Your choice: a taste of Yoga Nidra, or a nice long, supported practice. Come and bathe in the moment.
Be kind to your Budtender.
I know, friends, we’re all excited. Suddenly, what was verboten for many years is free to all. Well. Not free. In fact, taxes are upwards of 35% for Adult Use cannabis in California. But you get it. Freely accessible. You just might have wait in some long lines with other equally excited folks. All those throngs of excited people sift and filter down to come face to face to one person: The Budtender.
I worked until recently at Harborside, the biggest (and arguably the most famous) dispensary in the Bay Area for nearly five years — with just under two of those years spent in the role of Budtender. Under the leadership of the dynamic Steve DeAngelo, our team of Budtenders made it our collective mission to quench our own thirst for cannabis knowledge — combing the internet for, studying, and sampling (on our own time) as much cannabis as we possibly could. We shared with fellow Budtenders the knowledge we culled independently from researchers, growers and product-makers about the different cultivars of cannabis, the varying effects of cannabinoids and terpenes, products and methods of delivery — all information that is constantly evolving and changing — so that we might best serve the patient — you.
Everyone I know in the California cannabis industry has worked hard for the legitimate advancement of cannabis as medicine because we’ve experienced firsthand how effective and powerful it is. We’ve also seen — again and again — how it helps others. Everyone you’d ever see in your lifetime, we’ve seen at the counter, right in front of us, telling us their stories of struggle and heartbreak, of pain and loss. Google ‘cannabis helped my’ and watch the testimonials pile up onto the results pages. We’ve come in contact with the lot of them. It’s nearly impossible to hold that kind of space for healing on the daily and not be enduringly and seriously affected by it. Changed.
Along with the plants we’ve watched fill our gardens and line our shelves, our capacity for compassion has blossomed in ways we never imagined. The roots of this ever-evolving compassion informs our every decision — even outside of the workplace. Cannabis, in its essence, connects us to each other, helps us to empathize and try on the struggle of another, to see things from beyond the neatness of opposing views, to approach even the toughest of situations from a ground of love and respect for humankind.
And those times when we fail at the grand mission of compassion that cannabis has imprinted upon us, we suffer a greater sense of guilt than most — How we might have handled things better? How might we have been a better resource for information? How might we have tried to connect, rather than distance ourselves, from the suffering of another? How might we have exhibited more willingness to listen, observe, and, when appropriate, educate and encourage?
We share in your excitement about this brave new world, and we’re smiling right along with you — because cannabis is all about community and compassion. We’ve dreamed of this moment and we welcome newbies — whether brand new, or returning to cannabis after some time — with open arms. We know that this medicine can help everyone on the planet in some way. We. Just. Know. But there are also some things you should know about the Budtenders.
As you stand in the lines to be part of this moment in history, it’s important you know that behind the scenes, a massive reshuffling is at play in the industry to which we’ve dedicated ourselves. For several weeks now, we have witnessed a mass exodus of highly knowledgeable and trusted colleagues of quality cannabis flowers and products — victims to the new, ‘liberated’ world of Adult Use. They’ve been unable to secure funding, quality material, proper space or licensing and we’ve had to watch as it happens, helpless. These friends, many of whom were leading innovators themselves, are brokenhearted at being forced to leave their beloved industry and devastated at deserting the patients who have come to rely on them. So while we are celebrating with you, it’s important you know that the ground beneath us is giving way. Seismic changes are occurring at every level of what we’ve built upon for years. The future, while certainly open, is uncertain. This can have a dizzying effect for your Budtender.
The announcement today that Jeff Sessions had rescinded the Cole Memo — safeguards for legal cannabis businesses, employees, and users put in place by President Obama — further adds to the stress of providing safe access for new consumers, which is every Budtender’s mission.
Take this information with you when you enter the dispensary. Bring your kindness and patience. Know that the Budtenders are smiling through the challenges they are facing, because they want you to love cannabis like they do. Know that though they’ll not let on, their home lives have been affected by the madness of this massive moment in time. Know, that while they are thrilled for you, they’ve taken all these changes on their feet and their bodies are suffering under the weight of the run up to legalization and the constant rush of consumers since.
Know that the lines — at least for the time being — are unavoidable. If they’re going to trigger you, you might consider signing up for delivery. There will always be time to set foot into the dispensary, because Adult Use is now a reality. It’s all very exciting. And exhausting. With a little bit of mutual understanding, this new world will take root in wondrous ways for all of us.
May we all seek to embody the sweet gift of Compassion that cannabis bestows upon us.
