Budtender Spotlight: Desirae Taylor from the Greener Side

Written and photographed by Jassy McKinley

What made you want to get into the cannabis industry?

Well originally my mom had a medical marijuana card, and she actually started getting her card in 2001. So I was about eleven or twelve years old then, and my parents weren’t shy about it being an open thing. Honestly, it helped my mom turn around 150 percent. She was a recovering alcoholic, and she still is eighteen years sober to this day. I think it’s partly because of marijuana. When I saw that it essentially saved her life in that aspect, it really got me to understand there is more to helping people than just pills and what the doctors prescribe on a daily basis. Twenty pills a day weren’t doing what one to two bowls of marijuana would do for her in that aspect of healing. So once I started getting into it right out of high school, I got my own medical marijuana card and started doing my own research. Eventually after getting into dispensaries as a medical patient, I got to know a lot of the owners. I got hooked up with one of the owners here in town at the Flower of Life originally and she hired me as a budtender. That was before it was recreationally legal. So I started as a medical budtender then became a recreational budtender and that was about 6 years ago.

Would you say your mom shaped the way you got into the industry?

Absolutely. I’ve seen what she’d been through, I’ve seen it all too commonly. Looking at it from a medical standpoint, it’s definitely fueled my way of looking into more natural resources as far as treating people in the medical industry and stepping away from pharmaceuticals. I personally don’t take any pharmaceuticals. I treat it all with marijuana. You read about these diseases, and then you look at what marijuana has done for those people. When you see these stories and hear them over and over again and you’ve seen it for yourself, you can’t deny those results. They may not come from a scientist or a doctor necessarily, but when you have a person stand in front of you who had a death sentence three years ago you have to wonder, how?

What is your favorite strain of all time?

My favorite strain of all time would be white widow, if i had to pick just one. There’s something about the taste, the smell, the high. It all around compliments me and who I am, and the type of high I enjoy at the end of the day.

When did you first try Cannabis? Could you walk me through your experience?

Despite my parents growing in my house I didn’t actually try it until I was eighteen. I wanted to wait, a lot of the kids were peer-pressuring so I was around it and I was aware of it but it happened to be with a group of friends. It was an interesting experience because it was like ten of us in this group, so I don’t think I really got stoned at that point because everyone was passing it around so maybe I got like one hit off of the bowl. A week later I smoked a joint with a friend and it was just between the two of us, and that’s when I really got stoned for the first time. I lived in a small town so we smoked at the boat dock and right after we had finished a cop rolled up and I was so stoned. My friend had smoked before so they were fine but I was just staring at the cop and he was asking me if I was okay. My friends were like “she’s fine! she’s fine! she’s tired!” I was just thinking how much trouble I could have been in.

How long have you been a budtender?

In the broader span of being a budtender, I did take a little bit of a break in the six years for about four to five years I took maternity leave. But for the greener side I’ve been here for about 2 years.

What would you say is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding and favorite part of my job is the people. Being able to interact with them and have that relationship that I have with them is my favorite part. When you spend 40 hours a week away from your family this becomes your 2nd family.

Have you experienced any challenges/successes lately? 

The challenges haven’t been as big lately I feel the industry has really taken a jump forward, especially since COVID has happened. That might seem a little weird to some people but budtending has sped up for sure.

What would you want people to know about being a budtender?

 Some people think it’s kind of an easier job since you just sell weed but I think that’s what kind of sets our dispensary apart, because here we want to be knowledgeable and we want to know about the products. Don’t be shy, be picky about what you want because that’s what your budtender is there to do for you.

What is something you take pride in your dispensary?

 We take pride in definitely what we order and what goes on the shelf. We care about what everyone is getting, we double check everything we put out, and we don’t want to put stems in there. We want to make sure if we wouldn’t buy it then we wouldn’t sell it to the public. That’s another thing I love about it here.

What do you hope to see in the future for the cannabis industry?

 Legality across the board is number one and I think a lot of people can agree with that, and I’m talking federally legal. It’s definitely keeping the pharmaceuticals on the board, and from having marijuana being discovered for taking care of tumors and cancer elements.

Do you have a favorite quarantine munchie?

 Ben and Jerry’s jamoca ice cream had me there for a couple of months. I think that’s what contributed to my ten pounds from quarantine.

