Part Three: Your First Dispensary Visit

The last step of the journey is choosing your dispensary

(Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2: A master article will be compiled as soon as I am able combining all three into a master resource)

After you receive your Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana card in the mail, the next step is to make your first appointment at a dispensary.

For your first visit most (if not all) dispensaries require an initial consult appointment, regardless of your level of prior cannabis experience. Here is a general guide to the average process looks like for most:

  • Choose a dispensary. Make certain to compare prices and selection, especially if you are fortunate to live near a city such as Scranton, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, or Bethlehem. Fortunately, our more remote dispensaries in Erie or the Northern regions appear to have consistently fair pricing and good selection compared to more metropolitan counties.

Pennsylvania List of Dispensaries (Current 12/7/2019)

Allegheny
CY+, Pittsburgh:

Keystone Integrated Care, Lawrenceville:
Maitri Medicinals, Pittsburgh:

Solevo, Squirrel Hill:
The Healing Center, Monroeville:
Armstrong
Beaver
Bedford

Berks
Harvest, Reading (5th Street Hwy)
Harvest, Reading (Lancaster Ave)
Blair
Herbology, Altoona:
Bradford
Bucks

Beyond/Hello, Bristol:
Liberty, Bensalem:
Restore, Doylestown:
TerraVida, Sellersville:
Butler
CY+, Butler County:
Solevo, Cranberry (Zelienople, PA):
Cambria
Beyond/Hello, Johnstown:
Cameron
Carbon

Centre
Nature’s Medicines, State College:
Chester
Cure, Phoenixville:
Keystone Shops, Devon:
TerraVida, Malvern:
Clarion
Clearfield

Herbology, DuBois:
Clinton
Columbia

Nature’s Medicines, Bloomsburg:
Crawford
Cumberland

Organic Remedies, Enola:
Rise, Carlisle:
Rise, Mechanicsburg:
Delaware
Herbology, Morton:
Dauphin

Rise, Steelton:
Elk
Erie

Rise, Erie:
Fayette
Maitri Medicinals, Uniontown:
Forest
Franklin

Organic Remedies, Chambersburg:
Fulton
Greene
Huntingdon
Indiana
Jefferson

Herbology, Brookville:
Juniata
Lackawanna

Beyond/Hello, Scranton
Columbia Care, Scranton
GreenGoods, Scranton
Harvest, Scranton:
Justice Grown, Dickson City
Lancaster
Cure, Lancaster:
Lawrence
Lebanon

Herbology, Lebanon:
Lehigh
Columbia Care, Allentown:
Keystone Canna Remedies, Allentown:
Mission, Allentown:
Luzerne
Columbia Care, Wilkes-Barre:
Justice Grown, Edwardsville:
Lycoming
Keystone Center of Int. Wellness,Williamsport:
McKean
Herbology, Bradford:
Mercer
Rise, Hermitage:
Mifflin
Monroe

GreenGoods, Stroudsburg
Montgomery

Herbology, King of Prussia:
Ilera Dispensary, Plymouth Meeting:
Keystone Shops, King of Prussia
Liberty, Norristown
Restore, Elkins Park
TerraVida, Abington:
Montour
Northampton

GreenGoods, Bethlehem:
Keystone Canna Remedies, Bethlehem:
Northumberland
Perry
Philadelphia

Beyond/Hello, Center City Philadelphia:
Beyond/Hello, Northern Liberties,Philadelphia:
Cure, Philadelphia
Herbology, Philadelphia
Keystone Shops, South Philly
Liberty, Philadelphia:
Restore, Fishtown:
Verilife, Philadelphia:
Pike
Potter
Schuylkill
Snyder

Nature’s Medicines, Selinsgrove:
Somerset
Sullivan
Susquehanna
Tioga
Union
Venango
Warren
Washington

The Healing Center, Washington:
Wayne
Westmoreland

CY+, New Kensington:
Rise, Latrobe:
Keystone Integrated Care, Greensburg:
Wyoming
York

Fluent, Hanover:
Organic Remedies, York:
Rise, York:

Five Examples of Dispensaries

  • From here, the process differs slightly per dispensary, here are the ones I have visited:

    1. Cure, Lancaster: The location is at the corner of a shopping center, Hold your ID to the intercom to be buzzed into lobby one where you hand your ID to security and await your turn comfortably seated with other friendly patients to fill out the paperwork required by all dispensaries for a first time visit. After your short wait in the waiting room as security processes your ID, You will be called and matched with an on-floor expert who helps you select your products and places them in the system for you.

