Dispensary Dos and Don’ts

What to expect when you shop for cannabis for the first time, with High Desert Relief budtender Irie Duran

Irie Duran got her medical cannabis card about a year and a half ago and started working as a budtender shortly thereafter. (Bella Davis)

If you’ve never stepped foot inside a cannabis dispensary, the thought of it might be overwhelming or intimidating. That’s how Irie Duran felt leading up to her first few visits. The 26-year-old, who’s from Ohkay Owingeh, was worried she’d be laughed at because she didn’t know much about the plant. Duran got her medical cannabis card about a year and a half ago and started working at High Desert Relief—which has been praised for its customer service—on the Southside shortly after. This year, she was nominated for SFR’s Best of Santa Fe in the new best budtender category. She walked SFR through what first-timers can expect when dispensaries open their doors to recreational customers this spring and has some suggestions to help the experience go smoothly.

Do some planning

Consider what you might be looking for in advance. Most dispensaries have menus online that could be useful to browse. Maybe you don’t yet know if you’re in the market for flower, edibles, cartridges or topicals, but what effects are you wanting to feel? Do you have a particular problem, like insomnia or anxiety, that you’re hoping to treat? The more open you’re comfortable being with your budtender, the more they can help you help yourself. But if you have no idea about specifics and are just broadly interested in cannabis, that’s OK, too, Duran says. Just say so when someone greets you at the counter.

(Anson Stevens-Bollen)

Bring your ID and cash

If nothing else, you need these two things. Valid proof of identification is required when you enter dispensaries, and you have to be at least 21 years old. The cannabis industry is limited when it comes to banking because it’s still federally illegal, so most dispensaries don’t accept credit cards and other non-cash forms of payment. You can probably use your debit card but that’ll come with fees. Many shops have ATMs inside in case you forget cash. Best to play it safe, though, and come prepared.

Be patient

Expect that you might have to wait. High Desert Relief has seen increased interest and demand in recent months, Duran says. She hasn’t worked at the company long enough to be there for its annual 4/20 events, but she’s heard about lines to get in the store that wrap around the building—and those were all medical patients, she points out. “Now with rec, we’re going to have everybody coming in,” Duran says. “It’s gonna be a challenge at first, I think, because we have to get into the flow of things.”

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Take your time to talk with the budtender. In our experience, they’re friendly folks who are passionate about what they do, which is helping you find what works best. “I like when patients ask me a lot of questions,” Duran says. “Sometimes they’ll be like, ‘I’m sorry I’m asking so many questions,’ but it’s good information to have. That way I can get to know them better and get to know what they’re looking for.” Duran stresses that newcomers should ask, in particular, about dosages.

Check back in

Assuming you had a positive experience at the dispensary overall, go back after you’ve used what you bought and share feedback with the budtenders. If something didn’t work for you, speak up. “I had a patient come in who didn’t know anything about cannabis,” Duran says. “I recommended low-dosage gummies and that was too much for her, so we ended up switching to a body cream because she was mostly looking for pain relief and she said it’s been helping her.” Duran says one of the most fulfilling aspects of the job is hearing from clients she’s helped, so keep that in mind.

Remember you have options

There are over a dozen dispensaries in Santa Fe, so don’t be discouraged if you feel like the first store you visit isn’t for you. “Finding the right dispensary, it can be hard,” Duran says. “There are some I’ve gone to in Colorado that are amazing and others are so intimidating. They expect you to know what you’re talking about, but people don’t always know or it’s their first time. It’s nice to have a budtender that’s actually willing to help you instead of just making a sale for the day.”

Read more of the Cannabis Guide:

Ready or Not: Adult cannabis sales kick off in New Mexico with hiccups and optimism

Lighting Up, Limited: Where in Santa Fe can you smoke weed? For now, you’re safest staying at home

Dispensary Dos and Don’ts: What to expect when you shop for cannabis for the first time, with High Desert Relief budtender Irie Duran

A Gray Area: Measuring cannabis impairment of drivers remains an elusive target for New Mexico and nationally

Expunge Me: New Mexico courts, public safety department gearing up to remove thousands of cannabis charging records from public view

In the Lab: Flaws, uncertainty in New Mexico’s testing for THC potency and other measurements show bumps on the road to adult-use cannabis rollout

New Bud on the Block: Legacy cannabis producers and recently-licensed operators set up shop in Santa Fe

Dispensary Directory: Over 21 in Santa Fe? Grab your place in line for cannabis

CBD Directory: If you’re interested in the non-psychoactive benefits of cannabinoids, you have plenty of local options

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