Budtender Spotlight: Katrina Johnston

How and when did you become a budtender?

I was in between a rock and a hard place, I was working mediocre jobs, and I realized, “Oh shoot, cannabis has been legal for almost a year now, what am I doing?” I got really ambitious from there. I called every single store in Eugene and asked who was hiring, but initially I did not get the job at Next Level. I was trained at The Greener Side, which is the oldest dispensary in Eugene, and the way that I was taught, numbers weren’t the focus. I was learning all about the growth process. I would spend hours cruising the computer, reading articles and talking to customers and vendors. When the industry was developing and there were so many unknowns, every day was a challenge because you had to learn how to package properly, how to hand it out and understand what weights were. But since cannabis law is always changing, there are new changes happening every 3 to 7 days, you don’t what law you might break so you have to be careful.

I was in between a rock and a hard place, I was working mediocre jobs, and I realized, “Oh shoot, cannabis has been legal for almost a year now, what am I doing?” I got really ambitious from there. I called every single store in Eugene and asked who was hiring, but initially I did not get the job at Next Level. I was trained at The Greener Side, which is the oldest dispensary in Eugene, and the way that I was taught, numbers weren’t the focus. I was learning all about the growth process. I would spend hours cruising the computer, reading articles and talking to customers and vendors. When the industry was developing and there were so many unknowns, every day was a challenge because you had to learn how to package properly, how to hand it out and understand what weights were. But since cannabis law is always changing, there are new changes happening every 3 to 7 days, you don’t what law you might break so you have to be careful.

What was it like the first time you got high?

The first time I got high, I smoked a homemade gravity bong, and I got blasted. I wasn’t scared at all, I was like this is cool — I was a much happier person. As a seasoned Oregonian, I also remember the first time I hit oil, we called it honey oil, and I remember I could not talk for 2 hours after that. When you’re young, you have all these other emotions going on and when you’re high on top of that and it can be a lot. I was young, but I was one of those people who had anxiety as a kid. I switched high schools and was having panic attacks every morning, and I ended up doing better in school after I found cannabis. It’s funny because I was an above and beyond student and I was so high a lot of the time. Cannabis is such a diverse product, that it’s not one size fits all. I’m one of those people who can do their coffee and their cannabis and then plow through shit.

How do you approach recommending a product to a customer?

That can be a really fun adventure simply because it’s an opportunity to learn. You ask yourself, what is this person like, and why might something work for them. You instantly go through your mind and think about every customer that’s been similar, so it’s like, cool, I’m in to learn something and they’re in to learn something. And it’s a win-win. We are experts simply because of our customers or else we would have nothing to gain. I have learned so many things about the world of cannabis through talking to people. I always want customers to come back and tell me how a product worked for them.

What do you look for in a strain?

It’s weird the different kinds of smells you look for depending on where you’re at in your life. Currently I absolutely love indicas. I’m looking for the body high, I’m looking to get out of my head. But I am a non-discriminate user because I believe more in the genetics effects rather than whether it’s an indica, sativa, or hybrid. Because there are so many different things going on with a plant, you can’t base your preferences off those categories because sometimes a super purple indica has me cleaning my entire fucking house. These are classification and scales that legal states have created, but there’s no universal measure, and that’s when budtending becomes really difficult.

Best part about budtending? Worst part?
Getting that real personal connection with a customer, whether it be enlightening someone who hasn’t done this before, finding something that works, or just finding someone who you connect with who wants to learn and have an open mind. And the downfall can be that so many people don’t take selling weed seriously. But learning acceptance in yourself and others is what has helped me not worry about that. Either you let it run you or you run it.

What do you think is special about Next Level Wellness?
Next Level Wellness is the best company I have worked with, and I’ve worked with plenty of other dispensaries. I wanted to work in a place where I had room to grow and Next Level is this diverse place that allows me to do that. They’re really involved in the community, they do all sorts of cool events that I get to be a part of.

Favorite way to consume?
If I didn’t have asthma, I prefer flower all day every day. The effects of a flower are just so pure that when you do all these other things with it, it gets lost. Right now, my favorite way to consume is edibles. I’ve been digging macarons.

What’s one stereotype about cannabis users that isn’t true?
Who uses cannabis. We’re having a lot of the elderly community come in, who grew up with Reefer Madness, asking what they can take in place of opioids for many reasons. It’s really amazing to be a part of that because you’ve opened somebody’s eyes to something that they would have never ever considered and it can help them. Selling weed is really fun, but working with people you know you know you’re helping is the whole fun.

What’s your favorite activity to do while high?

My favorite thing to do is a have a good conversation where everybody’s laughing. I like being comedic and doing improv and creating crazy stories with my brilliant friends. And there’s nothing better than laughing your hardest and purest. Everybody has their version of That 70’s Show that they remember, sitting in a circle with their friends — because you can’t not be in a circle. Stoners are always in a circle, man.

