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The Cannabis Closet: “Budtending”

I’m a thirty-nine-year-old graphic production artist living and working in the Bay Area.

budtending bay area marijuanaI began this career by returning to community college for trade-specific classes in 2002, while working part-time at a well-known medicinal cannabis dispensary in Oakland’s ‘Oaksterdam’ neighborhood. Four years of a flexible part-time schedule and good pay allowed me to complete a certificate program and launch a professional life. It was kind of like bartending (industry parlance is ‘budtending’) while going to school, except that I didn’t have to work all night, or around drunks.

In my time at the dispensary, I saw a broad cross-section of the cannabis community, from young shady hustler-types to full-time students (and their professors), from stereotypical aging hippies to plumbers, white-collar professionals, and doctors. I have never seen so many different kinds of people find common ground; I overheard many an unusual conversation in our waiting area, and I walked many little old ladies and cancer patients through their very first marijuana purchases.

The most touching customers were, of course, those with genuine medical conditions for whom marijuana provided relief like nothing else they had tried. I remember one woman who, the first time I saw her, had the look of someone who lived with severe physical pain and suffered under the confusion and depression brought on by prescription painkillers. She told me she was 58 and had never smoked, but was desperate and willing to try anything, and that her nephew had encouraged her to try a strong indica. I sold her some brownies and a little Purple Kush. The next time I saw her, she wept at my counter because she had experienced the best relief from chronic pain and a sound night’s sleep in many years. Over the course of a few months, I watched her face take on a more radiant and peaceful expression, and she said she wished she hadn’t waited so long.

Many say that the Medicinal Movement is a silly front for more general decriminalization. I would say that this is both true and false — that marijuana is both good medicine and good times, and that punishing good people for benefiting from it (or simply enjoying it) is always bad policy. I’ve often said that “the movement needs a makeover”, so I thank you for facilitating a more open and honest dialogue about this!


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