The No. 1 place nobody wants to be a dork, a jerk or uncool: a marijuana dispensary.
And if you have never stepped foot in one, there is quite a bit that could go wrong. Maybe your phone rings and you actually take the call. Or you forgot your driver's license, so you’re begging the security guard to accept your Ralphs card. You could interrupt the budtender or take a selfie or — horrors — reach out and actually touch something.
Going to a dispensary is a lot like going to an upscale jewelry store. And just as you wouldn’t step outside of Cartier with a piece of jewelry to see how the diamonds sparkle in the sunlight, there are some basic do’s and don’ts about going to a dispensary.
Not to worry. L.A. Weekly’s got your back. With a little help from City Compassionate Caregivers, in business since 1996 on East Seventh Street in Los Angeles, we have put together the first L.A. Weekly guide to good dispensary manners. You could call it potiquette.
First, put the damn phone away. Leave it in the car. Turn it off for 15 minutes for once. Dispensaries are a No Phone Call Zone. And selfies — don’t even think about it. Remember, dispensaries are primarily a cash business. So they’re big on safety. Take photos and they’ll think you’re casing the joint. Take a phone call and you hold up everyone else waiting for the budtender’s attention.
Don’t bring an attitude, either. Most dispensaries cultivate a Zen-like atmosphere. So be nice.
No government-issued ID, no entry. You have to be 21 to get past the security guard who sits behind bulletproof glass as he buzzes in each approved customer. You can be 18 as long as you have a doctor’s recommendation. And don’t even try to wheedle your way in because you forgot your ID. Just go home and find your wallet. It’s probably where you left it.
You'll need cash, anyway. The dispensary business is still cash-only. Although there is an ATM conveniently located near the cashier.
On the left as you enter City Compassionate Caregivers are the CBD oils and concentrates, then e-liquids of varying flavors and strengths to vape, including a strong one called Tree Base Klear. City Compassionate offers 30 strains grown on-site in grow rooms monitored by both people and computers. There’s even a lab for making vape cartridges.
More than 150 different feature flowers take up half the cabinet space. At this point, the flowers on display are tight little cannabis buds because they’ve graduated to being dried, cured and processed over a nine-day period. Edibles such as brownies, cookies and candies sit alone in a southside cabinet.
Confused? Don’t worry. The budtenders are kind, helpful and know every product and each one’s effects. City Compassionate caregivers like Jess, Andy, Mo and Boogie (they asked that only their first names be used) have spent years in the medical marijuana business. Now that it’s recreational, the business is expected to explode. Jess said cannabis tourism — or cannatourism — already is a dominant factor in the dispensary business.
Jess loves getting up in the morning and going to work, but she said it wasn’t that way when she used to drag herself to a Carl’s Jr. every morning for her burger shift. “It’s all about customer service,” she said. “If someone’s in a bad mood, I make sure I spend extra time to make them feel better. When people walk out with their bud, they’re happy.”
The Cure Company grows the flower power upstairs in rooms the size of houses. The Cure uses sophisticated computer-driven equipment to feed and water thousands of plants in artificially lit rooms. Each strain has a name, including Sweetie O.G., Grand Poobah, Yoda O.G., L.A.’s Finest, Dizzy O.G., Black Mamba, Venom O.G. and the top two buds, Grower’s Reserve and Crown O.G. Prices vary from place to place, sometimes week to week, but one-eighth ounce of bud can run $30 to $60 or higher.
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Mo runs the grow at City Compassionate. Floors are sanitized every day. Workers disinfect their shoes before entering grow rooms. The trimmers who process flower wear uniforms, gloves and hair nets “because you don’t want to smoke someone’s hair.”
“Cleanliness is the key,” Mo said as he surveyed hundreds of 3- to 6-foot-tall plants in one room. “You have to have control. It’s like growing food.”
Mo is as protective of his plants as if they were his children. Indeed, they are, because as he admits, “I just take care of the babies.”
Boogie, the manager, works most nights as deejay. But in the morning, she returns to her first love. “I like being on the cusp of revolutionary change. I like being a pioneer,” Boogie said. “I’ve seen the highs and lows. It’s an exciting time to be in the industry.”