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A Tourist’s Guide to Recreational Marijuana Dispensaries

Jul 17, 2014 3:25 PM EDT

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — In case you’ve been living under a rock, you’re likely aware recreational marijuana is now legalized and sales have started in two states: Colorado and Washington. For those with a medical card living in a state with medicinal marijuana (MMJ), this means nothing. People who don’t wish to lose their health insurance by signing up for MMJ should immediately plan a road trip.

I’ve bought and consumed a lot of weed in my day. I watched the strains get stronger and more varied as the prices fluctuated based on availability. Dirt weed (known as schwag) is all but extinct these days, as high-potency buds are being produced at an accelerated rate, using aeroponic systems and carefully monitored tending and harvest schedules.

The legal marijuana industry doesn’t just mean you can purchase marijuana buds like your parents used to; it means a wide variety of THC- and CBD-infused products have hit the market. Your options for getting high now include flower, kief, hash oils, wax/budder, shatter, and edibles. Walking into a dispensary can be confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking at. Here’s what you need to buy and smoke recreational pot.

1. Flower – The marijuana you’re used to seeing in the media, flower, is raw buds of marijuana harvested directly from the plant. They range in size and color, often including red or orange hairs. If you’re new to marijuana, this is where you want to start.

Prices range from $8 to $30 a gram, and, if you’re not a Colorado or Washington native, you’ll be capped at a quarter ounce purchase per visit (and yes you can make multiple visits per day).

In order to smoke cannabis flower, you need a grinder, along with a pipe, bong, rolling paper or blunt wrap (cigar shell). Papers are the cheapest method, and blunts are the most popular. If you don’t know how to roll, dispensaries sell both pre-rolls and cones.

2. Kief – A fine powder, kief is the THC crystals found on marijuana buds. Grinders normally include a kief catcher, which is a fine screen that allows powder to fall through and be collected at the bottom. Many dispensaries also sell kief by the gram (with prices ranging from $30 to $80, depending on whether you’re a local and a recreational or MMJ user).

Smoking kief can be accomplished in multiple ways. The preferred method is with the usage of a health stone, which is a porous ceramic stone that fits into your pipe or bong’s bowl, allowing you to smoke the powder straight without any falling through. Others prefer to sprinkle kief on top of flower to enhance the buzz.

3. Hash Oil –Vaping is a quickly growing industry. Smokers looking to quit smoking are buying vaporizers, o-pens, and e-cigs in order to inhale carcinogen-free vapor instead. Marijuana dispensaries are taking advantage of this trend by selling THC/CBD oils, which can not only be vaped in these e-cigs, but are much easier to bring home as souvenirs for friends. Oil is considered the purest and cleanest form of consuming marijuana concentrates, and costs anywhere from 50 cents to $3 per mg.

In order to vape hash oil, you need a vaporizer (which ranges in price from $10-$1500). If you have a bong already, you can purchase a glass dome for around $50 to $80 to vape oil from it.

Another popular way to use oils is to roll a joint or blunt and dip it in the oil to increase potency. If you choose this method, only dip in about a quarter of the joint or blunt, and stand up to dry with the dipped tip on top.

4. Wax/Budder – If you’re from the Middle East or watched the last few seasons of Showtime’s “Weeds,” you’ve heard of hash. In U.S. dispensaries, this is normally referred to as either wax or budder. Hash is essentially the oil extract mentioned above whipped in the same method cream is to create butter. Hash costs from $25 to $60 per gram in dispensaries.

Consuming wax/budder can be accomplished the same way as oil. When purchasing a vaporizer, ask if it’s just for oil, or if it’s 2-in-1 (normally oil/wax) or 3-in-1 (oil/wax/flower). It can also be smoked in a crack pipe (if you don’t already know, you don’t want to) or placed on top of a loaded pipe or bowl to increase the potency of the flower you’re smoking. If you put it on top of flower in a pipe, light the bottom of the pipe first to melt it into the flower.

5. Edibles – Edibles are a hot topic in the marijuana industry. The edible industry has boomed since Colorado’s legalization. Along with the growth has come a wave of criticism, with children being hospitalized for eating their parents’ stash, and everyone from city and state governments to candy giant Hershey’s pursuing legal actions against edibles manufacturers.

Edible pricing ranges from $10 to $60, largely depending on the dosage. Pay attention to the dosing instructions on the label. Some snacks and drinks contain only 10 to 15mg of THC, which means one is enough for novices, while potheads will need a couple to feel anything. Other edibles that look exactly the same can contain up to 500mg of THC. Down a full bottle or brownie at this level, and you’ll soon find yourself on your back making snow, grass, concrete or carpet angels.

Searching for the right dispensary is a matter of trial and error. Services like WeedMaps, Leafly and the Cannabis Commodity Xchange can make it easier to research. As a general rule, major metropolis areas have more competition and, thus, cheaper prices.

Know that every dispensary gives discounts to locals and MMJ users. Out-of-state recreational users can expect to pay $20 to $30 per gram local MMJ users get for $5 to $10.

If you have a friend who lives in Colorado or Washington, have him accompany you to the dispensary. If you know someone who has a medical card, ask him to help you make a purchase through his caregiver (legal marijuana grower). Otherwise, you can usually find someone outside the dispensary willing to make your purchase for you.

Regardless of how you choose to consume marijuana, I highly recommend visiting Colorado and Washington. Once marijuana is fully decriminalized, big tobacco and big alcohol will step in and either buyout or squash the little guys. Supporting American small business is as easy as a trip to the Rockies or Puget Sound and a visit to a legal recreational marijuana dispensary.

—Written by Brian Penny for MainStreet

If you’re looking to spend some green on the green stuff in markets with legalized recreational marijuana, don’t go without this guide.