If you suffer from chronic pain, a debilitating disease, or another condition, you may be eligible for medical marijuana to treat your condition or lessen its symptoms. Medical cannabis is a safe and effective alternative to a variety of conditions your doctor can help you identify. Your healthcare provider should work with you to identify all treatment possibilities, including medical pot you can find at a marijuana dispensary. If you live in one of the 29 states plus the District of Columbia, you are eligible to receive medical marijuana to help you cope with your condition.

But how do you find the best medical marijuana dispensary near you to help you combat and relieve your symptoms? Not all dispensaries offer a wide variety of strains and offer the service and supportive environment you need at such a crucial time in life. This guide will help you understand what to look for and the questions to ask to determine which dispensary is best situated to help you with your specific needs.

Let’s look at a step-by-step process to help you analyze the options available near you to choose the right dispensary to provide you with medical marijuana.

Find dispensaries near you

The first requirement is to find dispensaries near you. When you’re suffering from a debilitating condition or disease, the last thing you need is to travel hours round trip to get the medicine you need. Your best option is a dispensary that’s near your home. Assuming you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, you should have options close to home to help you get the medical treatments you deserve.

However, if you live in a district that doesn’t encourage the growth of medical marijuana dispensaries, you may have to travel to find a dispensary. If this is the case, perform online due diligence to narrow your choices down. There’s no sense in driving around your state to evaluate dispensaries when you can use available online information to eliminate those that don’t meet your standards.

Another option if you can’t find dispensaries close to your home is to search for dispensaries offering delivery services.

The best way to find medical cannabis dispensaries near you is to do a Google search. In Google’s search bar, type in “Medical marijuana dispensary near me.” If you live in one of the 29 states with legalized medical weed, you should get a variety of results. They might not be right next door, but they’ll be close enough you can check them out.

A few websites help you find legal medical pot in your state. Use the following websites in your search:

  • Leafly is an industry leader with an easy-to-use app that searches for dispensaries near your current location.
  • Weed Maps is another industry leader similar to Leafly that offers you a list of close-to-home dispensaries that can help you.
  • Marijuana Doctors offers an intuitive interface to help you find legal dispensaries on a state-by-state basis. Simply click on a state on their map to find a list of dispensaries.

Once you’ve found dispensaries within your geographic location, it’s time to find those that offer everything you need. Start your search on their websites and plan to visit those you feel meet the following qualifications.

What you need in a dispensary

As noted earlier, no all dispensaries are equal, and it’s up to you to determine which ones offer what you need in a supplier of medicine. First, let’s look at the basics that a dispensary must meet for you to consider working with them.

Legal protocol

One of the worst-case scenarios is selecting a medical weed dispensary that doesn’t follow your state’s laws and regulations and gets shut down. You’re left scrambling to find your much-needed medicine elsewhere, not a good position to be in when your health and comfort depend on it. States are working hard to regulate dispensaries for your safety, and they’ll close any dispensary they find with illegal operations. Make sure the dispensary you choose is up to date and compliant with all rules, regulations, and laws.

It behooves you to know what the legal protocol is in your state. This gives you the foundation you need to fairly evaluate the dispensaries on your list. For example, one huge red flag is if you walk into a medical marijuana dispensary and they do not ask for a state-approved ID and your medical marijuana card. A dispensary that lets anyone walk in without proper identification is not following your state’s legal protocol. You should take your business elsewhere.

Privacy policies

As a medical patient, you have rights your medical marijuana dispensary must adhere to. They should have privacy policies in place to ensure your patient rights are protected. For example, find out how they keep your personal and health information secure at their facility. They should have privacy policies and patient rights information on their websites. If not, you can ask to see copies of their policies when you visit. Again, a huge red flag is a dispensary that doesn’t have these policies in place.

Any medical cannabis dispensary is operating as a healthcare provider and, as such, is regulated under HIPAA privacy standards. You want to make sure they never share your personal and medical information with anyone without your consent. Look for the same level of privacy and patients right you would expect from your local hospital.

