The High Times Guide to Buying Recreational Weed from Dispensaries

Photo by Justin Cannabis

If you’re going to pay top dollar for an experience with legal cannabis, it’s wise to venture into the dispensary with a few pieces of sound advice to make your experience memorable and enjoyable.

All too often, I see folks get excited about buying pot for the first time legally, but after purchasing, they realize they’ve been duped into dry, stemmy, larfy buds with no aroma, no flavor, just a baseless ashy/harsh smoke that makes you cough and tastes like hay.

So how do you know you’re getting the good stuff?


Can you trust the reviews? Everyone has an opinion, and that’s where reviews on websites can get confusing. A thousand different people have a thousand different experience levels. Have they even consumed high-end cannabis products before to be a proper judge on the subject? How would you really know? Somebody from Tennessee will have a different knowledge base, than that of someone from say California or Colorado. Have they lived in a rural area smoking mids their whole life, then visited a legal state in which they smoked some subpar stuff that they thought was the greatest marijuana in the world, so they felt the need to write a review about it?

You can see where this could be confusing for YOU the consumer.

“What about the budtenders, they should help me right?” The answer, for the most part is “no.” You can’t blindly follow the budtender’s advice. In my experience, a good portion of budtenders lack experience and/or knowledge and strictly just sell products like a sales clerk. When a budtender who hardly smokes, and doesn’t even dab is making recommendations, it can be tough to get the truth.

That’s why I’m going to give you the tips you need to walk away happy. I have been smoking cannabis for well over 20 years and have tried it all, From brick shwag, Mexican import, mids/commercial, BC bud, pretendica, indo, outdoor, light dep, greenhouse, LED and ultimately the best marijuana and hash in the world—you CAN take my word for it.

Flowers, Nugs, Buds, Etc.

1. Aroma. If upon opening the jar, you don’t smell a recognizable and pleasurable aroma, you aren’t going to get any taste on the tongue. The smell of cannabis is directly related to organic compounds which are called “terpenes.” These compounds carry all the aromatics that you smell when your senses experience a recognizable or familiar stench in plants and foods. These terpenes also translate over to your palate and add to pot’s effects in their own ways.

Smoking cannabis is not just about getting high—it’s the smell, the flavor and the effect combined that make cannabis special. So, if it doesn’t smell good, don’t buy it. Move along.

Often, you have multiple options for dispensaries in any given city, so don’t blow all your cash in the first place you see. Let me give you an example: Observe below, both flowers were purchased in Colorado, within 100 yards of each other. You can see a difference in quality. They were approximately 60 dollars each, for an 1/8 of an ounce.


2. Appearance. If the weed looks brown, hairy and leafy, you’re not going to have a good time. Make sure it’s got some life to it—those bright and rich colors. That’s not to say some duller golden colors can’t be fire, but as a rule, make sure it doesn’t look like it’s been stored in a coffee can since the ’60s.

Next, Look for trichrome coverage. Believe it or not, those little shiny crystals are the only thing that contain the smell, flavor and the cannabinoids that get you high, not the leaves or hairs. Make sure its caked in trichomes. These days, you don’t have to go far to find a decent grower to get some quality frosty smoke.

3. Dryness. This is a tough one, because I’ve smoked dry buds that were plenty flavorful and enjoyable, but most of the time, it’s safe to say that dry is not good.

If the weed is turning into dust at the bottom of the jar, that could be a great indicator that it is very resinous and likely potent cannabis, but could also mean that it was dried very fast, unlike a slow dry which maintains proper moisture levels in the buds before putting on the shelf. This can affect the overall flavor and harshness of the smoke.

4. Cultivation method? Does the dispensary divulge how the marijuana was cultivated? Is it organic or synthetics? Soil or hydro? It is well known that organics are proven to be more flavorful with higher phenols/terpene levels than synthetic and hydro, I’ve smoked great hydro before, but it’s safe to say that if given the option, I’ll choose organic every time.

5. Genetics. It’s all about the genetics. Go with tried and true varieties. There are so many breeders and crosses out there, that it’s tough to weed (heh! pun intended) through all the variations.

If you aren’t familiar with that new strain “Triple Double Pre ‘68 Purple Bling,” then you may not know what to expect. Not to say it’s not a great strain, that TDP98PB, but when all else is presented and you can’t decide, stick with the flavors that have stood the test of time to avoid disappointment. That is, of course, unless the stuff is screaming at you when you open it up. Terps usually don’t lie, so why not give it a try!

6. Packaging. Prepackaged stuff can sometimes be a gamble. Are they weighing it up in front of you? I’ve heard folks being satisfied with what was in the display jar, but upon return home, opening the container and seeing a different picture—small larfy bottom, trim-worthy containers passed off with the notion it will be some nice solid nugs. You must be careful. If possible, ask to examine the contents of the container before letting them slip it into the bag.

Hash, BHO, Rosin, Bubble, Etc.

The same rules apply with hash, for the most part.

1. Aroma is key. I can’t stress this enough—it must have an attractive bright smell to it, an odor that almost make your eyes water. It goes to say, if you want the fire hash, it’s got to smell great. Period.

Not to say I haven’t had decent stuff that wasn’t exactly “loud” upon opening, but it’s just that, decent. Not, “WOW, this stuff is incredible,” which is what we want you to have. Use your senses to pick out a winner.

2. Appearance. What you want to look for in the color of extracts is creamy, clear golden, gold, yellow, electric orange and light amber to make sure it’s going to be quality. Amber can occasionally be acceptable tones, but in most cases, anything with a brown shade to it, isn’t very good. It’s usually trim run or very old unpreserved trim and buds turned into hash.

I have noticed that sometimes even the amber colors, except for water hash, are typically not worth the time in my opinion.  Now you may say, “Hey! My stuff is really good, and it’s got an amber/brown tint to it!’’ Well, all I can say is that everyone has an opinion, and some are valued more than others.

Look below at acceptable colors for optimum quality.


On the left, you see vibrant colors in these examples of flower rosin, BHO, PHO and hash rosin. To the right, you will see the amber shades, which usually are not as flavorful as the others, but can hold some desirable qualities in effect.

Water Hash, or “Bubble Hash,” can be extremely tasty and still carry the amber/brown shades. View the picture below to see an example.


With that being said, the brown/amber rule does not apply in the case of water extractions. In this case, you want to follow your nose to make sure you get some flavorful bubble. Also, observe the appearance. It should look shiny and greasy, if you want melty water hash. Usually the dryer, sandy stuff doesn’t hold enough of the oily properties to be considered “dabbable,” if that’s what you prefer.

Typically, a star system is set in place to give you a guide to its purity and meltiness and to help you select the right stuff.

Finally, if you observe extracts that resemble the picture below, looking dark brown or black, do yourself a favor and run away. This is like the pipe resin of the hash world, and you don’t want anything to do with it.


Let’s face it, recreational weed isn’t cheap. From $10 – $20 a gram, it can add up.

So next time you’re headed to a dispensary and you’re in there doing the ritual “open, sniff and close,” remember this: Is it attractive? Does it smell bright and pleasant? Is it caked with trichomes? Is it too dry? Is it organic? Is it a mystery bag that you cannot check out first?

Ask yourself these questions before investing your hard-earned money, and you’ll walk away a happy consumer. Until next time, have fun shopping!

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