Dishing Drugs With a Budtender, the Pharmacist for the Pot Age

Molly works in a Colorado marijuana dispensary. She tells us what it's like.

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Editor’s note: The name of our fearless budtender has been changed, to protect the working, single mom’s second job. We’ve also omitted the name of the dispensary chain where she tends the bud.

In Colorado, dispensaries operate just like most any other business. Some have done pretty well and expanded; others have shuttered. Molly works for a pot operation that fits into the former category: There are six locations with plans to move out of state. She’s been working Sundays since October, for 11 hours a shift. Her day begins at 8:30 a.m., when she and her coworkers take the product out of a safe — Colorado law states that you have to take your dope off of the floor each night — and put it back out on display. Molly works at both the recreational and medical counters, serving ailing customers who have been approved by doctors, those who are just looking to catch a cool buzz, and everyone in between.

I asked her about what it’s like to be on the cutting edge of a future where marijuana is considered a peer drug to alcohol, our national staple.

How did you get hooked up with the gig?

It’s blocks from my house. I needed a joint — that’s all I need for a week and I’m good. My sister was in town and I Yelped “recreational marijuana.” I walked in and went back. There’s a guy there that’s just adorable and super helpful. And I was just like, “This would be an amazing place to work.” It was kind of a joke in passing. And he said, “As a matter of fact, I think we are hiring part-time.” So he told me to email my resume to this guy. I hadn’t had retail experience since I worked at the fucking Cinnabon at the Cherry Creek Mall in high school and made $5.50 an hour — I’m not exactly the poster child for retail. I did put in my little cover letter that I was raised by hippies. I am hip to the game. I’ve been around weed my whole life, passed it at the dinner table and shit. Thanksgiving and what are we thankful for? That we’re all stoned.

But I’d never been around it in this sense. Anyhow, a few weeks later I got an email saying, “[The employee] said you and your sister were super cute!” I went in and had a really good talk with the boss and he said, “You can have the job if you want it.”

What was your experience with dispensaries before this?

I’ve been to dispensaries before, but this one is like the Louis Vuitton of dispensaries. I’ve probably been to a dozen dispensaries in Colorado. You have your really nice, professional, respectful people and then you have the other side: They’re entitled and they act like they’re doing you a favor. The store isn’t professional, it isn’t clean, it’s just a hot mess. [The dispensary where I now work] prides themselves on being clean, having geometrical lines, the right colors.

It’s fascinating, the different people that come in — from young, thuggish, ruggish to old, Jewish grandmas. It’s a classy place but everyone is welcome, even the hoodrats. Just don’t steal anything, hoodrats. The business makes so much money it’s ridiculous.

"What'll ya have?"

How much? Do you have any idea?

Well, banks are hard to work with, so it’s difficult to say exactly. If you have a debit card you can use it on our machine, which is basically classified as an ATM. That will have to go away, though: Banks want to make money just like everybody else. I remember one day we were sitting around talking and somebody threw out $40,000 or $45,000 for a Christmas Eve one year. I would venture to guess it’s more in the neighborhood of $10,000 in sales on a Sunday. And we’re open seven days a week.

Has it been a learning experience?

I’ve learned that recreational edibles are wack. By law they have to dose them out in 10 milligrams. So you have your little canister of chewies or cookies and every dose is gonna be only 10 milligrams. By law, it can’t be more than that. Then we say, “Take one and wait 20 minutes to see how you feel.” People who aren’t hip to the game or are really sensitive to cannabis: 10 milligrams will put you out. On the medical side, they leave it up to you. So, there can be a chocolate bar that’s fucking 500 milligrams and we’re just like, “Sayonara! Good luck with that.” There’s no liability on the medical side; you talk to your doctor. On the rec side, you could be eating all the chocolates and saying, “I’m dying!” And, then, trying to blame it on the dispensary.

Do you have tough customers?

“What are the percentages of the THC?” I don’t know. It’s good. You should just smoke it. Or I couldn’t sleep and I smoked this and it put me out. What’s the goal, here? Stop being all bourgeois. Certain people — and some of them are older — are self-conscious that they’re there and feel like they have to have justify it with this dialogue to make themselves feel like it’s medicine. “What’s the percentage of this?” I said, “Can we do flashcards?” The managers were like, “That’s an amazing idea! I like how you’re thinking.” Well, I’m a mom. Indica is the couch one and sativa: that’s more active. And hybrid means a little bit of both, but usually they lean indica. I didn’t know that.