    You will be called by a separate budtender after your order is filled. You can still change your order at the counter. The other patients in line are actually patient and speaking glowingly of every aspect of their experience. The aesthetic is actually…surprisingly like an actual local pharmacy, but with better customer service. The prices are directly in the middle of the state average, however there is an incentive program and help for low income individuals. Cure possessed the most technically knowledgeable employees during my visit and had a supernatural ability to appear sincerely chipper on Black Friday- the most difficult retail day of the year in any storefront. Cure also had very clearly advertised events for cannabis education. Your purchase is given to your in a bag with a very conspicuous “Cure” logo. The online menu is immediately accurate to the in-store selection.

    2. TerraVida, Sellersville: Look for the firehouse on main street, Sellersville. TerraVida has its entrance sideways to the road, facing the firehouse. After years of black market prohibition, it was a jarring contrast to the recent past of Pennsylvania pre-medical cannabis regulation. The security guard will check your ID to enter you into lobby one. Upon second check of your ID by reception, you will be then permitted entrance into the main lobby. Here, your first time the pharmacist may place the order for you the first time and then teach you how to use their online system-as you wait in the waiting room for your order to be pulled.

    There are cookies, board games, drinks, and the other patients are friendly and enthusiastic in their recommendations to anyone who will listen. Off peak hours and online ordering are a must for those who are easily overwhelmed. The budtenders are used to people from out of town. The prices are half of what you would pay at most other dispensaries. You can still add items to your order upon meeting the budtender. You have visited six times and no one remembers you in blessed anonymity. The aesthetic is a really posh spa: from the waterfall wall to the cucumber water. TerraVida provides the most take-home information as well as usually providing excellent quality canvas bags for each purchase.

    Seminars, lectures, and community involvement are all very important aspect of TerraVida. It is strongly recommended to use the online order form or call ahead prior to pick-up.

    3. Harvest, Reading (5th Street Hwy) /Harvest, Reading (Lancaster Ave). After awkward access from a local highway, you find yourself in an equally uncomfortable parking lot (both locations). Hold your Medical Marijuana ID up to the intercom and smile. Wait to be buzzed in, and then hand your ID to the receptionists behind the bulletproof glass. The waiting room is forbidding with stiff plastic chairs. However, once inside the retail area, the aesthetic of the Lancaster Avenue location is that of a bank in Bala Cynwyd from the 1970’s…however, you are actually in Reading, a fact that can never be forgotten with the profusion of bullet proof glass that creates an equally frustrating and formidable barrier for boTh employees and patients. 5th Street Highway location resembles a check cashing place inside and out, and could benefit from any color whatsoever. Even a nice rug would really tie the room together.

    You will be directed to a different room from the lobby to choose your purchases at the counter either with the pharmacist directly or with the budtender after your ID is processed in the waiting room. (The process time for patients who come in to retrieve called-in orders at harvest is shortest from entrance to exit of any dispensary I visited so far.) The other patients are not usually particularly social and act startled at friendly interaction; Reading locals are the cagiest of all of Pennsylvanians. Visitors from out of town are immediately recognized and pitied by locals like lame labrador puppies in a dog park full of traumatized cage-fight rottweilers with PTSD. Despite the local culture of hostile introverts, Harvest employees are likely the most kind to the sensory sensitive migraine patients or those who have sensitivities to loud sounds or sudden movements.

    Normally, the pharmacist will be the one to answer most strain questions-Reading patients are also the least likely to ask very much prior to their purchases. Lancaster Avenue has a terrible parking lot but has consistently better selection and more welcoming space, the 5th Street Highway sells out of product the fastest but has the least welcoming interior design. You pay $1-$14 dollars more per product except on discount days which bring most items to the state average price-wise. Call first to see what daily discounts are available. Saturdays are often the days with the greatest number of discounts. Patients are provided with a stapled shut white-wax bag for purchases. There may be a delay between the online availability menu and product available in store- however, you can secure anything in stock by calling ahead.

    4. Ilera Dispensary, Plymouth Meeting : This is the most difficult dispensary to find, as it is mostly invisible from the approaching highways. The location is at the junction of several different roads 276, 476, and 422 all converge near the mid county interchange. This is not a location you can walk to unless you happen to be staying in the hotel whose shadow in which it stands. A location that looks from the outside like a luxury ski-shop.

