a burgundy zine

Your First Dispensary Visit by Ren Anderson

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
By: Ren Anderson

The last step of the journey is choosing your dispensary

Source: Part Three: Your First Dispensary Visit | The Greenbud Gazette

In the last installment of their three-part series for new medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania, Ren Anderson of The Greenbud Gazette guides us through the first dispensary visit experience.

(Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2: A master article will be compiled soon)

After you receive your Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana card in the mail, the next step is to make your first appointment at a dispensary.

For your first visit, most (if not all) dispensaries require an initial consultation appointment, regardless of your level of prior cannabis experience.

After choosing a dispensary, make certain to compare prices and selection, especially if you are fortunate to live near a city such as Scranton, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, or Bethlehem.

Fortunately, our more remote dispensaries in Erie or the Northern regions appear to have consistently fair pricing and good selection compared to more metropolitan counties.

Five Examples of Dispensaries

From here, the process differs slightly per dispensary. Here are the ones I’ve visited:

Cure, Lancaster

The location is at the corner of a shopping center. Hold your ID to the intercom to be buzzed into lobby one where you hand your ID to security and await your turn, comfortably seated with other friendly patients to fill out the paperwork required by all dispensaries for a first-time visit.

After your short wait as security processes your ID, you’ll be called and matched with an on-floor expert who helps you select your products and places them in the system for you.

You’ll be called by a separate budtender after your order is filled. You can still change your order at the counter.

The other patients in line are actually patient and speaking glowingly of every aspect of their experience.

The aesthetic is actually… Surprisingly like an actual local pharmacy, but with better customer service.

Greenbud Gazette

The prices are directly in the middle of the state average, however, there’s an incentive program and help for low-income individuals. Cure possessed the most technically knowledgeable employees during my visit and had a supernatural ability to appear sincerely chipper on Black Friday – the most difficult retail day of the year in any storefront.

Cure also had very clearly advertised events for cannabis education. Your purchase is given to you in a bag with a very conspicuous “Cure” logo. The online menu is immediately accurate to the in-store selection.

Terravida, Sellersville

Look for the firehouse on Main Street in Sellersville. TerraVida has its entrance sideways to the road, facing the firehouse.

After years of black market prohibition, it was a jarring contrast to the recent past of Pennsylvania pre-medical cannabis regulation.

The security guard will check your ID to enter you into lobby one. Upon the second check of your ID by reception, you’ll then be permitted entrance into the main lobby.

Here, the pharmacist may place the order for you the first time and then teach you how to use their online system as you wait in the waiting room for your order to be pulled.

There are cookies, board games, drinks, and the other patients who are friendly and enthusiastic in their recommendations to anyone who will listen.

Off-peak hours and online ordering are a must for those who are easily overwhelmed. The budtenders are used to people from out of town. The prices are half of what you would pay at most other dispensaries. You can still add items to your order upon meeting the budtender. You’ve visited six times and no one remembers you in blessed anonymity.

The aesthetic is a really posh spa: from the waterfall wall to the cucumber water. TerraVida provides the most take-home information as well as usually providing excellent quality canvas bags for each purchase.

Seminars, lectures, and community involvement are all very important aspects of TerraVida. It’s strongly recommended to use the online order form or call ahead prior to pick-up.

Harvest, Reading (5th Street Hwy) / Harvest, Reading (Lancaster Ave)

After awkward access from a local highway, you find yourself in an equally uncomfortable parking lot (at both locations). Hold your Medical Marijuana ID up to the intercom and smile. Wait to be buzzed in, and then hand your ID to the receptionists behind the bulletproof glass.

The waiting room is forbidding with stiff plastic chairs. However, once inside the retail area, the aesthetic of the Lancaster Avenue location is that of a bank in Bala Cynwyd from the 1970’s… But, you’re actually in Reading, a fact that can never be forgotten with the profusion of bulletproof glass that creates an equally frustrating and formidable barrier for both employees and patients. 5th Street Highway location resembles a check cashing place inside and out, and could benefit from any color whatsoever. Even a nice rug would really tie the room together.

