A First-Timer’s Guide to Buying Recreational Weed in Arizona

Photo courtesy Mint Cafe

By Teresa K. Traverse

September 28, 2022

We talked to Mint Cannabis’ Raul Molina to get all the details canna-newbies need to know before stepping inside their first dispensary.

Walking into a dispensary for the first time can be an exciting and—maybe even somewhat scary—experience. Recreational access has only been available in Arizona since January of 2021. For many years, cannabis has been seen as being somewhat taboo. But that’s changing—fast.

“It’s one of those things that you’re intimidated [about] before you get there. And then you get there and you’re like, ‘Oh man, I should have done this a long time ago,’” Raul Molina, co-founder and chief operating officer of Mint Cannabis, told The Copper Courier. 

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Marijuana in Arizona

The Mint’s flagship dispensary in Guadalupe is about 12,000 square feet. In many ways, it feels like a classic, traditional retail store—the product just happens to be cannabis. An array of colorful products—all of which are local, as required by law—are on display beneath the glass counters and behind the retail counter on wall shelves. The dispensary boasts roughly 8,000 products, and Molina says Mint carries about 80% of the products on the market.

This location is also home to a cannabis kitchen called The Mint Cafe that serves infused foods like wings, pizza, and burgers, along with pastries and cakes. Foods can have as little as 25 mg of THC and as much as 1,000 mg of cannabis oil or butter. By comparison, a retail joint has anywhere from 60 to 150 mg of THC.

Don’t have time to stop and window shop? You’re in luck: There is also a drive-thru window!

marijuana dispensary
Some dispensaries offer drive thru services as an added convenience Photo courtesy Mint Cannabis

Newbies, here are a few things you need to know before visiting a dispensary for the first time.

Arrive Prepared 

Be sure to bring your ID. The Mint requires a driver’s license from the United States that’s not expired or a passport. You have to be able to prove that you’re at least 21 years old. Even regular customers have to show their IDs every time they visit. 

Also, don’t be alarmed to find a security guard standing outside the entrance. This is common practice in Arizona and other states where adult use is legal.

Bring Questions

marijuana dispensary
Dispensaries have thousands of options for customers which can feel overwhelming even for an experienced consumer Dont be afraid to ask questions Photo courtesy Mint Cannabis

Molina acknowledges that first-time customers can feel nervous. To have a good experience, be sure to come prepared with questions. 

“One thing that I’ve noticed that a lot of people do is that it’s like they feel either ashamed or embarrassed to ask the right questions. Go. Straight up. Ask exactly what you’re thinking,” Molina says. “That’s what we sell. We sell cannabis. It’s not the kind of deal happening in the library where the teacher might catch us, and we’re going to get in trouble. If you’re looking for a certain comfort, then we actually would probably have a very good idea of how to get you that.”

Molina says that his staff tends to spend about 10 minutes with customers, and suggests dropping by in the mornings when it’s typically less crowded. 

Think About Your Goals for Consumption

The best way to find the right products for you is by first deciding why and how you want to use them. Molina shared the examples of a mom looking to relax after a long day with the kids or a young person wanting to go to the club. 

RELATED: The Movement to Decriminalize Marijuana

“The best thing you can do when you come in is to have an idea of why you want to consume,” he says. “How you want to use it. And then if you have that, we can direct you in the right direction so that we get what you’re looking for.”

Remember: The Nose Knows 

Molina advises smelling the product prior to purchasing. 

“If you smell it, and the smell reaches you—if you like it, probably you’ll like the way it makes you feel,” he explains. “You’re attracted to what you’re attracted to, and it’s going to get you a better high, and you’re going to probably feel better and have a better experience.”

The best-seller? Flower or cannabis buds. There’s an important reason why that’s the top seller. 

Tourist Laura Torgerson visiting from Arizona smells cannabis buds at the Green Pearl Organics dispensary on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in California January 1 2018 in Desert Hot Springs California Photo credit ROBYN BECKAFP via Getty Images

“All the other products that are created get you their own style of high… But traditional flowers are going to hit you almost immediately,” says Molina. “The flower is the one that’s going to get you all the cannabinoids, everything that’s in the plant, because you’re smoking the actual plant.”

(For the uninitiated, Cannabinoids are naturally occurring chemicals, such as THC and CBD, that produce an effect when they interact with your body.)

Start Low, Go Slow

Molina recommends those who’ve never consumed before start off with edibles, such as gummies. It’s much easier to control your intake that way by starting slow. After all, you can always eat more, not less. 

He also suggests partaking with a group of friends. 

marijuana dispensary
Pro Tip When dining at the Mint Cafe plan to share Photo courtesy Mint Cannabis

“They’re going to help your experience,” he explains. “They’re going to help you enjoy it more. They probably have been through it before—hopefully, they’ve been through it before. If you’re all first-timers, just record it, because it’s probably going to be funny.”

If you happen to consume too much your first time, just remember that the high will eventually dissipate. “If you’re by yourself, make sure you have Netflix on or something that you can zone out on,” Molina says.  

Plan to Spend Some Money

On average, customers spend about $90 each visit, and regulars typically come in between two to three times a month. For example, a 100 mg bag of Sofa King Gummies in the rainbow crunch flavor cost $18. 

Prices include taxes, which are typically higher for sales on products for adult use. 

Leave Your Preconceptions at Home 

Molina acknowledges that many still believe dispensaries aren’t good for neighborhoods. 

“A lot of people think that a dispensary opens up and is going to bring vagrants. It’s going to bring undesirables, and it’s quite the opposite. The vagrants and undesirables are still going into the neighborhood and buying from the neighborhood because in the neighborhood for $20, you’re going to get probably about 15 joints. Here, you might get lucky to get two. It’s much better quality,” he says. “That’s what keeps them coming.”

RELATED: The Flower Shop President Talks About Arizona’s Thriving Cannabis Industry

“It’s becoming more mainstream,” he continues. “It’s becoming more normal, like any other industry. Everybody and their mom comes in. Literally, everybody and their mom comes in.”

marijuana dispensary

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  • Teresa K. Traverse

    Teresa K. Traverse is a Phoenix, Arizona-based writer and editor. Her work also has appeared in national print outlets including Weight Watchers, Bust and Parenting magazines and on sites like Tripadvisor, Wine Enthusiast, SFGate, Brides, Rachael Ray Every Day, Bustle, Racked, ForRent.com, WeddingWire, Refinery29, The Daily Meal, Oxygenmag.com, USA Today and Fast Company. She's the managing editor of Sedona Monthly. In her spare time, she loves hiking, reading magazines and spending quality time with her long-haired Chihuahua, Rocket. Visit teresaktraverse.com to check out more of her work.

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