Budtender Spotlight: Kendra Mode-Wolf of Jamaica Joel’s

Written and photographed by Alice Yeager 

How long have you been involved in the cannabis industry?

“Well, I’ve actually only been part of it for almost two months. I’ve known lots of people who were in medical cannabis. And I have done lots of retail before, and thought why don’t I step away from clothes retail and actually do fun retail. And I really like it. My friend’s dad owns this dispensary and that’s actually really awesome because I know almost everyone who works here. We all went to school together so that’s super fun, and everyone else I have met has been really awesome.”

What made you want to leave clothing retail and come to this industry specifically?

“Well you’re here to help a person find what they need and that’s it. There’s no weird, ‘you need to sell this much or do this or that’ you’re just here to help people find what they need and I really like that.”

What brings you joy in this job?

“I think all of the aspects of it really. I come in and get to talk to cool people all day. It’s just a fun time and there’s not really any aspect about it that I haven’t enjoyed so far.”

What is your favorite strain at the moment?

“It’s called strawberry guava, it smells so good. It smells like strawberries, like strawberry yogurt. It’s so delicious. And it feels really nice, like I can still function and do all the things that I need to do even though it’s an indica.”

How would you describe the cannabis culture in Eugene?

“It’s very diverse, we have the university here so it’s perfect there’s so many college kids that come in here all the time. But we also have older people that come in too, that are new to it and want to check it out and have questions, that’s always fun.”

What are some of your other interests outside of cannabis?

“I can be very artistic but it comes in waves. I started making my own Halloween costumes and outfits, so that’s really fun. I have lots of ideas. I just need to do it. I read lots of manga, and I like to play video games too.”

When did you start using cannabis?

“When I first started using cannabis it was mainly for sleep reasons. Insomnia runs in the family, so that was kind of the main purpose I started but now it’s just kind of part of my life.”

What are your future goals in the industry?

“I definitely want to stay in this industry, I also want to see what other things are out there besides working in a dispensary.”

Is there anything else you would like the community to know?

“If you’re new to it, don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. If you need to ask questions, ask the questions. Even if it feels stupid and if you feel embarrassed you can come here because everyone is just here to help you get what you need.”

Intersectional Relief

written by Guthrie Stafford, photographed by Connor Cox

As legalization sweeps the nation it becomes easier and easier to take the medicinal qualities of cannabis for granted. And yet, this progress is only possible because people with disabilities have fought tirelessly for the right to relief from mental and physical pain. I sat down with Sai Marie, a local cannabis user who lives with fibromyalgia, partial hearing loss, anxiety and depression, to learn more. We discussed medicinal cannabis, coming to terms with mental illness and Sai’s experience growing up as a biracial native woman. 

At 35, Sai Marie is an accomplished author of poetry, sci-fi and fantasy short stories as well as a mother of three. She radiates the confidence unique to published poets and sports a large turquoise necklace, a gift from her uncle. “From the Res,” she says. 

In the golden light of Café Roma, between sips of raspberry mocha, Sai tells me of a more challenging time in her life. She dropped out of high school so she could put more energy into motherhood, and then she went through a difficult divorce in her early twenties. Through all of it, Sai was suffering from depression as well as a mysterious, generalized pain she would later discover to be fibromyalgia. But when she sought relief from doctors, the pills they gave her robbed her of her passion for writing. “I’m a creative person,” says Sai. “I’ve taken Celexa, things like that. They made me feel zombified. That’s no way to operate. It’s existing, not really living.” 

Managing the balance between wanted and unwanted effects is a challenge when taking any medicinal drugs. And yet, side effects that change our sense of who we are, especially on an ongoing basis, are especially hard to accept. As Sai tells me, “The thing about my disabilities is that they’re constantly treatable; they’re not curable.” Unwilling to give up her art, and to a greater extent, her sense of identity, Sai Marie quit her prescriptions and started searching for an alternative. 

At 24, Sai Marie started using cannabis medicinally, but not without some initial hesitation. “There was a point in my life when I was totally against it,” she says. “You know, I was a nineties kid and D.A.R.E. was a big thing back then.” Although Sai had tried cannabis in her younger years, it took a close friend who was fighting cancer to convince her that it could be used as medicine. 

According to Sai, the choice to self-treat her fibromyalgia and depression with cannabis was less a matter of peer pressure and more of an empirical deduction. “I experienced the benefits myself so I can’t say that it doesn’t work. I’ve changed my life completely since then.” Much of this change has been Sai’s acceptance of mental illness and trauma as a permanent part of her, but not a defining part. “Cannabis allowed me to step outside of that emotional grey area, that gloomy cloud, and look at life and go, okay, this did happen, but it’s all about my perspective and what I want to do with my time.” For the kind of chronic conditions that Sai lives with, ultimate cures are not a possibility, but relief and perspective are. One factor in her choice take treatment into her own hands was growing up with a mother who defied disability stereotypes and encouraged her to explore native herbal medicine. 

Sai inherited genetic hearing loss from her mother, but she also inherited the confidence   to live with it proudly. As we talk she combs her hair behind her ear to reveal a hearing aid, pale and smooth as a shell. She still has about ten percent of her hearing, she tells me. Her mother had it much harder: a Cherokee girl growing up in the sixties in a silent world. “They wanted to send her to a special school. They put it in her head for a long time that that’s all she could do. Now she’s a psychologist, she’s a very successful woman. I had that as a mother to look up to.” Sai goes on to tell me how her mother made her conscious of her Cherokee heritage. “Since I was a little girl, it was very present in my life that I was biracial.” Part of this presence came in the form of native herbal medicine, a tradition that Sai’s mother taught her long before she conceived that cannabis might have a place in it. Turning towards the future, Sai wants to continue the practice of herbal self-treatment for her own children. But sometimes laws intervene. 

For Sai Marie’s adult children, the revolution in how we think about self treatment for pain can’t come soon enough. “My two boys are terminally ill,” Sai tells me. Both of them suffer from muscular dystrophy, a condition that slowly breaks down the skeletal muscles. CBD can help alleviate the chronic aching associated with this condition. “But they live in Tennessee, so they can’t get some of the benefits that they need. They kind of think it’s sad that they can’t have it.” Historically, Sai’s boys’ experience has been the rule rather than the exception. It’s only very recently, mainly thanks to people like Sai Marie raising their voices, that the ability to seek relief from chronic pain has been viewed as a right. And yet, now that the right to relief has taken root in the national consciousness, the swift pace of its adoption into mainstream culture gives Sai hope for a broader acceptance of disability and mental illness going forward. As Sai tells me, “If it starts as simply as giving someone a plant that can help them, then what can we do to change our world?”