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.