1. Get your bearings.

Cruise around the block six times, whispering Is this the place? Is this it?!? over and over and over to your boyfriend. Park right up front, feed the meter, then change your mind and decide you’re a little too close. Get back in your rental car, circle the block one more time, and park three blocks away.

Casually stroll up the street, as though you’re going somewhere else. “There’s a Whole Foods just around the corner, right? I think we need some more jicama.” Then, once you’re right in front of your target building, turn on a dime and dive into the first open doorway you see.

2. Look like you know what you’re doing.

My mom calls this “walking with purpose.” Aggressively march up to a display of glass pipes. Pick up an elaborate-looking one and loudly comment on its heft and shine. Spin on your heel and sidle your way through a group of angsty youths clustered around a case containing what seems to be metal pens. Offer some words of wisdom, like, “Fountain pens! What a great idea. Sort of an all-in-one shop.”

This will prompt one of the troubled teens to give you a condescending look before mumble-sighing at you about the health benefits of vaporizers. Now you’ve made a friend and learned some valuable insider tips.

After careening around the store for 20 minutes, you will eventually realize that you haven’t actually happened upon any weed. Slink up to the front counter and smile at the girl who looks like a Hot Topic wet-heaved all over her. Lean over conspiratorially and ask her where the good stuff is. The you-know.

“It’s next door, in the dispensary. This is the head shop. And you don’t have to whisper.”

Smile knowingly and wink before slithering out the front door.

3. Make a seamless entry.

Now you’ll become cognizant of some exciting differences between this entrance and the one you just came out of, such as the metal, windowless door and large red-and-black sign that reads “HOLD ID UP TO DOOR AND RING BELL.”

“Oh shit, that sounds like a secret password type of situation, doesn’t it?”

“No,” your boyfriend will say as he opens his wallet.

“Oh man, it’s like a speakeasy or something. What do we do?”

“You could start by getting out your license.”

Try to refrain from your instinctive urge to throw yourself flat against the wall as the door opens and five raucous hooligans pour out onto the sidewalk.

“IDs?” the muscular, bouncer-type dude at the door will say.

Giggle awkwardly while pawing at your boyfriend to go first. This will give you time to sift through your travel-safe money belt for your license.

4. Survey the premises.

The décor in here is much more reserved than next door — like a Southwest-themed Pier 1. Your new-age aunt who moved to Sedona to pursue her dream of becoming a certified crystal healer would love this place. Sepia-toned walls are strewn with vaguely-native-American-themed wrought-iron figures and faux-leather dreamcatchers. Clay pots of unknown purpose list to one side in the corner. A legalization map is prominently featured.

A weed dispensary is a lot like a winery or brewery, except in Colorado dispensaries, half the room is devoted to recreational users and half to medical users. The only difference is price; those with a medical card pay about 1/3 of the recreational cost. Consider what life would be like if your crippling anxiety could get you a medical beer card and reduce your alcohol bills by 2/3. Maybe with all that extra money, you could have finished grad school and MADE SOMETHING OF YOURSELF.

5. Sample the wares.

Pause that downward emotional spiral for a moment and head on over to the recreational-use counter. One or two helpful-looking fellows will be standing behind glass cases full of different types of pot. These will have names like “Peaches ‘N’ Cream” or “Green Crack.” Hide your confusion by asking an insider-sounding technical question, like, “Do you prefer the peach- or crack-flavored marijuana?”

The first guy will sneak a side-eye to the other one…probably to say, this girl knows what’s up. “Well, it depends what you’re looking to do. What are you gonna use this for?”

“To…smoke it,” you’ll reply knowingly.

“I mean, what kind of activity are you planning to do? Hiking? Partying? You wanna feel energized or relaxed?”

“Mostly high, is what I was thinking.” That was almost definitely a trick question.

The second guy, a skinny bald dude with lots of tattoos, will chime in now. “You know man, like, I’ve got my snowboarding weed, I’ve got my post-snowboarding weed, I’ve got my painting weed…then there’s my party weed, my thinking weed, you know?”

Number one will elaborate. “Each strain has different amounts of Sativas and Indicas. Sativa-dominant strains give you more of a head high; they’re good for creativity, but you can get a little amped up and paranoid too. Indicas are more relaxing.”

“Indicas is like ‘in the couch,’ that’s how I remember it,” number two will say, fingering his leather bracelet.

Consider the options before you. Swirl the weed around in each container, then ask to sniff the different strains. Wave your hand over the little glass jars, wafting the scent towards your nostrils like a pro. Inhale deeply and casually mention something about tannins. After a moment of contemplation, make your choice.

“We’ll take both types. One portion of both types.”

“How much do you want?”

“How much would you recommend for a week-long trip?”

“Maybe half a gram?”

Pause for a moment. “Great. We’ll take a gram of each.”

6. Enjoy.

This article was originally published on July 8, 2014.

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