Newbie – I know I’ve told you this before, but you’re in good hands. Your cannabis community welcomes you with open arms — no matter who you are, where you come from, or the challenges that have befallen you. Cannabis is a healer, and whether you’re looking to lighten things up and laugh a little more, or hoping for help with sleep, pain, anxiety, depression, or other more serious health challenges, you will find relief in cannabis — but only if you’re taking an active role in your care.
Approach cannabis with an openness and optimism. The lovely plant is here to heal and it will keep on healing, despite its own challenges. Despite the monetization. Despite Big Pharma. Despite anyone who looks upon it solely for the purpose of capitalizing on it. It will persevere. It will change minds. And lives. It will continue its Mother Nature-assigned mission of healing. And so must you. It is the calling of all of us to heal ourselves, heal each other, and heal the planet.
I didn’t enter the cannabis industry five years ago knowing that it would become such an integral part of my life. I’d used cannabis recreationally for many years and always knew there was something to it beyond giggling and getting the munchies. I got my card to help with pain from a yoga injury. I was a yoga and meditation teacher, and planned to continue studying the healing arts. I had no idea that cannabis itself would become such a force for healing, or that it would complement my other interests so beautifully.
I began to see for myself how healing this plant can be to so many. I came to hear – again and again – testimonials about difficult symptoms and serious illnesses being managed and even reversed with cannabis medicine. I started learning about our beautiful endocannabinoid system (Relevant Sidenote: my spellcheck is still underlining endocannabinoid! We still are so early into all of this that my operating system doesn’t know what do do with it!). I read more and more about the cannabinoids, the terpenes, and how, through the miraculous ‘entourage effect,’ they all work together synergistically to make the medicine even more effective.
I also began to work with patients on developing treatment plans that they then made their own, adjusted as they felt was right, and reported their discoveries back to me. This feedback loop in itself has been tremendously healing for me and for others around me. We’re all learning from each other, since cannabis is still STILL! demonized by the federal government. The plant has made me her own, and I will forever believe in her. I invite you to allow her into your life, too. Microdose her, or saturate with her, and watch the shifts in your health and in your consciousness.
As this movement continues to grow, keep in mind that people everywhere are being drawn to the plant. There will soon be many more new workers entering the industry, as we move into adult use in California in January, so be sure to bring your patience and compassion with you when you come to the dispensary.
And, should you ever feel like your questions are not being answered, or that you’re not getting the attention you need, don’t take it personally. Ask to speak to the sales manager. If you still feel like your needs are not being met, go to another dispensary. Do your research. Check out reviews on YELP. Find out where the best people are near you. Read up! Research! Take responsibility for your health. Keep. Going. Don’t give up. If you honor your own journey, you’ll be surprised and delighted at the people that show up to support you.
Blessings to you and your loved ones for Thanksgiving. I’m so grateful for the healing power of cannabis, for all those who lovingly tend it, and for the this moment we share in time!
You don’t want to be high? THC might not be as scary as you think.
Every day, patients new to cannabis — or returning to cannabis after a long hiatus, (say since college) — come into the dispensary and up to my window and say they need pain relief; and then they follow that up with, “But I don’t want to be high.” I thank them for coming in and we discuss the benefits of cannabis.
It’s astounding to me sometimes, because many people coming to cannabis have been on opiates for pain for years. Some have been cut off by their doctors and are experiencing severe withdrawals. I want to scream, “LAY OFF OF THC, ALREADY! Those opioids have been making you high ALL ALONG!”
Admittedly, I’m protective of cannabis and the bad rap it’s been given by the same system that for more than a decade overprescribes opioids, has evolved to spend as much as 19 times more money marketing pharmaceuticals than researching their safety, gauges patients with prices as much as five times higher than European markets (under the false guise that these premiums offset the research costs… WHAT?!), gets patients addicted to them despite (and by downplaying) their risks, and then abandons them when they become addicted and worse, and shuns them as ‘drug seekers,’ or desperate addicts.
But I don’t yell at these patients. They’ve been through the wringer already. And that’s not why I do what I do. The spirit of cannabis is one of empathy. Cannabis users look out for one another. A certain sense of community comes along with using this medicine. We’re here to help each other. These patients deserve respect and compassion. They’ve been manipulated and they are suffering.
In the last week, I’ve helped four people in the throes of major opiate withdrawal. All were barely hanging on, (you read that right), and were in severe distress with their withdrawal — deep depression, muscle cramping, nausea, cravings and insomnia ON TOP OF their pain. All of them were in tears and felt ashamed for being in this place — when it all started they were just following doctors’ recommendations.
