If you could dream up an idyllic American city, chances are high that it would look a whole lot like Ann Arbor, Michigan. This energetic, progressive, park-filled city is sure to suit even the most discriminating of tastes. Downtown Ann Arbor stands in contrast to other “college towns.” Instead of dive bars and fast food joints, Ann Arbor’s downtown is home to the prestigious University of Michigan campus, historic theaters, vintage clothing shops, independent bookstores, street art, craft breweries, unique restaurants, and dispensaries. Ann Arbor has an artistic, creative, and youthful feeling to it, without the sense of being in a stereotypical university town. With the unique combination of elements that make up Ann Arbor’s history and present day, it’s not surprising that it was among one of the earlier cities to embrace medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries.
Dating back to the 1970s, Ann Arbor has been known for its leniency in regard to cannabis possession in the United States. Such legislation includes a 1972 city council decree, a 1974 voter referendum which held that possession of marijuana in small amounts would be considered a civil infraction liable to a small fine, and a 2004 referendum in favor of the medical use of cannabis. There was an exception to this though; since state law took priority over municipal law, the much more severe state cannabis laws continued to be enforced on University of Michigan property. Below is a brief overview of the cannabis timeline for Ann Arbor, Michigan.
1972 – legalized cannabis for 22 days
2008 – Michigan votes in favor of the legalization of medical marijuana
2016 – Allowed operation of medical cannabis dispensaries
2018 – Michigan voters approved proposal to legalize cannabis for recreational use
2019 – Law went into effect legalizing recreational cannabis
Cannabis which comes from the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa), has a long history of being cultivated for the use of the fiber it produces. This fiber was viewed as an essential element for making ropes and sails back in the 1600s. Today, its uses have expanded to include the use of more parts of the plant like the seeds and oil. These parts of the plant provide a rich source of dietary protein, minerals, and fiber. For centuries, cannabis has been used both for medicinal and recreational purposes. While the history of this plant is complex, being portrayed as an intoxicating drug for years, it now has been progressively embraced in over 30 states.
Medical use involves using the entire unprocessed plant or the chemicals within it to reduce the symptoms of different conditions or diseases and must undergo testing for exact amounts. Recreational use involves cultivating certain chemicals to produce various pleasant feelings but doesn’t necessarily have to undergo the same amount of regulatory testing. The main chemical players are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). It is often the case that medical cannabis will contain higher levels of CBD than what is commonly seen in recreational marijuana. When cannabis is consumed with higher levels of CBD, individuals do not experience the intense “high” sensation commonly associated with the recreational type. Recreational marijuana typically has higher levels of THC content as compared to the medical variant and is often used for the “high” effect as opposed to its medicinal benefits. While there isn’t a precise difference between the flowers and concentrates of both types, the potency of medical marijuana is commonly high.
The rudimentary difference between recreational and medical cannabis is who can purchase it. The acquisition of medical cannabis requires an individual to have a valid medical marijuana recommendation/card based on specific qualifying conditions. Whereas, anyone who is over the required minimum age can purchase recreational cannabis. [One does not need a medical marijuana card for the purchase of recreational cannabis.]
To purchase medical marijuana from a certified dispensary in Ann Arbor, one must be over 18 years of age and have a valid medical marijuana card. Persons intending to purchase recreational cannabis from a state-licensed dispensary must be over 21 years old with valid state-issued ID. This means that a person can walk into a dispensary with their driver’s license and buy what they want.
Med v. Rec: The Cost
While there aren’t many concrete differences between flower and concentrates of medical and recreational cannabis, you will notice that there is a difference in price. Recreational cannabis is taxed at a higher rate and often has a higher base price than its medical counterpart. This is due to the legal regulations surrounding each.
Seeing as though there are numerous dispensaries to choose from in Ann Arbor, what factors should you consider when selecting?
The first and perhaps most obvious distinguishing factor might be whether you’re looking for medical or recreational cannabis. Largely due to the earlier legalization of medical than recreational, there are more dispensaries that are medical only or a blend of both medical and recreational. From that point, there isn’t one correct way to choose. Factors weighing on your decision might be product types offered, location, aesthetic, feel, location, or features they offer. Different dispensaries offer different benefits like online ordering, pickup, delivery, loyalty programs, promotions, events, and more!
Making the most of your visit to a cannabis dispensary largely lies in knowing what your goals are before you go. You may be wanting to find relief from symptoms of a chronic condition. Maybe you want to try a new way to consume cannabis. Perhaps there is a particular strain you want to try. Or, maybe you are a novice and would like to be guided by the experts. Whatever your reasons, having clear intentions of what you’re trying to achieve will make for a smoother process.
Regardless of whether you’re a medical marijuana patient or a recreational consumer of legal age, make certain to bring your state-issued identification with you. If you’re intending to purchase medical marijuana, make sure you have your valid medical marijuana card with you and be prepared to provide the dispensary staff with your it as well as your identification.
Most dispensaries have some variety of security to safeguard both the staff as well as customers. Cameras, guards, and protected entrances are conventional, so instead of being surprised, let the sight of them be reassuring to you. Always be respectful of the dispensary security and enjoy your visit.