    You approach the counter after passing the security desk from the Batcave, the budtender is omniscient. Somehow, after discounts, you are pleasantly surprised to find you slightly got more for your money than you anticipated. You mistakenly believe you may have entered into the lobby of a 5 star hotel. The chairs looked comfortable, however, there was only one other patient who visited in my entire hour long visit. I enjoyed that hour immensely, the Ilera employees are well educated and passionate about cannabis saving our communities not just from typical chronic illness, but addiction as well. The chairs in the retail area looked comfortable, I did not get a chance (or need) to try them out. The online menu often does not reflect as much selection as is available in person.

    5. Rise, Steelton : Unlike me who walked confused around three quarters of the mostly vacant building, you will know that Rise faces directly away from the road on which it lives. Follow the sound of music after you park your car- in a safe, yet desolate industrial area. Facing the church, you see the tiny awning and familiar buzz pad seen at other dispensaries. Hold your ID up and smile for the camera!

    Once inside, You are identified as a new person immediately on first sight and welcomed profusely…. and you know that if you see them again in six months they likely will still remember who you are. Every patient knows every other patient on a first name basis regardless of age or economic background. Utopia is created in mod chairs between you and the community you have just found yourself suddenly welcomed into in the fifteen minutes it takes to add your ID into the system and fill out your paperwork. This dispensary is by far the most “local social nexus” of any I visited, and I desperately wish we had that here in Berks county.

    Everyone from greeter to the pharmacist to the budtender all seem to have equal awareness of products and seem to know every single patient on a first name basis, Just make your purchase in room #2 after your ID is processed. The budtender ultimately helps you pick the products at time of purchase. The aesthetic reminds you of a community recreation center or the the waiting room of a dentist’s office, but with a contrastingly gorgeous retail area.

    Your purchases are given to you in a zip-close black plastic photo-opaque bag. Very chic if you need a sudden black makeup bag.

Important Things to Know Before Your Dispensary Visit

  • Pennsylvania Dispensaries are Cash-only at this time. Each dispensary usually has at least one ATM. You are better off going to your bank or local Wawa and taking your cash out prior to your visit.
  • Ideally, for a first time visit $150 should cover products for a variety of needs. At this time of shortage, the minimum safe amount with which you should be able to complete a purchase is $45. The most affordable product at the time of this writing is disposable pens running from $19-$45. Flower is currently $20 per gram on average, and threaded cartridges average $50-$75. Muscle creams will set you back $30-$60, concentrates run from $35-$90, and all other products range from $40 to $110 for all other products.
  • When you arrive you need to have your Pennsylvania Driver’s license/state ID on hand in addition to your new Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana ID card.
  • Bring a list of your prescription medications and most recent medical history.
  • At the door, You will either need to hold your PA Medical Marijuana card to a small camera to be buzzed in or a security guard will check your documentation at the door and open the door for you.
  • Next, you will be directed to the reception area- You must present both forms of identification a second time to the greeter.
  • Here you will be asked to fill out a packet of papers of your contact information, medical history, current medications, and prior familiarity with medical cannabis. (Some dispensaries allow you to fill these forms out in advance.)
  • After you turn in your paperwork, you will then meet with the pharmacist who will review your medical history, symptoms, and comfort with cannabis products.
  • At this point, you will be told about each type of product recommended to manage your symptoms/conditions.
  • Make sure to ask if you qualify for any discount programs at this time. Bringing in your Social Security award letter, last tax return, or other proof of documented financial hardship are often taken into consideration at many locations.
  • Many dispensaries offer discounts to veterans and military. Bring your ID.
  • The location of fast food, a great buffet, or a Wawa within walking distance of many dispensaries are meant to test your willpower. Resist. Except perhaps for that Chinese buffet next to Cure, Lancaster… That makes the drive to Lancaster actually more worthwhile than average.

Pennsylvania Rules for Medical Cannabis Patients:

This may not be a complete list and it will be amended as laws change. If you are personally aware of any law or rule this list neglected please write in the comments and I will amend this list.