Is there anything you would like the community to know?

It’s a really fun industry. Anyone thinking to get into it and you’ve been second guessing yourself: don’t. Just go for it, I kind of did and I am not regretting it. Now ten years after  thinking back to all the college applications I was doing, what career I was getting pushed into. I realized I was settling for something  I wasn’t really passionate about and when you’re passionate about something you love that makes every day your job. If you want to get into the industry now is the time to definitely get in and start doing it before the rest of the United States takes off. Opportunities are waiting especially for the rest of them around the corner and I know there’s a ton of states on the ballot for medical and recreational marijuana this year here in a couple of weeks. So definitely get out there and vote! Your voice definitely matters at this point in time if you want to see marijuana become the way of the future, it’s just a matter of time. We could use all the voices.

Humans of Cannabis

written by Alexandra Arnett @calyx.alex

The cannabis industry is a place where many people from all different walks of life come together, for the cannabis plant. We’d like to take this opportunity to give the people behind the scenes of the cannabis industry a voice so that they can tell us their stories. 

Sue Carlson – Sue is the founder of The Botanical Joint, a hemp farm located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Sue prides herself on being one of the only Latina craft hemp farmers in Oregon!

Instagram: @thebotanicaljoints

For the longest time, I was always fascinated with cannabis and my dream was to always work with cannabis. My friend from college was one of the first people to introduce me to working with the cannabis plant. She also helped me make connections in the industry in Oregon. Working on the medical side of the cannabis industry also allowed me to pay for four years of schooling in full. I began work with a cannabis chocolate company as a chocolatier and then moved onto another position making another line for a company. After working with edibles for a while, I moved into farming at Oregon Girl Gardens. It wasn’t more than two months into the job when the greenhouse caught on fire, and my whole life suddenly felt like it was in shambles. Here I was apprenticing under arguably one of the best female cannabis growers in Oregon and then in a quick moment, it was gone. 

After this, I decided to start consulting again and was feeding my garden—emotionally and physically—and giving it the nutrients I needed at the time. During this time, I also noticed the lack of quality hemp products on the market and as a medical patient, it was important to me that other patients had worthwhile medicine. This helped me develop the business that I have today cultivating premium hemp CBD products. 

My favorite strain that is currently in cultivation includes Orange Glaze, which to me is the closest resemblance to cannabis in effect. It has a very citrus and diesel aroma and taste, something you don’t see on the hemp CBD market often, if at all.

One thing that I aim to do in my business is to bring attention to minorities in the cannabis industry. I myself am Latina and Native American, so this is a very important component to me. Knowing and seeing people I love like my brother, uncles and aunt go to prison for a plant was devastating. As someone with a public health degree, I make it a priority to support out the efforts of minorities in the cannabis industry, specifically minority females.

Budtender Spotlight: Micheal Blye of Chalice

written by Kimberly Harris

1)    Where do you work and how long have you worked there? 

I work at Chalice, a dispensary in Tigard, Oregon. I’ve worked there since February 2019, so for about 16 months. I’m a senior employee, which means I’ve worked there the longest. 

2) Do you have any past budtending experience? 

Working at Chalice is my first job as a budtender. I got my OLCC license in the Portland area, but a lot of places want a full year of experience. It was hard for me to break into the industry at first, because how was I supposed to get a year of experience without being hired first? Chalice is pretty good about onboarding people without prior experience. 

3) Why did you want to work as a budtender? 

I have work experience in retail and customer service, but I wasn’t passionate about working at a clothing or food place. I transferred to budtending to follow my passion for cannabis. Working in customer service gave me the experience I need to work with people and sell products as a budtender. 

4) Why are you passionate about cannabis? 

I’ve been using cannabis for most of my life. I enjoy the relaxation benefits as well as how it makes me appreciate things in life more. If I’m stuck in a mental rut, cannabis helps me gain a renewed perspective of life and the things I go through in my life. Cannabis also enhances the things I’m already interested in like listening to music and watching films. 

5) What are your main responsibilities as a budtender? 

I’m there to help people make more informed decisions about the products they want to use. Especially for people who don’t have that much experience or tolerance. It can be overwhelming for a first-time customer to get into cannabis if they don’t have someone to guide them. 