Kicking these damn drugs is not easy at all. A friend who is currently going through opiate recovery with the help of cannabis said she was told at her rehab center that it takes 18 months to get opiates out of your system. Relapse is a very real threat. One study from 2010 reports that 91% of people trying to get off opiates will experience a relapse.
Okay. You don’t want to be high. Fair enough. You don’t have to be high. There is CBD, which is non-psychoactive and has been shown to block the opioid reward center in mice, which makes withdrawals more manageable.
There are the acids — CBDA, THCA. You can microdose THC, which could help your pain, but chances are, if you’ve been dealing with severe, chronic pain and have been using opiates, you’re most likely going to need more than microdoses of THC. A couple of years ago, I threw out my neck. I couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t move without throwing up. It was a fast and furious education for this budtender on just how bad pain can be.
The ONLY thing that made it better was Full Extract Cannabis Oil – also known as FECO, which is a name I’m not really fond of, for obvious reasons. Kidding aside, this is the strongest stuff we sell at the dispensary. The starting dose is a dot – – half the size of a grain of rice. The stuff is highly psychoactive; normally I would not take it. But. At that level of pain I was in (8 or 9 on a scale of 1-10), taking the FECO didn’t make me feel high. It just made me able to move.
I don’t know your sensitivity to THC, or your tolerance. I can give you some guidelines, but you’ll need to play around a bit to find out where your comfort level is. You’ll need to pay attention. And even if you’re being mindful, sometimes exploring what works for you may mean you’ll get high. Remember the three things I mentioned in #3 ThCB —
If you find yourself uncomfortably high:
- Tell yourself that it will pass (because it will, I promise)
- Surround yourself with things you love, and
- Go to sleep.
So what does it feel like to be high?
I decided to record my experience of smoking cannabis in real time to better familiarize the non-familiar. It was a late afternoon on my day off and I was home alone. (Ed Note: vaporizing high-grade, Clean Green Certified flower in a personal vaporizer like a Firefly 2, or VapeXhale EVO is the best, cleanest, and most ideal delivery; I am not a fan of cheap vape pens, Newbie, so don’t come around here looking for my endorsement.)
I make a note of my pain levels, which is something I always recommend to patients. Keep a journal! Rate your symptoms before each dose! This will help you dial in just the right dosage. My chronic neck pain is at about a 3-4. My muscles are sore from a great personal training session, I give my arms and abs about a 2-3. I’m at about a 4 with my leg fatigue and plantar fasciaitis. I write all this down in my cannabis journal, along with the date and time, the medicine I will be using and the method of delivery – Orange 43, a hybrid strain, in my short lead-free glass bong. I prefer the bong because the water cools the smoke.
Here’s the play by play:
I load a small bowl (I’m a microdoser across the board), light and hit it, inhale and blow the smoke out almost immediately. (You don’t have to hold it in, as we once believed. THC is absorbed almost immediately upon inhaling.) I cough a little. Not much. I get a drink of water.
1 minute in, my arms feel tingly and a little bit heavy. I drink more water. It is a little funny to be watching myself in this way. My heart rate has gone up just a bit.
2.5 minutes in, I feel a little tingling in the back of my head.
3 minutes in, I am noticing an expanded sensory experience.
The crow cawing outside the window in front of my desk has such a beautiful, almost robotic sound to it. I’ve noticed it on other days. It’s strange. I’m sure he’s been cawing for awhile today, judging from the annoyance in is voice. I just hadn’t really noticed until now. Do crows have voices?
I can hear the traffic of the 880. The low whine of the BART train, the wind in the trees outside my window. A jet in the distance.
4 minutes in, I’m feeling … what I would describe as grateful — for this day, this moment. The THC has effectively crossed the blood brain barrier and dopamine is being released. I do a quick scan of my body. It feels good. I don’t detect any tension. Neck is moving more freely. No real pain number to record. Arms and abs are noticeable but not uncomfortable. Maybe a 1. My legs don’t feel tired and the plantar fasciaitis is slightly noticeable when I roll it on the roller. That feels really good. I write down these experiences in my journal. It’s a cute journal with kittens on the cover.
4.5 minutes in , continuing with this gratitude, I feel the tingliness in my whole body. There is a butterfly outside my window. I type without looking at the screen so I an watch it flit around.
5.5 minutes in, there is a familiarity about this feeling. Like a return to myself.
