BY: REEGS. M
By stereotypical terms you would never expect that I am a marijuana fanatic just by looking at me; some might even say that I have “the girl next door” look. But you should never judge a book by its cover, especially when the girl next door is secretly hitting bongs in her bedroom while her mom cooks dinner downstairs.
As a regular weed user and enthusiast, I was naturally excited when a bunch of dispensaries started to open up across the city. These are the kind of dispensaries where you do not need a medical marijuana license to purchase weed. These are the kind of dispensaries where anyone above the age of 19 can go to to buy some weed. Just think – it’s basically like an LCBO for weed! So of course when a dispensary opened up across from my apartment building, I began hitting that shit up all the time!
I enjoy going to buy weed, so it was something I would do often and this allowed me to build a chummy relationship with the Budtender and owner. So chummy in fact, that after complaining about my shitty service job the owner of the dispensary offered me a job as a Budtender. My first instinct was to say, “ah cool, but no thanks”. I think the owner took the rejection well because deep down he must’ve known a seed was planted deep in my mind.
For the next two weeks, every time I would come into the dispensary, the owner (who we’ll call Joe from now on) would offer me a job. So naturally, after a week of nagging, I was signed up for my first training shift.
As you can imagine, the first training shift at a marijuana dispensary is not the same as the first shift at any other (legal) job. Firstly, you might go into work thinking that you will be offered several joints to smoke throughout your shift. And you will end up surprised when this does not happen. You might also be a bit worried about your safety, since this particular dispensary has no security or buzzer door to stop anyone from entering. You later realize this is a legitimate cause for concern. Finally, you might start work with the knowledge that what you are doing is illegal – you’re distributing “drugs” for Pete’s sake! But in the end, despite all of this, you start training.
Before leaving me alone with the Budtender to train, Joe tells me a bit about what he is “going for” with his new business. He explains, “ I want this to be a community spot where people come to buy weed from the girl’s next door, because this is a nice family neighbourhood and all.” This was meant to clarify that I have to dress like the girl next door ( even though I still have yet to understand what style of clothing this is) and be super friendly to people even if they’re assholes. I was starting to come to the conclusion that this guy hires women because they don’t seem threatening. Even after discovering this, I continue my training.
I start working with this really sweet and chill girl (who we will call “Kelly”). Kelly is cool, but aloof, and unlike me I do not think she is bothered by the possible legal ramifications such a job could entail. My training ultimately ends up consisting of Kelly showing me how to properly weigh some weed then charge clients for it, using a database on a tablet. At this point the dispensary reminded me of a David’s Tea for weed – customers point at a jar of herbs with a cool name, ask for a sniff and then decide on how much they want to buy.
The system at this point was very simple – we would even weigh the product out in front of customers. Believe you me, it is awkward and difficult to weigh out a perfect gram when some fiendish man is watching you with all too much focus and complaining about the price he is paying. Kelly did not warn me that most of our clientele would be slightly sketchy men with a side of businessmen in a nice neighbourhood in the west end of Toronto. I found this difficult enough with Kelly as my sidekick, and wondered how I would be able to do this alone.
Half way through training Joe asks for a picture of my ID – he needs it in case I ever decide to “fuck him” – and not in a sexual way. He continues on, “if you’re good to me, I will be good to you. You are here at the beginning of this, one day you can run one of my stores.” Instead of feeling excited about the possibility of owning my own weed shop, I ask for his ID and snap a picture of it…You know just in case he tried to “fuck me”. This was my power move, he did not like it.
After that, Joe stepped out for a few hours and Kelly proceeded to shadow me for the rest of the shift. During my shift I shook as I weighed the grams and my instincts were forcing me to accept the fact that this was not going to be my long term line of work. I expected to smoke at some point, but I stayed stone cold sober the whole time. This was just turning out to be a regular customer service job, but with added risks and zero benefits. Halfway through my shift Kelly said I was a pro and would be fine working alone during my next shift.
Five hours after “stepping out” Joe returned and my first shift was done. I was paid in cash (at a wage of $14/ hour) and given a sample of an overpriced gram of “Pine Tar Kush” to try at home. Upon returning home and smoking a bowl, I decided to tell Joe that I would not be returning for another shift, via text of course. Even though I was quitting due to lack of safety, and the fact that I was leaving the country soon, I made up an excuse. I explained that I had thought the hours were too long and that the thought of changing locations at some point was out of the question (there was a possibility of this, as he had another dispensary). I also told him that since I was going away, I thought he deserved someone more committed to the position.
It’s as if Joe knew my concerns were valid, and also that he was slightly desperate, because he tried really hard to make me stay. He negotiated too much, even offering me a raise and a management position when I got back from my trip. That’s when I knew it was over, and I would never work at that dispensary again. I said, “Hey Joe, I am going to stick with buying instead of selling.” And I was firm on that.
You’re probably wondering if I ever went to that dispensary again. Even though it was slightly awkward at the beginning, I shopped there on a regular basis. I was leaving the country for a month and I expected it to be raided by the time I was back. Boy was I wrong, business was booming.
But business boomed so hard that Joe stepped down as management and I am not sure what ever happened to Kelly. I never saw them again and things sure changed at that dispensary, for the better I am sure. They have security now, and have even built a new wall with a door that security has to buzz to let clients in. The weed is only displayed on a menu and then weighed out in the back. But this is all for good reason, as many of the Budtenders (who have remained consistently female – some things never change) have told me about several robberies and vandalizations since they started working there. I wonder if employee and customer safety had been viewed as a priority in the first place whether or not these issues would have ceased to exist at all?
So what did I learn from working at a dispensary? That it isn’t the work for me and that being a buyer is much more fun than being a Budtender. Maybe when it’s actually legal and okay to put on your resume, I will reconsider working in a marijuana related field.
New opportunities can be exciting, especially if they involve weed. But remember, listen to your gut instinct and learn to snap back at those trying to intimidate you. Don’t do things or work places unless you are truly certain and aware of all the consequences that might follow.
I trusted my gut, cause who knows what could have happened if I didn’t. I could have been arrested, held at gunpoint or worse. Not to mention I could have started hating the thing that got me interested in the job in the first place – that’s you Mary Jane. I am not sharing my experience to deter you from working at a dispensary. Rather I am encouraging you to follow your own path and understand that when a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is and that means your safety could be at risk. Just ask yourself, “what would my mama think of this job?” (For the record, my mom still has no idea that any of this went down and yes, I intend on keeping it that way.) If you can’t tell your family and friends what it is that you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t do it all.