When examining your local cannabis market, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. Why do some places cost twice as much as others? What pesticides does this company use? Am I safe walking to my car with my purchase? These questions and more should all be factors in making the decision of which cannabis dispensary to trust with your health and well-being.

The first thing you need to consider is if your purchases are going to be medical or recreational. If you are of legal age and wish to purchase recreational cannabis, you will need to find a dispensary that will sell to adults without a doctor’s recommendation. That limits your search to only a handful of US states and parts of Europe.

Canada is on its way to full legalization, but it’s still some time away from being finalized. If you wish to purchase medical marijuana and have a doctors’ recommendation, you have many more options. There are medical dispensaries in over half the US states, throughout Canada, and may areas of Europe.

Dispensaries come in all shapes and sizes. There are some that are so clean you almost feel uncomfortable walking in with your dirty shoes. Then there are those that feel like your uncle’s garage with incense burning and Phish piping in over the speaker system.

Whatever you are into, there is a dispensary whose atmosphere will make you feel right at home. Atmosphere is important because, as a customer, nothing will make you walk out that door faster than an uncomfortable or awkward setting.

Staff is another very important factor in whether customers return to a dispensary. Every customer who walks through that front door to buy cannabis has a different level of knowledge and expertise. The dispensary staff needs to know how to overcome the language barrier when it comes to assisting people who may or may not know how to articulate what they are looking for. T

he person selling you your cannabis needs to go above and beyond to make sure you get exactly what you are looking for, even if you don’t know yourself. Pharmacists spent years learning how to assist patients; your budtender smoked a joint on her break.

Yes, there’s a huge education gap that the cannabis industry needs to overcome, but in the meantime, it’s up to you to find a dispensary whose staff is knowledgeable and trustworthy.

Of course, since you plan on spending your hard-earned money on cannabis, you want to make sure it’s good. After all, quality is of the utmost importance (duh).

Cannabis quality is determined in the growroom by everything from nutrients to air quality to pest control, but odds are that the budtender behind the counter doesn’t know about anything the growroom conditions. If they did, they probably wouldn’t tell you anyway.

Also, quality can be hard to determine with a single purchase. One batch may be great or it may not, but just one visit to a dispensary isn’t enough to know for sure. Also, reviews are your friends. Research any press the company has had or any awards they may have won. Take the time to find out exactly who is growing your medicine.

Next, you want variety. One of the best things about cannabis is that there is an abundance of different colors, shapes, tastes, and aromas. There are strains that make you feel up and there are strains that make you feel chill. There is a strain for just about every mood you want to find yourself in.

Dispensaries should always have a wide variety of strains, not just for every mood but also to fit every ailment. Medical cannabis dispensaries depend on a large selection of specific, ailment-related strains. If the shop you were considering only has a handful of strains, you might want to extend your search.

Location, location, location. Regardless of how many times you tell yourself you are just going to hit the dispensary across town because they have the best Purple Urkle, forget it. Whether the dispensary is across from your apartment or next to your place of work, convenience always finds its way into the equation.

Now, that should never be your only criteria. Sure, it’s great when you run out ten minutes before closing and the only dispensary you can get to is two blocks away, but close doesn’t equal quality or knowledgeable or any of the other factors when it comes to picking a main provider. You should end up frequenting the dispensary that meets all the other criteria and is as convenient as possible.

Finally, cost is one of the most important things that will influence your decision when picking the correct cannabis provider for you. Prices vary wildly, sometimes for good reason and sometimes not.

Overall, however, competition has driven the cost of cannabis down in most markets. Still, while paying a low price is a good thing, sometimes too low of a price can be an indicator of things you want to avoid.

Always inspect your cannabis before you buy it. Make sure the quality isn’t low even if the cost is. On the other hand, if the dispensary is charging nearly twice as much as the shop next door, go find out why.

High prices are warranted on boutique-quality strains and competition winners, but they are not warranted just because the shop owner can’t pay his bills. Find a balance between quality and price that you can live with.

Finding a new dispensary shouldn’t be a chore. It should be fun. Take your time and sample what the local cannabis community has to offer before making any commitments. Know what you like and know who you are dealing with. Keep these things in mind and it will make your final choice in cannabis providers a rewarding one.