6.0 minutes in, I notice I am less focused on the workaday things that have been heavy on my mind of late. I feel … freer. More free. Yet, connected. Again birds singing in the distance call my attention. I take a nice deep breath. I can smell the perfume of the flowers in the garden below.
7.0 minutes in, I am enjoying the way the keyboard feels against my fingers. The pleasant clicking of the keys. For a moment, I imagine this blog completed, posted, without the trials of WordPress bogging me DOWN. I laugh at the way I said bogging me down out loud, and how I denoted it by using caps.
For the first time since lighting up, I realize the phone lock has gone on. I had been pretty connected to the phone until now, because I’m using the stopwatch. But I have to unlock it. Hold on a second…
9:30 minutes in, I enjoyed using my left hand to unlock the phone, despite its limited dexterity. But it’s always getting better at doing things when I let it. Becoming conscious of my body is part of this experience. Feeling it and being forgiving about it. Noticing tension and also ease. This is the connectedness to the body that has people seeking out dance, hiking, or yoga; it’s also the feeling that has companies marketing cannabis sex-aids.
10:55 minutes in, I am enjoying this feeling. I’m hungry for my lunch. — It was already warmed up before I started this post. Now it is calling my name.
Oh. There was a title I just came up with for this post and it was good but I forgot it already. Dang it. It seemed brilliant, but now it’s gone…
Oh — Anatomy of a High!
It is good, except it might limit my ability to share it on certain social media platforms. As a side note, the dispensary where I work had its Instagram account closed AGAIN. What is UP WITH THAT?!
…Sometimes, I’ll know that the high is kicking in first due to the fact that I can’t find: 1. my phone. — I once lost my phone in my own boot, which I was wearing — 2. my keys — this is a bummer for me, but I recently installed cute little hooks by the door AND found a purse with an amazing pocket for keys, so hopefully I’m set or at least moving toward set; in honesty, I sometimes also misplace my purse. sad face emoji. 3. phone. Okay. I said phone but I meant water bottle. I could have edited this out, but this is an experiment. I said one word out loud. But I see the right thing in my head. This is about the time my boyfriend would say, “High, Jaene!”
The phone has locked again, but lefty didn’t get the job because I was in a hurry to eat my lunch.
17:35 minutes in, I take a bite of my leftover enter name of soup here later.* It smells delicious. I take another bite. There are nuances of flavors I didn’t notice when I first ate it at the restaurant. I’m not sure what it is – I’m not terrific at sussing out what spices are in a dish – but the broth is creamy and the noodles are cooked perfectly. I look at it. It’s not so much to look at, kind of monotone beige, including the hardboiled egg which has been in the soup for 24 hours. *Oh Noh Kauswer Soup from Burma Superstar. Mmmm.
The passcode was needed again to check the stopwatch. Lefty did it this time, but forgot how. But it’s okay. This happens with the phone even when I’m not high, using my right hand. I push the home button then swipe to the left instead of pushing the home button again and entering my passcode. It occurs to me that since it’s my day off from work and I’m hanging at home, I could turn the passcode off. It’s a good idea but not right now. I’m on a roll.
I find a hair in my delicious soup. I convince myself that it is mine and say quietly — shit happens. Because it does. I throw the hair out — it really does look like my own — and sit back down to the soup.
The boyfriend’s face pops on the phone. It is cute. He is calling from out of town, interrupting this experiment. I decide to let it go to voicemail — what voicemail? My mailbox is always full. Ugh.
24:19 minutes in, I will do this again later. Right now, I’m hungry and I want to watch Netflix. One day, I’ll write for a show. I scroll through the menu. I decide to watch Portlandia — new episodes! I don’t see the show regularly, but I decide to smoke another bowl and watch. It’s short and it’ll be fun.
25:30 minutes in, I’m aware of warm tingling sensations around my back. Also aware of constricting jeans. I change to shorts. It’s my day off. I do a little day-off dance.
I choose to get another glass of water instead of getting a glass of wine — not because it would be too much work, (as I am suddenly feeling the urge to defend stoners from stereotypes) — but because I feel it’s a healthier choice at this particular, beautiful moment. Often, with cannabis, I make healthier choices, which is, I know, contrary to popular belief. With cannabis, my body and I are in closer communication. But, no lie, I sometimes will choose ice cream over a protein bar.
28:22 minutes in, I load another bowl and load the show.
I think that I am kind of clever.
I admire the smoking setup that my boyfriend left for me. He is a doll. I am lucky.
