Budtender Spotlight: Corey Yula at New Millennium

written and photographed by Kaylynn Wohl

How long have you been in the cannabis industry?

I’ve been working at New Millenium for the last two years. Before that, about three or so months working for a farm that my friends had just started. So it was early plant development and setting up the framework for how they were hoping to have things run.

Do you think those three months at the farm prepared you for working at a dispensary?

Definitely. It kind of gave me the knowledge to know what it looks like on the farm end of things. Any facet of the cannabis industry is important to know when it comes to being a budtender just because you never know what kind of questions you’ll get from people.

What kind of questions do people ask you? Anything strange?

I get weird questions all the time. It seems to be from older folks who are used to the old way of how it used to be where they would get what they got and use old terms to describe. So when I ask if they’re into sativa or indica more, or if they have any experience with CBD, they kind of look at me like I’m asking if they believe in aliens or I’m speaking in another language.

Why did you choose to join the industry for work?

I felt a passion for cannabis. I noticed the benefits that it could provide, and it just made sense with my customer service background. I just felt like it would be really cool to be able to direct people towards the thing that will work best for them, whether it’s flower, edibles, or topical. Making sure they leave with a product that’s going to work for them but also a positive experience makes me feel like I’m doing a good thing. I’m also raising awareness for cannabis in general. There’s still that stigma in a lot of places that treats it like this terrible thing. In 2021, I just think it’s time to get the bad stigma out and focus on helping people. So many people of so many walks of life could benefit from cannabis.

Do you feel like a weed expert due to how long you’ve been there?

In a way. The industry is constantly changing and especially now with more states legalizing and they’re able to do more research. My expertise is only applicable so long before more research comes out; it’s constantly evolving. It’s exciting to be able to learn about all of these new things. My job is to guide these people towards a product that’s going to work for them, so in a way I’m learning all this new stuff too. It never gets old. But yeah, I’m a weed expert.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

It’s been a lot of back and forth. Early on there was a lot of frustration with people not being able to smell the flower they wanted to get. A lot of people depend on their senses, and taking that away was difficult. As it’s gone on, people have become more understanding. It’s taken away a large portion of the experience though and they rely on us to be their guide more than before. They’re trusting us completely. Other than that, dealing with minor logistical things: deliveries for pop tops and our red warning stickers that go onto everything have a bigger delay, so that’s something we’ve had to keep in account for when ordering. A couple different times, we stopped allowing people coming into the store completely. At that point, we have to go off of their questions and look at everything we have and try to find what will fit their requests most specifically. There’s a lot more responsibility on the budtenders part.

How has your relationship with cannabis changed since becoming recreationally legal in Oregon?

To be honest I didn’t have too many experiences with cannabis before that. The ones I had were kind of negative. The psychoactivity was nerve wracking for me. I started trying new things, whether it was edibles or just flower. Cannabis taught me a lot about myself. I was able to recognize my anxiety by name, and I’m grateful for that. Since it became legalized, I’ve had opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise and saw what it’s all about to form my own conclusions. A general respect has occurred over time.

When did you first try cannabis? Can you describe the situation?

The first time was around 2013. I drove up to Seattle with a close friend of mine, and it had just become legal there. A guy at the dispensary recommended us a joint. It was called Orange Dream. I’ll never forget the strain, and I’ve never seen it since. We had a plan to go smoke it at a park and see a movie. We didn’t get that far because I crashed my car into a friend of a friend’s car and ruined the day. I was totally sober. Probably anticipating the experience freaked me out. Later that night, my friend and I decided to smoke the joint. I sat down on my cousin’s couch and just stared at the wall. I swear I left the room. I’ve never had an experience like that since. I genuinely feel like I wasn’t even there. Honestly it was a terrible, terrible time. It held me back a long time from trying it again, but I did, and I had another bad experience. Then I tried it again later on, and it got progressively better as I started to understand the feeling. Avoid Orange Dream.

Do you have a favorite strain and why is it your favorite?

Not really. I think I’ve allowed myself to be open to really everything. So I go into each joint, each edible and be ready to see where it will take me. I like finding a joint with a really good flavor. Sometimes I’ll get a high that will get me really giggly and puts me in a great mood. It’s just so diverse, and it’s one of my favorite things about it to be like ‘okay what did I get today and what’s it going to do to me?’ Maybe it’s Orange Dream after all.

What’s your favorite method of consumption?

I’d definitely say joints. I think I have an oral fixation; I pick my hands sometimes, and I used to smoke cigarettes. I think joints naturally filled a certain predisposition with having my hands needing to be doing something. Plus it’s really nice to watch it burn.

What’s your favorite thing to do when stimulated by cannabis?

I use it most nowadays in my personal time, because I never know how it will play on my anxiety. I like to do creative writing or playing video games. If I have a good, visually interesting movie, I’ll light up before.

What do you do when you aren’t at New Millenium?

I hang out with my cats, I smoke weed, I play video games. I’ve been obsessed with New Girl lately. I feel like I’ve wasted all these years not watching it. Writing here and there. Otherwise, just staying inside and chilling out. I’m honestly worried for whenever the pandemic ends, and I’ll be expected to do stuff outside of my house. I might fake my own death…

What’s so special about New Millenium?

New Millenium genuinely tries to provide high quality products for affordable pricing. And I mean that. Before working there, I would go to different dispensaries to find prerolls. I was surprised how many don’t offer houserolled prerolls, and I was surprised how pricey they could be. We consistently have $2 prerolls. Half of the strains we have in flower we try to have in prerolls so people can try it before buying an ounce of it. In 2021, cheap weed should be the way of the world to give people their medicine—we’re not Big Pharma!

Is there anything you’d want the public to know about utilizing dispensaries during the pandemic?
Be understanding with your budtenders. Know that we are all experiencing the same thing you are. A lot of us are overworked, have lost family members or been forced to sacrifice as well. We are trying our absolute best to do what we’ve always done: to provide you a great experience, good quality cannabis and something that will help you out. We’re doing our best. We’re all people.

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.