Favorite thing to munch on while high?
Typically candy always. But there is nothing better than a burrito. My favorite thing to do on my day off was what I call, Sundazed and Confused. Every Sunday I would get a burrito, watch Dazed and Confused, and get stoned.

What accessory or paraphernalia do you like to use?
This bong that has an electric nail that stays at a certain temperature all the time. That way you get a better flavor profile, and since I can’t smoke flower anymore, it allows me to get the full benefits from that plant. It makes me feel one step higher in the cannabis world.
When you’re not here, what might you be doing?
There’s nothing more that I enjoy in this world than making a meal for a group of people. I bake very well, and I also like cooking. Cannabis bring people together and so do meals. You’re required to just sit and enjoy your food and nobody strays away from that moment. You talk about life and you get to enjoy a meal.

Budtender Spotlight: Bridget Gavin of River Valley Remedies

How and when did you become a budtender?

I started out in April of 2015 working for Joe and Chelsea Hopkins at The Greener Side. Bloom Hill Botanicals, my family’s cannabis farm, provided The Greener Side with some flower and I jumped at the opportunity to work one-on-one with patients. I’m indescribably grateful for them and the opportunity to work as a budtender just as adult-use legalization became a reality in Oregon. I wanted to broaden my experience within the cannabis industry, and because of that I’ve worked with several different brands. Over time, I took positions at Cannabliss’ the Sorority House and Green Health. All the while, I was still actively a part of Bloom Hill Botanicals. I finally found my fit for budtending in River Valley Remedies, and I really feel as though I’ve won the employment lottery working here.

What was it like the first time you got high?

I felt all the constantly incoming stimuli from my anxiety suddenly become very orderly and manageable. I was in a safe space with people I trusted. Because I grew up in the area, the cannabis was a really good quality too. It was like I went from staring at a Jackson Pollock to a fractal. Everything had a lot more order to it.

What’s one funny or weird customer interaction you’ve had?

I once had an older gentleman ask me where my ruderalis was at because all the real growers knew that was the best stuff out there. Ruderalis is another taxonomy of cannabis, like indica or sativa, and it’s usually associated with high fiber and low cannabinoid output.

How do you approach recommending a product to a customer?

Questions, questions, questions! I start by genuinely asking them how their day is going. Making the consumer feel welcome and connected with is essential to getting honest answers to questions relating to cannabis and how and why they use it. What’s your desired effect is probably the question I ask most behind the counter. Some consumers will have really specific end results they’re looking for and some are just looking for the current staff favorite. Budtending often requires unpacking incomplete information a consumer picked up online or from prohibition area, so getting to know the consumers baseline is really important. It all starts with being an engaged listener.

What’s one stereotype about cannabis users that’s true? What’s one that’s false?

If working in weed has taught me anything, it’s that the only guaranteed commonality between cannabis users is that they use cannabis. The people I get to help in a day represent such a wide array of life experiences I don’t think that there’s a particular stereotype that rings true for all or even most of them.

What do you look for in a strain?

Mostly smell. When I’m on the consumer side of the counter, I’m the person who wants to smell every jar. I also like to look into the producer and the genetic lineage of the strain. If a strain has a terpene profile available to look at that is always a huge plus for me. I make a note to look out for that producer at other shops in the future.

What’s special about this shop?

Education! There is a constant push for education of our staff which leads to education and empowerment of for our consumers. We aren’t just looking to push you into the trendiest product or highest THC. We really want you to be in control of your experience and getting the most out of using cannabis. Looking at cannabis not just as a single active ingredient but a medicinally beneficial plant containing thousands of compounds is at the heart of understanding cannabis’ full potential.

Best part about the job? Worst part?

I think the answer to both questions is the same, the people. Getting to know and help so many people is deeply rewarding; however, because cannabis is such a life-changing substance for people, the stories they share can be very emotional and even draining at times. However, hearing about someone being able to manage the side effects of their chemotherapy or the symptoms of their MS makes all of the emotional investment worth it.

Favorite way to consume?

I love a good clean bong rip, although a joint is my method of choice when in a group. I also have a medicine cabinet full of tinctures. The founder of Sativa Science Club, Mary Jane Poppins, has talked about how tinctures capture a particular strain at a particular harvest in a way that preserves it well for future enjoyment and I couldn’t agree more. Tinctures can almost be akin to vintages of wine in that way.

What’s your favorite munchie food or favorite thing to do while high?

My favorite activity for partaking is probably playing my ukulele or knitting. I really like to get creative when consuming.

What accessory or paraphanelia do you like to use?

My bong and I have been together for a while.

When I’m not here, I’m…

Usually helping out at Bloom Hill. When I finally get a moment away from the cannabis world I like to get my loved ones together for a nice meal.

Are you high right now?

Not necessarily, although I did take my CBD capsule this morning. It’s like my multivitamin, I try to never forget it.