Dear Pot Lawyer,

What do I need to know before I visit my first dispensary?

From the legal side, remember that you must be over 21. The dispensary is legally obligated to check your ID, but thanks to recent legislation, is no longer allowed to store your personal information. For everything else, I reached out to a master budtender. Emma Chasen was named Portland’s Best Budtender of 2016 and is now the Director of Education at the Sativa Science Club, where she focuses on budtender and consumer education. I asked Emma to share some of her expertise.

MERCURY: What are some of the most common mistakes new consumers make?

CHASEN: Going to a dispensary for the first time can be very intimidating, and therefore many consumers don’t even know where to start. Some will rely on terms they have heard, like indica and sativa, for example, to help them describe the effect they are looking for. Consumers should instead focus on describing the experience they are looking for with words like “relaxing,” “energizing,” or “mood elevating.” If the budtender knows their stuff, this will help ensure that the consumer gets the product that will deliver the experience that they are looking for. I also advocate for microdosing: Take half a hit of a joint, wait 10 minutes, see how it makes you feel before consuming more. Most negative experiences with cannabis can be attributed to overdosing.

How can you tell if a budtender knows their stuff?

Ask your budtender basic questions about the product. “Who grew this strain?” “How did they grow it?” “Do you have terpene information for these strains?” “Is this flower grown organically?” If the budtender can’t answer these questions, they definitely don’t know their stuff. 

Why shouldn’t consumers just seek out the most potent strain?

THC content is only one small piece of the puzzle when determining the psychoactive intensity of a cultivar. Terpenes—myrcene especially—interact with cannabinoids in ways that can amplify psychoactivity. For the THC chasers out there, I suggest trying a cultivar with a lower THC percentage coupled with high terpene concentration. You may be surprised by how psychoactive it can be.

You’ve dedicated your life’s work to consumer education. Why is this so important to you?

Consumers drive the market! If consumers are ill informed, then they might support companies that are not in line with their ethos or have negative experiences that could have otherwise been avoided. I provide education to the community and offer budtender training to help ensure that Oregon has the most informed cannabis market out there. 

There you have it from one of the best: The key to a positive experience is to skip the buzzwords and work with a skilled budtender to find the perfect product for you. But most importantly, take it slow.

Got a question? Email us at And remember that if you have a legal problem, contact a lawyer! Our educational musings cannot be relied upon as specific legal advice.