On-site experts

You should expect, at the very least, the following on-site experts when you visit a medical weed dispensary:

  • Doctor. The doctor on-site should be either a licensed physician (MD), a naturopathic doctor (ND), or a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Some dispensaries have a nurse practitioner in place of a doctor, which in most cases, is fine. Your state authorizes each of these medical professionals to dispense medical cannabis cards. You should have the chance to talk to a pot doctor like you would your family practitioner.
  • Budtender. This expert has an in-depth understanding of everything marijuana. They should have the necessary knowledge to tell you specifics about each strain. Look for someone who knows the potency of each, what edibles and other products are available, how to use the flower and oils, and anything else you want to know about your medicine. If your dispensary’s budtender shows little knowledge about a product, you’ll want to find another dispensary with a knowledgeable expert at the helm.
  • Other staff. The other staff working in a dispensary should be friendly and supportive. If you don’t feel safe and supported by anyone on a dispensary’s staff, they won’t advocate for their patients. You’re better off finding a dispensary where everyone involved advocates for patients and works to raise awareness of the benefits of medical pot. Look for passionate people committed to your health and medical needs.

Visit local dispensaries

Hopefully by this point, you’ve identified a list of medical marijuana dispensaries close to you. You now know what to look for, so it’s time to visit each one to evaluate how well they can meet your needs. In addition to the basic needs discussed above, check to make sure a dispensary offers the following.

Professionalism

The last thing you’re looking for in a medical cannabis dispensary is an unprofessional atmosphere. They should all understand this is a professional business and should behave appropriately. If a group of employees is sitting around smoking pot when you get there, they obviously don’t value professionalism. Time to take your business elsewhere. You’re looking for a dispensary that feels like a pharmacy.

Staff should be able to answer all your questions and should be willing to provide answers. Beware a dispensary that dodges questions. It might mean they don’t have the knowledge you need or their medicine may be potentially unsafe.

Part of professionalism is having regular, consistent hours of operation. Any advertising should be professional like you would expect from a hospital or pharmacy. Finally, if you visit a dispensary that is heavily fortified with security measures, this should be a red flag they’re either in an unsafe part of town or they deal with unprofessional vendors.

High quality products

Any dispensary you choose should carry a variety of indices, sativa, and hybrid blends of medical cannabis. You may not know what you need yet, so choose a dispensary with on-site experts and a variety of marijuana strains.

Marijuana medicine comes in an array of products: the bud itself, an edible product, a tincture taken orally, or a topical solution to massage into your skin. Look for a dispensary with a variety of products to support how you want to consume your medical marijuana. For example, you may think of brownies when you hear edibles, but some dispensaries have on-site, commercial kitchens that create amazing recipes for desserts, snacks, and more infused with marijuana.

Regardless of your medical pot’s form, you want it made from high quality strains of marijuana. Find out where a dispensary gets its products from. Is it grown on site by expert growers, and if so, what are the conditions under which it’s grown? The way your marijuana is handled prior to cultivation impacts its quality.

Ask how the dispensary assures their products are high quality. Do they follow food safety standards and regulations when creating their edibles? You want their environment to be as clean as a professional kitchen or restaurant.

Do they ensure their products are free of mold, pesticides, and other potential contaminants? Do they track how old their products are and pull those that are too old to be effective?

Check online reviews

Just like any other product you consider buying, check out what others are saying about it online. Check out Google and Yelp reviews online. Make sure you cruise their Facebook page, website, and any other online sources you can find where someone might leave a comment.

Consider how everyone has a bad day now and then. But if a dispensary has a majority of negative reviews, cross them off your list. Find the dispensary with great reviews from happy and satisfied customers. Those are the ones you want to trust with your health and welfare.

Final thoughts

You should feel welcomed, comfortable, supported, and safe. If you leave a dispensary feeling rushed, ignored, confused, or judged, it’s time to find a more friendly, professional dispensary. Remember, you’re shopping for medication for a disease, disorder, or medical condition. If you encounter a situation or behavior you wouldn’t accept for a hospital, pharmacy, or healthcare provider, don’t accept it in a cannabis dispensary. Move on to the next one on your list until you find the one you feel most comfortable with.

Christopher Wright

Meet Christopher Wright, aka Blue, successful radio host and creator of Cannabis Talk 101. As well as CEO of Cannabis Talk Network. For over a decade now, Chris has had his hands in all faucets of the Cannabis Industry. From medicinal marijuana dispensaries and cultivations to controversial cannabis activism, Chris is a pioneer for the cannabis movement.