  • You cannot view the product out of the box prior to purchase
  • You must keep the product in the opaque bag provided by the dispensary when transporting between the dispensary and your home. Most suggest placing it in your trunk or other enclosed location in your vehicle.
  • Smoking cannabis in Pennsylvania is still technically off limits. Flower products may be consumed or vaporized
  • Edibles are not yet available at dispensaries, however, making your own edibles is encouraged. RSO is the most often suggested product for this purpose. (A drop the size of a sesame seed on a cracker is the average suggested first time dose)
  • It is not legal to drive well intoxicated with any substance
  • All cannabis dispensary products must remain with the original packaging. Tubes that contain cartridges and pens should bear the label printed at time of purchase. (I often have to remove the label from the box and transfer it to the plastic tubes myself. Some dispensaries are more conscientious of this detail than others!)
  • Growing your own cannabis is still a felony at this time in Pennsylvania,
  • Obtaining products outside of the Pennsylvania medical marijuana from within Pennsylvania is also illegal.
  • Legal dispensary products obtained legally from other states does not seem to have precedent one way or another. However, there have been dispensaries in Massachusetts and Colorado in particular who are eager for out-of-state tourist revenue and often recognize and provide equal discount to PA cardholders as medical cannabis patients who are in-state. This is entirely dependent on each dispensary.
  • Other states with a state-legal recreational market may have similar policies. A phone call can answer most questions.
  • Use common sense. No shipping Pennsylvania product out of state, no sharing with non-carded patients, out of state people or resale of any kind.

Notice About Washington DC

  • The Washington D.C. grey market policies and strong inclination to reaching out to financially stressed Pennsylvanians to offer cannabis at fairer prices, however, I strongly caution against this method unless you are personally connected to this region of the country otherwise via trusted friends and family who are already existing patients.

    Results of obtaining cannabis from Washington DC have been incredibly variable from the ease of hotel delivery of sublime medicines to terrifying stories of both bad medicine and unfortunate altercations with the law. The shortages in Pennsylvania are misery, however, I do not wish to see anyone experience even more inconvenience or stress.

What if the Shortage in Pennsylvania Gets Worse? The Massachusetts Solution:

For conditions that have no alternative therapy such as childhood seizure disorders and there is ever a time you find there is no product on any shelf available- you may decide to take the higher legal risks involved in attempting to secure medicine from outside the state. Although I do not recommend this unless all legal options in-state are null, I believe that it is safer to travel to a legal, safe dispensary in Massachusetts over trusting the black market of Pennsylvania or the currently confusing grey market of Washington, DC- especially so soon after the controversy involved with black market vape pens.

If you are willing to take the risk to drive to Washington DC (in every possible sense, especially if you want to risk your vehicle and your life driving from Either 78 or route 76 to 476 South to pick up I-95 south to the DC Beltway), a drive to Massachusetts is only 4-5 hours from most parts of the Keystone State and may be a safer alternative. The current prices for flower are about $200 per ounce of dispensary medicine at the time of this writing.

If you have any possible route to avoid New Jersey and New York City, do that. New Jersey police specifically target out of state plates for traffic stops. I don’t even recommend the beaches. (Beaches are a better reason to travel to Maryland, anyway.) If you currently live in New Jersey and wish to escape, we have active colonies of former New Jersey residents in both Allentown and the Greater Philadelphia region at this time. After a short acclimation period, we even may allow you to live in our suburbs or rural areas provided you can successfully convince a full Pennsylvanian to marry you or you manage to establish a career or business that natives actually find useful and beneficial to our existing communities.

For Eastern and Northern Pennsylvanians: Avoid New York City by taking the route over the Tappen Zee Bridge near the signs for Albany. Take the Merritt Parkway via Connecticut, it’s beautiful) Waiting on the beltway surrounding Washington DC can often lead to sitting in traffic upwards of two to three hours. Despite the difference in distance, the total time spent driving to Massachusetts at a reasonable hour of day is far more time effective (especially avoiding Boston for less travelled areas.)

Although it may be easiest to simply make an appointment at whatever storefront is closest, the better idea is to check out the menus of every dispensary that is within your reasonable driving range to choose one that has the best selection and prices. When we are without selection- a weekend trip to the safe, legal state of your choice might be worth thoughtful consideration.

Conclusion

In the meantime, Hopefully this guide will be of some use to other Pennsylvanians seeking relief through Medical Cannabis. As the program improves and legalization on a federal level becomes closer, laws, products, prices, and procedures can and will change rapidly in the coming months and years✨

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