6) How do you guide customers? 

Asking questions like, “what are you hoping to get out of your cannabis use?” or “what issues do you want cannabis to help with?” is how I guide customers. I try to help them hit their “goldilocks zone” which is the just-right feeling of enjoyment and relief. Whether it’s for medical or rec purposes, I give help guide them to the high that they want to experience. 

7) Do you use your personal experience to help guide customers, or has Chalice trained you to help guide them? 

 I’ve been a certain type of cannabis user throughout my life. As someone who’s been using it for 15 years, for anxiety and psychological relief, or just to feel the pleasure of a high, I have a lot of experience to help gude customers. I can relate to the different reasons that customers want to use cannabis. 

8) What’s something you like about working as a budtender?

It’s nice to meet a bunch of new people and get to know what they are all about. I meet a variety of people with a variety of experiences with cannabis. I like to know their knowledge or their tolerance to figure out how to best guide them to a product that they will enjoy. It’s like trying to find the right pieces to fit together in a puzzle – it’s fun. 

9) Has cannabis affected your social life or interest in hobbies?

Cannabis creates an instant bond for people. I meet new people everyday and sometimes make friends who like to smoke too. It’s nice to share a passion and hobby with other people. It has introduced me to new things that I never knew I was into, like new types of music, artists and a new appreciation for smoking together to watch movies and chill. I’ve been introduced to card games like Magic: The Gathering. The fantasy aspects to it can be enhanced through cannabis. I’ve also been recommended to Dungeons and Dragons because of the entertainment. Nothing can get you more into the fantasy realm of a game like some nice cannabis. 

10) Since working in the COVID-19 pandemic, has your position as a budtender been affected? 

With everyone stuck at home, cannabis users are doubling down on their interests by stocking up on products and probably smoking all day since there’s so much extra time on everybody’s hands. People who are recently laid off, and may not have smoked in years are coming in to use cannabis again. It’s been a unique challenge to reintroduce cannabis into people’s lives, especially since cannabis has become more potent, probably, since the last time they smoked. There’s been a huge increase of customer flow as well as an increase of first-time customers. 

11) Is it harder to work as an essential worker? 

It’s really stressful for everyone involved. My staff and I are working harder than ever before, there are a lot of call outs because people are concerned for their health and everyone is exhausted. It’s a challenging and tough time to work. For me, I have Type 1 Diabetes which puts me at more of risk, so I have anxiety at work about potentially being exposed. On the bright side though, I’m able to connect with people and socially interact with them during a time that everyone is mostly isolated from socializing. 

12) How do you lower your risk of being exposed? 

At Chalice, we are required to wear face masks, wear and switch out gloves as much as possible and follow social distancing orders. I’ll also squirt hand sanitizers on my gloves if I need to. The store was crazy busy at first because people were panic buying cannabis, then 420 happened. Now, it’s starting to slow down to a normal pace, which helps with my anxiety to exposure. 

13) What are some more guidelines Chalice has put in place to prevent exposure? 

We are encouraging people to do curb-side pick up and placing orders ahead to minimize the time people spend in the building. 

14) Is there something you want to say to customers right now? 

I think the biggest thing is for customers to put a mask on. It’s a little step to take to wear a mask when coming in, follow social distancing guidelines and maybe even wear gloves. I hope that people understand it’s a crazy time, so just be nice and pleasant to one another. We are incredibly busy so please be understanding about sold out items and have patients. 

15) How do you feel about working around the new guidelines? 

I’m happy that they are in place because I’m worried about my own health and risk of exposure, it makes me feel a lot better while at work. 

16) What is your favorite strain? 

Monkey Tape from TJ’s Garden is one of my favorites. It’s a cross of gorilla glue, a sativa hybrid and checks all the boxes I’m looking to fill when I smoke. The nugs have a nice texture since they’re not too dense, it reminds me of pre-legalization cannabis – sticky, stinky and a nice stoned feeling that isn’t too intense. 

17) What’s your favorite type of cannabis product? 

I’m a traditional flower guy. I like any cannabis product around, but during the COVID crisis I like to use edibles to help protect my lungs. I like equal parts of THC and CBD to help minimize anxiety. Charlotte’s Web is an oil product that tastes like candy to me, with 6% THC and 55% CBD. 

