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5 Tips For Choosing A Medical Marijuana Dispensary

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Photo: Steve Elliott ~alapoet~
The “medicine wheel” at Ben Reagan’s dispensary, The C.P.C., is used to demonstrate for patients the continuum between saliva and indica varieties of medicinal cannabis.
‚ÄčBy Ben Reagan

Co-Founder, The C.P.C.

Choosing alternative medicine such as medical cannabis is a big decision, and one you probably took a long time to make. ¬†Now that you’re here, and whether or not you were previously a cannabis user, there are a few things you should know about dispensaries (also known as collectives) to ensure that you get the quality of life improvement and medical benefits you’re looking for.
Here are five tips to help get you started on your new journey.

1.  Store nearest you. 
Some cities like Seattle are one of the most progressive, medical cannabis-friendly cities in the Unites States, having recently gone from 10 to approximately 51 known, licensed dispensaries in a very short time.
If you live in one of the other medical-cannabis friendly cities such as¬†Denver, chances are there is a collective within 10 minutes of you, and a large majority of them have delivery services. Or if you’re really lucky, in California in cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, dispensaries are practically more common than Starbucks.
Of course, continuing legislative flux can have an impact in your state, such as Arizona, where confusing laws have slowed down the approval process for new dispensaries, and unfortunately the attorney general is jockeying to close them down.
Either way, do some research, you have lots of choices ‚ĒÄ some of our favorite resources include¬†Weedmaps,¬†Potlocator,¬†THC List, and¬†CannabisNW.
2. The Experience.
For all of us it’s the “experience” that counts, and with dispensaries this is even more so.
For starters, think about the type of experience you’re seeking. Some collectives taking form in Washington are prone to the California model with heavy security doors, bullet-proof glass and large display jars.
Other dispensaries have lounge areas that, while they remain smoke free, offer a comfortable setting to review medicines, new products, and treatment plans.
Some focus on a groundwork/community model like the¬†Farmers Markets in Seattle and Tacoma, where you can experience a large number of vendors offering more of a “home grown” experience in a market setting.
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Photo: Steve Elliott ~alapoet~
Jeremy Kaufman, left, and Ben Reagan at The C.P.C. dispensary in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood
‚ÄčSome, like¬†The CPC, the Seattle dispensary I co-founded with my partner Jeremy Kaufman, have opted for a more personal, one-on-one experience that works on educating the customer so as a team, patient and dispensary can customize the medicine and treatment plan for specific conditions.
The CPC caters to folks that have serious pain management issues, sports injuries, back and neck pain, etc., so we’ve set it up more like a doctor’s office with first time consults lasting anywhere from 20-30 minutes at a time.
Folks should also consider the feel of the place, pricing, and even the level of community help. Do they give back?  Are they involved in the policy and regulation fight in their own city or state?
Finally, when you walk into your collective remember you are the one paying for the surroundings. You’re the one deciding what model you like with your collective buying power!
Bottom line, when you walk into a dispensary it should not look and feel like a place where “stoners” hang out.
For a great resource to see what other folks are experiencing and chatting about check out the forum at LegalMarijuanaDispensary.com.
3. Knowledge. 
Do you leave your collective feeling like you do when you leave your doctor’s office?
Are the folks running it more informed than you, and equipped with the knowledge that will enable you to deal with the ailments and illnesses that are impacting your quality of life? Does the dispensary encourage you to ask questions?
When you leave your chosen place do you feel enriched by what you got from there?
You can tell how much interest they have in sharing knowledge by the environment they created for you.
Getting educated about the benefits for your particular condition will make a big difference in the impact this medicine has for you.  For example, when some people start to use medical cannabis, the unwanted experiences (paranoia, feeling uncomfortable, impaired) can easily be averted with a little consultation, knowledge and empathy for the patient.
The good news is that customized medicine can be created, for example in the case of a car accident the patient may suffer from back pain which is muscle-related, and whiplash which is nerve-related. ¬†Blends are created to provide patient with “functionality” during the day and for pain management and sleep at night.
Find a dispensary with knowledgeable folks running the place, and your treatment plan, experience and quality of life will reflect that.
4. Quality of Medicine. 
There are myriads of things that take place during growing of the plant that have a big impact on the quality of medicine.  For example, the potency level (of THC-CBD-THCA); proper flushing (getting all the excess fertilizers out), and finally, curing and manicuring (the look and quality of the medicine).
Many collectives spend a good amount of time with their providers, learning and understanding his methods for growing effective medicine. Many here in the Seattle area have a natural approach and prefer organically grown medicine.
You can always ask about where it comes from and how it was grown.
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Photo: Steve Elliott ~alapoet~
Medicated caramels and a choice bud of “UW Med” strain medical cannabis from The C.P.C. in Seattle
‚ÄčMoving on from the plant, most new patients don’t realize that edible cannabis medicine, also called¬†medibles, are now a high-quality, highly effective alternative, and can be engineered to fight specific and highly targeted ailments and symptoms
Some medibles (candy, caramels, peanut butter cups, cookies, chocolates) can have a longer duration then combusting. Low tolerance folks will find they only need half a gram or less of cannabis to have an effect
Also, anything that melts in your mouth such as chocolate or caramels will have a sublingual effect allowing you to control how much of an immediate effect you receive.  Naturally, taking smaller bites will have the edible in your mouth longer and will give you a bigger initial brain effect.
For chronic pain management indica strains are used to produce a relaxed, heavy body effect.  And for nerve-related issues such as fibromyalgia, whiplash, sciatica, sativa strains are used to produce a body-based, clear-headed effect.
Additionally, sublinguals such as tinctures and candies are used when fast-acting relief is required, for example onset of a migraine headache. Topicals, such as¬†creams,¬†waxes¬†and ointments reduce inflammation, pain, and ache, and do not produce a body or head “effect.”
Of course, inhalants remain the fastest way to get medicine into the system, and if you’re not familiar, many folks are opting for¬†vaporizing¬†which eliminates the need to combust.
Make sure to always ask if your dispensary offers products that are guaranteed for consistency, equitable strength, efficacy, etc.?
Net-net, pass on dispensaries that do not guarantee their products, or may simply stock their shelves so you have something to buy – beware the fake chocolate almond bar!
5. Commitment to the Community.
 
We mentioned earlier the need to evaluate your dispensary on its commitment to community. This industry is filled with passionate people, many who spend a good amount of time working hard to support the community.
For example, consider this Denver dispensary and its food drive to support the homeless, or this California dispensary that supported a local beach clean-up.
Part of having a Commitment to the Community is providing a positive face to what we do.
Does the place you go to follow common sense simple things, like signage that says “no medicating on site”, discretion in the signage, or is it located where children may be walking by on their way back and forth to school?
Ask the dispensary questions about their commitment to their community.
And be sure to mention what you think they can do better. As we all know, community works better with feedback!
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Photo courtesy Ben Reagan
Ben Reagan, co-founder, The C.P.C.
‚ÄčAbout the Author

Ben Reagan, co founder of The C.P.C, was inspired to join the industry after seeing the benefits of medical cannabis first-hand with a very close family member.
Ben brings a deep intelligence, vision, and dedication to his craft, and has an insatiable desire to seek out what’s new in the industry.
The C.P.C was co-founded as a means to assist those in our community who are seeking out alternative medicines and treatments under Chapter 69.51A RCW in the state of Washington.

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