The journey into a local weed dispensary can be just as complex and aromatic as a fine wine-tasting at a vineyard. The rich variety of strains and products in the cannabis market today is a far cry from the black-market alternative of yesteryears. With the legalization momentum sweeping across states and countries, cannabis consumers are now presented with a vast menu of options that can sometimes be overwhelming.

This detailed guide will walk you through the diverse world of cannabis strains and products available at your local dispensary, aiming to provide newcomers and seasoned users alike with the knowledge to make informed choices that suit their individual preferences and needs.

Understanding Cannabis: Indica, Sativa, and Hybrids

The foundation of the modern cannabis market is built upon the pillars of three primary categories of strains: Indica, Sativa, and hybrids. These categories are said to offer distinct effects, though in reality, the cannabinoid profile and terpene content are more indicative of the effects than these broader classifications.


Indica strains are typically associated with relaxing effects, making them suitable for nighttime or when the user wants to unwind. They often have a higher concentration of CBD relative to THC, which can contribute to the more sedative feelings they are known for.

Common Indica strain effects include:

  • Body high
  • Calming
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Increased appetite (the munchies)


Sativa strains are often described as uplifting and cerebral. They tend to have a higher THC to CBD ratio, which can lead to a more energizing and creative high.

Common Sativa strain effects include:

  • Increased focus
  • Energy boost
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Heightened senses


Hybrid strains are crossbreeds of Indica and Sativa plants. They can offer a blend of effects from both lineages and are tailored to specific consumer needs.

When shopping for hybrids, consider:

  • Dominant lineage (Indica-dominant or Sativa-dominant)
  • Desired effects (more relaxing or energizing)
  • Specific terpene and cannabinoid profiles

Navigating the Dispensary Menu

With the basic understanding of cannabis strains in mind, the next step is to navigate the dispensary’s menu. Here’s how to decode the listings:


Known as buds, the flower is the most recognizable form of cannabis. It’s available in various sizes and typically graded based on quality and potency.

When browsing the flower section, look for:

  • Strain name
  • THC and CBD content
  • Terpene profile
  • Grower or brand


Concentrates are products that contain significantly higher levels of THC and other cannabinoids than the standard flower. They come in many forms, including oils, waxes, and shatters.

Popular concentrates include:

  • CO2 oil
  • Wax
  • Shatter
  • Live resin
  • Rosin

When selecting a concentrate, consider:

  • Extraction method
  • Purity
  • Potency


Edibles are a discreet and long-lasting way to consume cannabis. They can include anything from gummies to baked goods, and even infused drinks.

Keep in mind when choosing edibles:

  • Serving size and dosing
  • THC to CBD ratio
  • Ingredients and quality
  • Onset and duration of effects


Cannabis-infused topicals come in the form of lotions, balms, and salves. They do not produce a high but are popular for localized relief of pain and inflammation.

Look for these factors when purchasing topicals:

  • Cannabinoid concentration
  • Additional ingredients for targeted effects
  • Consistency and application method

Tinctures and Sublinguals

Tinctures and sublinguals are liquid cannabis extracts designed for oral consumption. They are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream through the tissues under the tongue.

Consider these factors when shopping for tinctures:

  • THC or CBD content
  • Carrier oil
  • Desired purpose (sleep, pain relief, etc.)

Making Informed Choices

Selecting the right cannabis product is a personal decision that involves a variety of factors. Here are some tips for making informed choices:

Knowing Your Tolerance and Experience Level

For beginners, low-THC products or those with a balanced THC/CBD profile are a safer bet. Seasoned users can tailor their selections to their tolerance and desired effects more confidently.

Considering Your Reasons for Use

Is this for medical or recreational purposes? Are you looking for stress relief or to ease chronic pain? Understanding your reasons for using cannabis can help you select a product with the appropriate cannabinoid profile and terpene content.

Seeking Lab-Tested Products

Reputable dispensaries carry products that have been tested for potency, pesticides, and contaminants. Choosing lab-tested products ensures that you know what you’re consuming.

Consulting with Budtenders

Budtenders, the sommeliers of the cannabis world, are there to guide you through your options. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek their expertise.

Experimenting with Small Quantities

Especially for first-time users, starting with small doses and products that allow for easy titration can help avoid overconsumption.

Optimizing Your Experience

Now that you’ve selected your cannabis product, it’s time to think about how you’ll consume it. Each consumption method offers a different experience, with some being more fast-acting or potent than others.

Inhalation (Smoking and Vaporizing)

Inhalation provides a quick onset of effects and allows users to titrate their dose more easily. However, it may not be suitable for those with respiratory issues.

Oral Consumption (Edibles, Tinctures, and Topicals)

Orally consumed cannabis products can take longer to take effect but provide a longer-lasting high. They’re a good option for those who want a more discreet consumption method.


Sublingual products are absorbed quickly, offering a middle ground between inhalation and oral consumption in terms of onset and duration of effects.

Best Practices and Safety Considerations

As with any substance, using cannabis comes with certain responsibilities. Here are some best practices and safety considerations to keep in mind:

Start Low and Go Slow

Especially with edibles and concentrates, it’s crucial to start with a low dose and wait for the effects to kick in before consuming more.

Never Drive or Operate Machinery Under the Influence

Cannabis can impair your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery. It’s important to wait until you are no longer under the influence before getting behind the wheel.

Store Cannabis Safely and Out of Reach of Children and Pets

Cannabis should be stored in a secure place, out of the reach of young children and pets. Child-resistant packaging is recommended for products with high THC content.

Know the Laws and Regulations in Your Area

Be aware of the legalities surrounding cannabis consumption, possession, and purchasing in your area.

Be Mindful of Cannabis Interactions

Cannabis can interact with certain medications and substances. If you’re taking prescription drugs or have any health concerns, consult with a healthcare professional before using cannabis.


Walking into a weed dispensary no longer means just searching for a good high. It’s about understanding the variety of cannabis strains and products available and selecting the one that fits your lifestyle, preferences, and needs. With this guide, you’re not just a customer; you’re an informed consumer navigating the nuanced world of legal cannabis.

Engage with your local dispensary staff, read labels and third-party testing, and most of all, approach cannabis with respect and moderation. Remember, the aim isn’t just for a pleasurable or medicinal experience; it’s to find a cannabis product that complements your life and well-being in the best possible way.