Buying GuideGeneral Information

How to Buy Cannabis Flower at Dispensaries and Recreational Stores

By August 10, 2017 January 4th, 2019 No Comments

Although Canna Trading Co. doesn’t sell cannabis flower, we still find it important to help you know what to look for when buying cannabis flower. If you are new to cannabis or a seasoned cannabis connoisseur, this guide will help you make more informed purchases. While some displays may clearly show that a product is not high quality, some can be deceiving to the eye.

This buying guide will help you take a closer look at strains before you purchase them.

Visual Appeal

Visual appeal is an important factor when buying cannabis flower at dispensaries and recreational stores. Some strains may look great but fail to deliver. What you want to look for is crystallization on the buds and that the buds appear to be tight. Look for colored hairs, not all strains will produce a lot of bright trichomes, but you should be able to notice them. Trichomes are the hairs on cannabis buds. They also add “sparkle” to your buds, it almost makes them look shiny or crystal-like.

Buds with more trichomes may be more potent and likely have superior terpene profiles. Terpenes are what gives cannabis its aroma and flavor, but terpenes also have known medicinal value.

If your buds look brown, dry or otherwise unappealing, you may want to check out other strains.


Aroma is very important when buying cannabis flower. If you can’t smell anything or it just smells like grass, there was likely an issue during the cultivation process. This means that the terpenes in the strain were not properly developed.

Now, samples in jars or other types of containers are opened hundreds of times a day, in some cases. That can play a small role in diminishing aroma, especially with the amount of time that the flower sits in direct light. It is important to ask if it is a fresh sample or one that has been used for a few days. If it is a fresh sample and still has minimal aroma, or no aroma, it’s best to pass this strain up.

Strain Information

Most dispensaries and recreational cannabis stores have menus available online either on their own website or a national cannabis directory. It is important to know that growers are creating new hybrid strains, so there may not be a description available for them. This does pose an issue, while it may be a great strain; it may produce negative effects that you don’t want.

It is important for consumers to know the lineage (origin) of the strain, how it was grown, what effects to expect, what medical conditions it may help and what its negative effects are. For instance, if a strain produces feelings of anxiety or paranoia, someone with anxiety and/or PTSD or other mental health issues isn’t going to want that strain. Someone that suffers from chronic migraines or severe headaches doesn’t want a strain that may give them a headache.

If a strain does not have a description available, ask your budtender. The budtenders should be briefed on all strains, new or not, and what to expect. Most budtenders get samples of all strains to try for themselves so that they can tell their clientele what to expect. If your budtender doesn’t have any information, ask if anyone there does. If no information is available, it’s really up to you regarding that particular strain.

Tip: Before I go to a dispensary, I review the menu. If a strain description isn’t available, I try to look it up on cannabis seed provider websites to get an idea of what to expect. Going the extra step is helpful so you’re not surprised with effects you don’t want. Knowledge is valuable in this situation.  

THC/CBD Percentage

These numbers are important. Low THC percentages may not be effective for your personal need. Higher THC percentages may be too much for you. It is important to know how much THC and CBD are in your strains. Some cannabis businesses will go a step further and provide percentages for all cannabinoids found in a strain, and this is spectacular!

If you’re not a fan of the psychoactive effects, look for a high CBD, low THC strain. You can also find some strains that are all CBD and no THC, such as ACDC.

The last thing you want is to spend money and not get the relief you’re expecting or be too medicated and have a bad experience. Knowing your threshold is also important. Start with lower THC percentages if you are a new cannabis user.

Keep in mind that your body does build up a tolerance to THC, so if you start with high percentages, you could plateau quickly – especially if you experience a time when local suppliers only have lower THC options available. You can help reset your body by taking a 48 to 72 hour break from THC altogether. For heavy cannabis users, you may need to refrain for an entire week. This helps you receive effects from lower THC strains. Women are more likely to build up a tolerance to THC faster than men.

Lab Testing

Not all states require that cannabis businesses test their products. This can be harmful as some may contain chemical residue, mold or other unwanted components. Ask your dispensary or recreational retailer if they test, and ask to see the test results. Testing for purity is something that all cannabis businesses should do, but it’s an expense they don’t want to incur if they’re not required to – in some cases.

If you have a sensitivity to chemicals and/or mold, it is important to visit only the businesses that do test for purity so that you don’t risk having a negative experience. It is important to note that almost all plants (regardless of plant type – including flowers) have some kind of mold present, while some mold is okay, you don’t want to use cannabis that has high mold and/or mildew readings.


Reading strain reviews is important. These are from consumers that have used the strain (most of the time), so their honest opinions of the strain are shared. You must keep in mind that everyone has individual expectations and tolerances, so one strain may not be strong enough for one person but may be just right for you. Look for the reviews that discuss the effects, flavor, appearance and aroma.

Ask Budtenders Questions

Always ask questions if you are unsure about a strain. Sometimes the budtender has information about a strain that isn’t available online. Budtenders are briefed on what strains are available and are given what information is available to the management/owners of the dispensary or recreational store.

What to Avoid

Avoid strains that show to have the effects you’re trying to avoid – such as increased appetite if you don’t want a case of “the munchies”. Always look at the negative effects when they’re available.

If the cannabis flower doesn’t look and smell appealing to you, pass it up.

Now, if you are visiting a pre-package type cannabis dispensary or recreational shop, you can always ask them to weigh your purchase before you complete the purchase. The weight should be slightly over the amount you purchase to account for the lightweight package. It is important to know that you’re getting the amount that you pay for.

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