You’ll be directed to a different room from the lobby to choose your purchases at the counter either with the pharmacist directly or with the budtender after your ID is processed in the waiting room. (The processing time for patients who come in to retrieve called-in orders at Harvest is shortest from entrance to exit of any dispensary I’ve visited so far).

The other patients are not usually particularly social and act startled at friendly interaction; Reading locals are the cagiest of all of Pennsylvanians. Visitors from out of town are immediately recognized and pitied by locals like lame labrador puppies in a dog park full of traumatized cage-fight rottweilers with PTSD.

Despite the local culture of hostile introverts, Harvest employees are likely the most kind to the sensory sensitive migraine patients or those who have sensitivities to loud sounds or sudden movements.

Normally, the pharmacist will be the one to answer most strain questions – Reading patients are also the least likely to ask very much prior to their purchases.

Lancaster Avenue has a terrible parking lot but has a consistently better selection and more welcoming space, the 5th Street Highway sells out of product the fastest but has the least welcoming interior design.

You pay $1 to $14 dollars more per product except on discount days which bring most items to the state average price-wise. Call first to see what daily discounts are available.

Saturdays are often the days with the greatest number of discounts. Patients are provided with a stapled shut white-wax bag for purchases. There may be a delay between the online availability menu and product available in-store, however, you can secure anything in stock by calling ahead.

Ilera Dispensary, Plymouth Meeting

This is the most difficult dispensary to find, as it’s mostly invisible from the approaching highways. The location is at the junction of several different roads: 276, 476, and 422 all converge near the mid-county interchange.

This isn’t a location you can walk to unless you happen to be staying in the hotel whose shadow in which it stands. A location that looks from the outside like a luxury ski-shop.

You approach the counter after passing the security desk from the Batcave, the budtender is omniscient. Somehow, after discounts, you’re pleasantly surprised to find you got slighly more for your money than you anticipated.

You mistakenly believe you may have entered into the lobby of a 5-star hotel. The chairs looked comfortable, however, there was only one other patient who visited in my entire hour-long visit.

I enjoyed that hour immensely. the Ilera employees are well educated and passionate about cannabis saving our communities not just from typical chronic illness, but addiction, as well. The chairs in the retail area looked comfortable, I didn’t get a chance (or need) to try them out.

The online menu often doesn’t reflect as much selection as is available in person.

Rise, Steelton

Unlike me who walked confused around three-quarters of the mostly vacant building, you’ll know that Rise faces directly away from the road on which it lives. Follow the sound of music after you park your car in a safe, yet desolate industrial area. Facing the church, you see the tiny awning and familiar buzz pad seen at other dispensaries. Hold your ID up and smile for the camera!

Once inside, you’re identified as a new person immediately on first sight and welcomed profusely…. And you know that if you see them again in six months, they’ll likely still remember who you are.

Every patient knows every other patient on a first name basis. regardless of age or economic background. Utopia is created in mod chairs between you and the community you have just found yourself suddenly welcomed into in the fifteen minutes it takes to add your ID into the system and fill out your paperwork. This dispensary is by far the most “local social nexus” of any I visited, and I desperately wish we had that here in Berks county.

Everyone from greeter to the pharmacist to the budtender all seem to have equal awareness of products and seem to know every single patient on a first name basis.

Just make your purchase in room #2 after your ID is processed. The budtender ultimately helps you pick the products at time of purchase. The aesthetic reminds you of a community recreation center or the the waiting room of a dentist’s office, but with a contrastingly gorgeous retail area.

Your purchases are given to you in a zip-close black plastic photo-opaque bag. Very chic if you suddenly need a black makeup bag.

Important Things to Know Before Your Dispensary Visit

Pennsylvania Dispensaries are Cash-Only at this Time.

Each dispensary usually has at least one ATM, but you’re better off going to your bank or Wawa and taking your cash out prior to your visit.

Expect to Spend About $150

Ideally, $150 should cover products for a variety of needs during a first-time visit.