18) What is your favorite way to enjoy flower?

I like all types of water pipes to smoke with. Even though I’ve been smoking for 15 years, I still don’t know how to roll a good joint. I’m a 100% bong guy. 

Budtender Spotlight: Kayla Palmer of SOCC

written by Emma Routley, photos provided by Kayla Palmer

How long have you been a budtender?

I’ve been a budtender for just over a year.  I started here at SOCC (Southern Oregon Cannabis Connection) in February of last year and it was an amazing foot in the door.  It’s opened a lot of opportunities for me and I just couldn’t be happier with my experience.

Why did you become a budtender?

Coming from Idaho, a career in weed was definitely something that seemed not really possible, a bit out of reach. So when I moved to Eugene, I saw a very attainable goal.  Budtending is something that utilizes compassion and empathy and helping people as well as cannabis. Where I came from, smoking was definitely against the curve. It seemed like a no brainer for me to go for it.  It’s making sure you’re not selling somebody something that gets them too stoned or destigmatizing it for people who are not used to the idea. It’s definitely a humanitarian game. 

What happened the first time you smoked weed?

The first time I smoked weed it was on the fourth of July.  My best friend, she was like “Hey, so I have some pot, you wanna try it?” and I was like “Yeah… yeah I do.” So we smoked in a little pipe in her parent’s bathroom and we went out and had a blast. I’ve never been so enthralled by fireworks in my life. I was pretty young, like 13.  That was the first time I smoked but I didn’t become a habitual smoker until later in high school.  

How does cannabis help you personally?

I started out as a social smoker.  Then as I got older and had more experience with it I’ve found it helps calm my social anxiety. And, I get headaches pretty bad.  Upon digging deeper into cannabis I found relief from my migraines in certain strains. It’s been amazing, it helped me in a lot of ways aside from relieving my social anxiety.  It has helped me become a more caring person because it forced me to take things a bit more slowly and really consider what I’m doing and what I’m saying. It’s definitely been a gift for my overall personality. 

Has cannabis ever helped you out of a bad mental state?

A few summers ago I was cutting back on weed.  I was a cleaner, I just didn’t have a lot of time to smoke. I didn’t make time for it, I didn’t see it as a huge priority.  It was a really hard, emotional time for me and when I would let myself smoke, it wouldn’t completely take away the sadness but it would give me a better perspective. It would let me slow things down and just look at my situation and be a bit more positive. It definitely helped give me better tools to get me out of that funk I was in. Since then if I’m feeling off and I can’t really decide why, I’ll take a second to smoke and almost every time it helps.

What’s your favorite method of consuming cannabis?

Lately I’ve been pretty into dabbing, but my old faithful method is taking a bong rip. Whenever I go a while without smoking, I am craving that feeling of holding my bong and taking a big rip.

Where do you want to take your cannabis career?

My goal is to just keep making people happy.  A lot of the time I have customers coming in who are kind of embarrassed that they don’t know a lot.  I never want anyone to feel like that because we are in a pioneering age and just even being willing to learn is amazing. I hate being afraid to ask questions because I feel like I might be looked at as dumb for not knowing it and I never want someone to feel that way when they’re talking to me. 

What is your favorite way to help people with cannabis?

We actually get a lot of customers that are pretty new to cannabis.  We get a lot of older customers who are in to check it out for the first time.  My favorite way of helping is breaking it down to the ground level and sharing as much information as I can, at a pace they want to follow.  It makes me so happy to feel like I’ve helped somebody become more accepting of cannabis. There are so many people I know who would benefit from it if they only knew exactly what they were getting into.  To be that vessel, to relay that info is top-notch pleasing for me.  

What do you want to see in the future of cannabis?

I want there to be a bit more regulation, mainly because I want there to be more mainstream info out there.  I want to see more testing, more experimentation with the potential that it has. I want it to be made very public info as opposed to something that you only see if you are in the scene. 

What’s your favorite snack when you’re high?

Ice cream.  Ice cream all the way.  I don’t care what flavor.

What is your favorite strain?

I love Chocolope.  It’s a Sativa that makes me very social, I’m calm but I’m not tired.  It’s a good strain for me. I can chill or get stuff done, or if I’m with my friends I’m not just gone.