I smell the weed as I open the jar. I bought the Orange 43 Hybrid because of the terpene profile — the way it smelled to me — it’s also high in THC. Even though I’ve managed to keep my tolerance down, I do enjoy higher THC percentages. At small tiny bowls, I can have a couple of them and enjoy the experience without feeling “too high.”
I check the stop watch on my phone. Oh, yeah – I had already turned it off. I decide to start it again.
I start it and take the hit. I cough a little. These are tiny hits, remember…
I clean the bowl out, the way my boyfriend has taught me. Ooh! The cursor just jumped up and I Ooed. The blinds rattle a bit, as though they’re in on the joke. The soup is kind of cold now. I force myself to eat it so it won’t go to waste, keeping my eye out for more hair. I start the show.
What’s her name is really cute in the promo photo.
I realize this is the pilot. I’m cracking up. There is a song — the Dream of the 90s is Alive in Portland. Portland. Portland
Now the theme song. I love it. I want it to go on forever!
Carrie Bronstein! That’s her name.
I watch the technology loop sketch. I feel just like that guy. I realize this show is made for stoners. The final scene freaks me out a little.
The next scene starts – it takes place in the Women & Women First Bookstore – I snort a little at Fred Armisen’s first line, “Campuchuchuchuchu Tea.” I have a lot of fun typing that out. As I take my empty soup bowl to rinse out in the sink, it occurs to me that I have to add that in. It was decidedly a stoner snort. Not a usual laugh, but kind of like Tina Fey’s laugh at the beginning of 30 Rock, only with sound. Tina Fey, I stop to note, is brilliant. I say brilliant out loud and shake my head, mildly annoyed by it.
I think it’s important here to note that Fred Armisen is hella funny. I stop to think that it is funny that I have actually dropped the term hella on occasion because it fits, when at first, as a gramophone, I was disgusted by it. Not gramophone. Haha! Gramaphile. *Not gramaphile, either. Grammerphile. So much for being one of those.
37:19 in, I suddenly have a flash of somewhere I was on a European trip. I think it was when we first got to Venice. We were so lost and exhausted, after taking an amazing overnight sleeper car from Paris. WHICH I RECOMMEND YOU DO IN YOUR LIFETIME. We were jet lagged, so happened to wake up just as we were passing Lake Geneva and the full moon lit up the sky and the water. It was glorious. I think of my ex, Dan, and how fun that trip was even though he refused to learn any of the languages (Croatian, French, Italian) and just decided, if someone asked him something in Italian, he’d just shrug his shoulders animatedly and say, “Affogato!”
45:12 minutes in, I go to the bathroom to retrieve my snuggy house socks. I know snuggy isn’t a word, but I like it. I choose to ignore the autocorrect and the dotty red line under it in this program. I put on the snuggy house socks and wonder as I type if house socks might be a compound word. I type it out house socks. Nope. Autocorrect made it two words. Still, I think it should be… Anyway, my feet were cold. I get a little cold when I smoke cannabis. My feet and hands especially. Cannabis can lower blood pressure. I footnote these things I will add to later, just so the flow of my highness is uninterrupted. I enjoy how awesome it feels to say/type My Highness.)
55:00 minutes in, I wonder for a moment if this is a silly post and whether I will be judged harshly for it. I am well aware it could be really annoying for people to read. But it’s an experiment and it’s for patients who are canna-curious, but are hesitant because they don’t know what to expect. So I don’t care! 🙂
This is a thing I do when I have cannabis, I get really clear on what I don’t care about. Often it involves other people’s opinions about me, my work, or my intentions. If I’m misunderstood, which we all so regularly are, I don’t care. I am grateful for this life, this existence. I’ll do what makes me happy.
I notice the soft whispy sound my feather earring makes. I wonder if whispy might even become a word someday. The show is now over.
I decide to go walk in our herb garden. I pull some clogs on over my snuggy socks. I am a sight for sore eyes. I laugh at myself and head down the back stairs.
I am sad about the cilantro. But encouraged by how the strawberry and chive thrive. Chive thrive. Again, I chuckle at myself.
It’s been a little over an hour now.
On the way up the stairs in the front of the building, I stop to look out on Oakland and the light at the end of the day. I see a man with a walker and a really painful limp walking a few steps to a car. In a flash, I try on what that limp must feel like and then I yell down: “Do you need help with anything?” He doesn’t look up. He is concentrating, putting the walker in the back of his car, holding onto the car to get to the driver’s door. “No thanks! he says to the roof of his car, “but I appreciate the offer.”