update), but if a dispensary isn’t listed it doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t licensed. In these instances, a call to OMMA at (405) 522-OMMA (6662) to verify the dispensary is warranted.

Finding other information on dispensaries can be a bit trickier. Many of the social media sites have been limiting access or shutting down medical marijuana accounts with little to no warning or reason. Basic internet searches will pull up the dispensaries which have themselves listed, and most of those will have at least a basic website, but there are still some dispensaries that haven’t gotten quite that far. OKKush.org is a great local resource, but, because it’s new too, there are still kinks to be worked out, and it needs more participation from the local community. Leafly and Weedmaps can be useful resources but, because of financial and technical barriers for dispensaries, they tend to be less helpful for up to date information on Oklahoma dispensaries. There are also a handful of Reddit subreddit communities keeping their members informed on all the things related to medical marijuana. OKmarijuana, OkMedicalTrees, NormanMMJ, and GreenCountryMMj are useful for finding more detailed information and reviews on most of the dispensaries around the state. Reddit itself can be a huge informational resource for all things cannabis related, but like with most social sites, knowing how to spot disinformation and checking for misinformation is necessary. And of course, calling the dispensaries directly to find out information is always an option, but many times they are sparsely staffed; between taking care of patient customers and keeping an eye on the safety and security of everything and everybody, they have limited time for phone conversations. The best thing to do is try to scan through all of these resources, gathering as much verifiable information on the dispensary (or dispensaries) in question as possible.

At this time, there are wide deviations in knowledge and training from each individual business throughout the industry. Educating oneself on the types of medicinal cannabis products which might best fit an individual’s personal needs will go a long way in assuring the best possible dispensary shopping experience. Patients who have had success with specific products should stick with or as closely to those products when visiting a new dispensary. Patients who have no experience with medicinal cannabis products should look into some of the many websites and apps available that offer features like personalized product picks, extensive information on cannabis treatments according to condition, and “how to use” blogs and/or videos. A couple of my personal favorites are Cannabiscope and Kind Meds Medical Cannabis Strains Guide, but a quick online search will pull up hundreds of others. Though there is a huge amount of information available, it’s easy fairly easy to search and most sites dealing with medical cannabis are oriented to make finding information easier for patients.

And that is where I’m going to end Part One. I’ll be back next week with Part Two; same time, same place. Until then, keep it Okie Tokie my friends.

-P.A. Murphy