At this time of shortage, the minimum safe amount with which you should be able to complete a purchase is $45. The most affordable product at the time of this writing are disposable pens running from $19 to $45.

Flower is currently $20 per gram on average, and threaded cartridges average $50 to $75. Muscle creams will set you back $30 to $60, concentrates run from $35 to $90, and all other products range from $40 to $110.

Bring Your Driver’s License / State ID

When you arrive, you’ll need to have your Pennsylvania Driver’s license/state ID on hand in addition to your Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana ID card.

Don’t Forget Your Paperwork

Bring a list of your prescription medications and most recent medical history.

In the waiting room, you’ll be asked to fill out a packet of papers of your contact information, medical history, current medications, and prior familiarity with medical cannabis (some dispensaries allow you to fill these forms out in advance).

After you turn in your paperwork, you’ll meet with the pharmacist who will review your medical history, symptoms, and comfort with cannabis products.

Then, you’ll be told about each type of product recommended to manage your symptoms/conditions.

Hold Up Your ID and Smile!

At the door, you’ll either need to hold your PA Medical Marijuana card to a small camera to be buzzed in or a security guard will check your documentation at the door and open it for you.

Next, you’ll be directed to the reception area. You must present both forms of identification a second time to the greeter.

Ask About Discounts

Make sure to ask if you qualify for any discount programs at this time. Bringing in your Social Security award letter, last tax return, or other proof of documented financial hardship are often taken into consideration at many locations.

Additionally, many dispensaries offer discounts to veterans, so bring your military ID.

Fight the Foodie Urge

The location of fast food, a great buffet, or a Wawa within walking distance of many dispensaries are meant to test your willpower. Resist.

Except perhaps for that Chinese buffet next to Cure, Lancaster… That makes the drive to Lancaster actually more worthwhile than average.

Pennsylvania Rules for Medical Cannabis Patients

This may not be a complete list and it will be amended as laws change. If you are personally aware of any law or rule this list neglected please write contact us and it will be amended.

  • You cannot view the product out of the box prior to purchase
  • You must keep the product in the opaque bag provided by the dispensary when transporting between the dispensary and your home. Most suggest placing the purchase in your trunk or other enclosed location in your vehicle.
  • Smoking cannabis in Pennsylvania is still technically off-limits. Flower products may only be consumed or vaporized
  • Edibles are not yet available at dispensaries, however, making your own edibles is encouraged. RSO is most often the suggested product for this purpose (a drop the size of a sesame seed on a cracker is the average suggested first-time dose).
  • It’s not legal to drive while intoxicated with any substance (this includes cannabis).
  • All cannabis dispensary products must remain with the original packaging. Tubes that contain cartridges and pens should bear the label printed at the time of purchase (I often have to remove the label from the box and transfer it to the plastic tubes myself. Some dispensaries are more conscientious of this detail than others).
  • Growing your own cannabis is still a felony at this time in Pennsylvania.
  • Obtaining products outside of the Pennsylvania medical marijuana from within Pennsylvania is also illegal.
  • Other states with a state-legal recreational market may have similar policies. A phone call can answer most questions.
  • Use common sense. No shipping Pennsylvania product out of state, no sharing with non-carded patients, out of state people or resale of any kind.

In Conclusion

Hopefully this guide will be of use to other Pennsylvanians seeking relief through medical Cannabis. As the program improves and legalization on a federal level becomes closer, laws, products, prices, and procedures can and will change rapidly in the coming months and years.

Head on over to The Greenbud Gazette for the latest information on medical marijuana in Pennsylvania!

Interested in having content featured in an upcoming blog post or issue of The Burgundy Zine? Head on over to the submissions page!

For all other inquiries, please fulfill a contact form.

Guest Content

Guest Content is the user to denote any and all articles submitted to us by fellow writers. More content submitted to us by guest contributors can be found under our "Guest Content" section. If you are interested in submitting content to The Burgundy Zine, please refer to our submissions page.

View more posts from this author