Budtender Spotlight: Richard Flores

Richard Flores Educates Consumers Through His Collectible Cannabis Cards

Written by Lizzy Solorzano, Designed by Liz Blodgett – BIPOC Edition, 2024.

It is not just the green from the trees that Oregon is known for, but rather the specific green that gets everyone highly excited. Oregon, home of the Trail Blazers, was one of the quicker states to legalize recreational cannabis in 2014, and the Eugene cannabis market has some of the lowest prices for ‘high’ quality weed. 

“Weed will sell itself,” said Richard Flores, a budtender at Apothca dispensary. “There’s little work that I have to do to get it out, but I take that little window to tell people that there’s a better product that may be healthier to take… one that they might not know about.” 

In the ever-evolving landscape of the cannabis market, dispensary shelves are filled with an assortment of possibilities for safe and responsible experimentation with cannabis. According to Flores, Delta-8 THC has become more popular, as it comes in vape cartridges and edibles. Delta-8 shows benefits against nausea, anxiety and pain, according to the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. However, as Alexandra Arnett reported in an article for Green Eugene in 2021, the process of isomerization may be producing unsafe byproducts that could be harmful to someone’s health. The majority of Delta-8 on the market is made using isomerization, which is the chemical process of converting cannabinoid compositions into new configurations. These types of complexities or misinformation are key components to why budtenders’ roles in the industry are crucial. Flores is working on a project to provide digestible and visually appealing information to consumers. 

Younger consumers are more likely to get their cannabis knowledge from their friends or through previous experiences with outdated drug prevention programs and zero-tolerance policies, such as D.A.R.E., rather than real awareness campaigns that teach safety. 

Dispensaries increase cannabis awareness through employees informing customers about what is healthiest for the consumer when purchasing cannabis products. “I think there’s a lot of fun around weed and everyone wants to get high with their friends and have a good time,” Flores said. “I think that’s all fine and dandy, but also there’s a huge aspect of cannabis that is medicinal and can be more than beneficial, even life-changing to some.” 

The cannabis market is still relatively new, with recreational legalization of cannabis in Oregon starting in 2014. Various forms of cannabis are not federally legal and thus lack approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two common compounds in cannabis, but according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “The products being sold in dispensaries currently are not subject to Food and Drug Administration standards and are not purely isolated cannabinoids; they are therefore not reliable in their potency/concentration of CBD or THC, or the inclusion of other ingredients.” 

Flores decided to fill an opportunity in the market with The Vinyl Trap which creates collectible holographic vinyl sticker cards with information on different strains sold at Apothca. “This is a family business. Me, my dad and uncle get together to smoke and see what we can bring together,” Flores said. 

Similar to trading cards with mini graphic images, the stickers explain the effects and benefits in a digestible manner for those new to cannabis. He also sells them to other dispensaries to be sold to customers. Flores began designing the cards in 2022 and started with only 3 cards, but he recently completed an entire deck of 52.

“I feel like it’s only right that they are given the chance to learn,” Flores said. The cards include information about different strain lineages, flavors and effects. Flores hopes the details on the stickers might influence someone to make the best choice for their specific needs or desires. “And it just looks cool.” 

Utilizing his expertise in various cannabis strains as a budtender, and experience as an artist, Flores works his magic to transform his knowledge into a collectible card. Flores takes his own photos of cannabis and Photoshops them with a design specific to its attributes. Flores’ passion for art makes the cards standout. For example, his “Thug Life” card pays homage to Tupac, who can be seen in the background of the card. The “Horchata” card has the colors of the Mexican flag to represent its identity. 

The “Wesley’s Wish” card holds special significance for Flores, as it pays tribute to Wesley Howard, the older brother of the East Fork Cultivars Co-Founders Aaron and Nathan Howard. “Wesley’s Wish” is a CBD heavy strain that was created to highlight the medicinal side of cannabis. Born with Neurofibromatosis, Wesley Howard managed his symptoms with CBD until his sudden passing from complications.

“When I researched a strain of cannabis flower that was given to me as a sample, I found this page about a young man who was an inspiration to his friends and family. After reading about Wesley, I wanted to create a sticker design that would be beautiful and inspiring, like Wesley. I kept it simple; a smile on a bright star, with bright beautiful colors to represent his family and the love they shared,” Flores said.

According to Flores, he receives ample positive feedback from customers saying they learned a lot. He is commonly referred to as ‘The Sticker Guy.’ 

“A lot of people come in asking for a strain, curious about the genealogy behind that strain, to which I’ll just open my book and it’s right there,”  Flores said, revealing his galaxy-patterned card book, displaying shimmering cards with vibrant graphics that come to life with each flip of the page. “This feels a lot more personal. We make that connection because I have that knowledge right here in my hands.” According to Flores, the most rewarding part of the process is seeing his sticker cards pasted around Eugene, such as on Eugene Weekly’s red newspaper boxes or pasted onto someone’s boat. 

Collectible informative stickers serve as an example for dispensaries to educate their consumers, and while it serves as a business opportunity, it is an opportunity teach responsibility around cannabis consumption. Many new consumers are ready to contribute to the market, and local dispensaries have an opportunity to educate and inform them about the benefits of certain cannabis products. 

Consumers can receive a personalized experience when they educate themselves on what benefits they’re striving for, and Flores is a great budtender that is happy to help kickstart that adventure. “The Sticker Guy” awaits at Apothca, ready to showcase his art and educate cannabis consumers.