Seeing as though dispensaries have different menus, offering different selections, it is advantageous to do some research before your visit. The staff is there to help guide you and provide recommendations, however, it’s beneficial to have some ideas and then ask more specific questions. Review the menu beforehand, looking specifically for strains that are related to your personal conditions or desired results. This research will be very useful when you’re placing your order.
With the rapid growth of the cannabis industry, dispensaries sometimes have difficulty keeping up with the high demand. Because of this, it is helpful to know what is available and in stock at your local dispensary beforehand to make the process smoother for all parties involved. Most dispensaries have an updated online menu that contains relevant information about the various strains. This is a particularly handy tool to use to help you plan for your visit. You can also check to see if there are any specials that they’re offering or find out more information regarding alternative consumption methods.
Smoking has long been the quintessential method of consumption associated with marijuana- but it isn’t the only option anymore! Dispensaries offer cannabis products in flower, concentrates, tinctures, edibles (think chocolates and gummies), pills, drinks, vape pens, suppositories, ointments, and plenty of other choices. These consumption methods provide different advantages as well as drawbacks, so it’s helpful to do a little research to determine, or at least narrow down, your preferred mode. If you’re undecided or you’re interested in a different consumption method, feel free to discuss it with the dispensary experts to gain recommendations and insights.
Take some time to acquaint yourself with Michigan’s state laws relating to cannabis consumption. Understanding the legal requirements will aid in the ease of your experience, as well as help you to feel confident throughout your visit.
Regulations require dispensaries to serve just one medical patient at a time, so it’s possible that you may need to wait your turn. Most dispensaries have a nice waiting area or room where you can browse the menu and think about what products you’d like.
Whether you have an idea of what you want before you go or not, one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting the best product for your wants and desires is to ask your budtender questions. They can provide recommendations of strains that they like, or you can inquire about strains that might be best suited for your needs. Allow the budtender to be your guide. Whether you’re looking for something to settle your stomach, or for a bright sativa to motivate you to organize that closet, or whatever it may be: Just Ask. There aren’t any silly or senseless questions and budtenders have heard it all. But, it’s important to keep in mind that while budtenders are very knowledgeable, they cannot tell you what kind of effect a specific strain or product will have. This is largely due to the fact that there have only been small amounts of government-approved research on cannabis at this point. Instead of basing their information on fact-based research, budtenders will use anecdotal experiences and personal preferences to provide you with a point of reference for your purchase.
Although more and more dispensaries and retail shops are offering cashless ATM systems for purchasing, most cannabis shops remain cash only. Before you visit, check to see whether they accept credit cards or have an ATM onsite. Otherwise, be prepared and bring cash. Also, cannabis and cannabis related products can be rather expensive, it’s helpful to review the dispensary menu and familiarize yourself with approximate prices. This will encourage your transaction going as easily as possible.
Dispensaries aren’t your typical retail environment- they’re a cross between pharmacies and regular shops. Therefore, there are certain rules, regulations, and etiquette that apply to these spaces. The majority of dispensaries will not permit photography inside their establishments. This is because it could potentially be a breach of privacy or a distraction to other patrons. If there is something particularly striking that you’d like to take a picture of- just ask first. It’s also important to provide other customers space as to respect their privacy. It’s also polite to avoid using your phone while you’re in the dispensary, since it can be a distraction to those around you. It’s understandable that you may be excited and want to share that with a friend, but either visit together, or save the call for after.
If you’re unsure about your purchase for any reason, remember that there isn’t an obligation to buy. Keep in mind that returns aren’t accepted in the majority of cases, so you should be certain that you really want the product before you purchase. There’s no need to feel required to follow the recommendations of the staff. If the recommendations aren’t resonating with you, then just focus on the products you would like.
After your initial visit to a selected dispensary, note how the service was that you received, the quality of the products, and the general feel of the place. Make certain to let them know how helpful they were in answering your questions and in the quality of their recommendations, as well as how comfortable they made you feel. This will help to improve your subsequent visits as well as assist the dispensary in advancing their customer service.
Equipped with these tips, you’ll be prepared to visit your local cannabis dispensary for the first time – and hopefully, you’ll be excited about the experience. After their first visit, most find that the process is much easier and more relaxed than they had thought, especially if they visited a reputable dispensary.
For most dispensaries, no appointment is necessary. However, it’s best to check the specific shop hours and requirements.
Before you visit, check to see whether the specific dispensary you’re going to accepts credit cards or has an ATM onsite. Some offer cashless ATM systems for purchases; however, the majority of cannabis shops remain cash only. Also, cannabis and cannabis related products can be rather expensive, so it’s helpful to review the dispensary menu and familiarize yourself with approximate prices before you go. It should be noted that if a shop does accept credit cards, that there is often a low surcharge fee (normally around $5) for the credit card processing.
Medical patients are permitted to purchase recreational products. That being said, you will have to pay the recreational price for the product. This is due to the regulations surrounding the distinction between medical and recreational cannabis. This still maintains even if the product is typically offered on the medical menu but is currently out of stock for medical.