first trip, dispensary

By MATT HAND

Having gone through the process of seeing a telehealth doctor for anxiety, and been approved, I was excited for my medical marijuana card to arrive to visit Curaleaf dispensary for my first trip. 

The envelope from the NJ Department of Health came too late in the day to make the 104-mile round trip from my home in Hunterdon County (no dispensaries here yet) to Curaleaf in Bellmawr (in Camden County) I chose for my first trip. 

After cruising the dispensary menus online, it was clear the NJMMP program is suffering from bottlenecks. The dispensary nearest to me, Breakwater, was not accepting new patients. Garden State Dispensary is routinely sold out of flower, my preferred method of cannabis consumption. Curaleaf consistently has at least two to three strains, and their pricing seemed cheaper than the others. Having lived near Curaleaf, I was ready to drive somewhere familiar for flower I knew would be available.

First Trip to Curaleaf Dispensary

The next morning I drove off to procure on my first trip to buy therapeutic cannabis! I looked at the website to be sure they had a decent variety. It looked like at least three strains were on the menu. I arrived early as I had heard there were long wait times, and Curaleaf does not take appointments.  As a first-time patient, I called ahead. I was instructed to let the guard know when I arrived. I pulled into the parking lot at 10:40 AM and luckily got a spot in front. 

I was surprised the air didn’t hang with the perfume of cannabis, which was my experience visiting dispensaries in Massachusetts. I got in line, which moved fairly quickly and got in at 10:48 am.

The space was well lit and bright, a bit open, and minimalist save for the social distancing infrastructure. Menus were displayed on flat-screen TVs. It was nice to see two other strains were available that were not advertised online. There were display cases with glass pipes, rolling papers, pipe cleaners, and grinders. Three armed guards keep lines moving. 

A perfect cross-section of New Jerseyans was represented. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I was inundated with messages telling me that “potheads” and “stoners” were burnouts, bad people, lazy, and neurotic. Waiting on line I saw fathers, businesswomen, weight lifters, churchgoers, little league coaches, hippies, punks, and nerds. These were superficial judgments of course, but it was wonderful the message of cannabis healing has been heard.

Something about being among folks who share a common thread felt reassuring. Getting a medical card and “coming out” as a cannabis user was challenging. 

After informing the guard I was new, I was led to a line of chairs to wait for an employee to sign up as a new patient. I received paperwork to fill out to confirm my identity, and a questionnaire like you would receive at a doctor’s visit.

At 11:15 AM I handed in my paperwork, received an onboarding folder, and a five percent discount card for my first three purchases. I was instructed to wait in line to enter the retail space! When it was my turn I had my order ready. I asked for a quarter ounce each of LA Kush Cake, White Chocolate, Grape Marmalade, and SuperSherb.

I had a few questions about the pre-rolls and accessory prices. They were not labeled in the case and my budtender didn’t know. My budtender seemed pretty new and cheerful.  

Driving home with an ounce of flower never felt so relaxing. Typically this trip would be the opposite. 

Having “The Talk”

Part of going legit is being transparent. I explained it to my children (9 and 12 years old). I did not consider this when I began seeking a medical card, but there is great value in being open about it with family without burdening them with complicated issues. To my surprise, they took it really well. They asked if it was the same thing as “weed” and I said yes, that it is a plant with the potential for healing, as well as abuse.

Inaugural Smoke

Sitting at my backyard table on a beautiful Sunday enjoying safe cannabis flower was everything I hoped for; healing, relaxing, reflective. I chose the potent (30 percent plus THC) Sativa hybrid, SuperSherb. For me, Sativa is medicine that often gives me focus, energy, creativity, and drive. 

Opening the bag, the aroma left a little to be desired. Typically flower this potent should smell like a bouquet of awesomeness. The Supersherb smelled green and grassy. All of the strains from Curaleaf smelled that way. I suspect it’s due to the heavy demand. The potency was fine, the texture and dryness were also fine, but it lacked that bright, striking aroma I associate with top-quality bud, and did not leave my fingers sticky. 

It seemed they were packing products quickly. Some of the buds were flattened. The flavor was grassy, but the effect and potency were on point.
To sum up my Curaleaf experience, their cannabis was relatively good. As a medicine, it’s clean and sufficient. As a cannabis enthusiast, it’s mediocre. I have since been to Harmony, which compared to Curaleaf, has next-level flower in terms of potency, quality control, and strain selection.

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