What a first-time customer of legal cannabis should know

So you’ve never bought marijuana before in your life, but there’s a first time for everything. You might be wondering what “those places” look like inside. What do I ask for? What do I need to bring?

These questions are entirely understandable. If you are a nonmillennial, you probably have a vivid recollection of at least a couple of the following:

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1. Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign from the 1980s. Nancy was scary, even if she was friends with Michael Jackson.

2. The “three strikes” law. Yep, possession of marijuana used to be enough to earn you a strike.

3. Stoner flicks like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” or any film by Cheech and Chong. You may have developed a fear that you might like marijuana too much and end up a real-life Jeff Spicoli.

Maybe you have even been too intimidated to ask your doctor about medicinal marijuana for fear of judgment. It’s been ingrained in the over 40 crowd that marijuana use is something deviant, and using it means you’re being bad. Now that the tide of public opinion is turning, it’s OK to admit that you’re a little curious about it. After all, you may have read about its efficacy at alleviating the symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, aches and pains, depression, arthritis, PTSD and much more. One peek in the waiting room of Torrey Holistics, the permitted medical cannabis dispensary I work with, and it’s evident that it’s not filled with millennials but a mix of folks just looking to improve their quality of life.

Now that it’s OK to admit that you are thinking about it, what do you do next? After Jan. 1, you will no longer need a medical recommendation from a physician, but you will need to bring a valid California or federal ID. You will also need to bring cash, as dispensaries still do not have access to the federal banking system. Upon arrival, you will check in with a receptionist and wait for your turn to enter the dispensary, not unlike checking in for a medical appointment. This is to ensure that the staff-to-customer ratio is low for one-on-one service from a cannabis consultant.

Some of you might be imagining that a store that sells marijuana must be dark, smoky, maybe a lava lamp in a corner or a Jimi Hendrix poster on the wall lit by a black light. Let me set the record straight: I can’t speak for all businesses, but modern licensed, legal dispensaries are not scary. Our store is clean and well-lit, and there are tidy shelves and display cases with products labeled and visible. The staff is friendly, professional and informative. To get started, they will ask you a few questions to ascertain what your goals are and what types of products you might be comfortable with. They can make recommendations from there. Then the decision is up to you. Whatever products you choose, start slowly with a small amount and figure out which products and what dosage work best for you.

I’ve heard the concern that Proposition 64 is going to turn our city into the wild, wild west. It is not going to be a smoke-filled free-for-all come January! There are laws in place to prevent this. For example, you must be 21 to purchase cannabis products, you cannot use cannabis in public, you can only purchase a small amount at a time and it is still unlawful to drive under the influence of any drug.

In short, whether you become a regular customer or not, we are thrilled that you can choose for yourself. You have options that you may not have considered before.

As seen in the San Diego Tribune