We’ve won a lot of cannabis awards and our THC tends to test above average: more 27 percent to 30 percent. The other day, these kids came in and they had just turned 21. They had their 50 bucks to spend and they want an ounce. It doesn’t work like that. They get lippy and whatever: “I’ve never seen it this expensive.” Well, sorry, you get what you pay for. Go smoke some schwag. If you’re trying to get the concentrated, medicinal, straight to the dome thing done: This is the better stuff. You want to go to Forever 21 and buy what’s hot this month? Or do you want to go to Banana Republic and get a nice, white top that’s gonna last you 10 years?

Even right now, I get how it all works and the process of it when someone comes in and whether they’re med or rec. The biggest confusion for me is “this is a cross between this and that and it made that and it’s high in this and it’s going to do A, B, and C and you have that so it’s going to do this.” It gets very scientific. [The dispensary] grows all of their own pot — there’s no middleman. And they do their own concentrates and are working on doing their own edibles. It’s a lot to take in.

The sticky icky

Can you explain the difference between how you approach medical versus recreational customers?

For medical, you have to sign up with us. You can’t be signed up with another dispensary. So, they look up your number on your red card — it’s not red, at all, actually — and they can tell if someone already has you. We want them as a member and we give them a sweet-ass deal. Like, “If you sign up with us, you spend $50 and get $100 free, so go to town.” If I’m there on Sunday and somebody gets all starry-eyed, they have to call the other dispensary and ask to get taken off.

I initially thought I’d like the recreational patients more. They’d just be so excited to buy weed. But, no. They’re all, “What’s this? What’s that?” I don’t fucking know. What do you mean? Do you want it or not? Doesn’t it smell good? Seriously? The medical people are like, “Do you have a notepad? Because this is gonna be $2,000 worth of shit. I need a gram of that, I need an ounce of that, I need an eighth of that.” They’re much better prepared. They’re self-taught and they know the system. And they tip really well.

Do you have a lot of customers who look physically ill?

There are a lot of people who rely on medical marijuana to get through the day. I never had an appreciation for that. I used to be like, “Legal weed. Wink, wink. I have cramps, too!” There is that, for sure. Because some of these fools, I’m like, “Nothing is wrong with you and we both fucking know it. You are as healthy as a horse; don’t you fucking dare.” Equally, there are people who are in their eighties who come to us. And they’re living on their Social Security. Also, medical is always cheaper. A lot of people don’t want to smoke, especially if they’re 82. They don’t want to dab. They’re not trying to dab. They would probably die if they dabbed. So they have their little order, they get their chews or brownie bites.

I have a guy who — every two weeks he comes in — he orders 18 to 20 Sweet Grass cookies. He’s like, “That’s my shit!” He has severe muscle spasms and he’s in tons of pain. He’s a vet and he has PTSD; he gets anxiety. He’s like, “This is what I need. I’m living on Social Security. I have my little stipend money for my pot and I rely on this.” I never really had an appreciation for that before. They’re not popping Percocet and they’re not hooked on morphine. They’re just eating a brownie and fucking watching Golden Girls and they’re okay.

What do you do besides sell weed?

Roll joints with these cone things. I can’t roll a joint for shit. My mom tried to show me when I was 14 or 15. She’s all, “Honey, that’s not how you do it.” Because all of my joints were all pregnant — really fat in the middle and I’d have to use two or three papers to make it work. My mom and my sister have the magic fingers: They can just whip ‘em out like Cheech and Chong. I still can’t to this day. Well, these cone things. There’s a contraption that has all these tiny holes. You put all of your cones in there and then we dump it in and shake it and dump and shake. And one by one, you grab them and get the back of the pen and push it down in there. We don’t use shake: We get our pot and we put it in a coffee grinder and it makes it really fine. They’re slightly under a gram.

Do you get free pot?

We do. I have gotten — to me — a lot. So, say, out of this batch we need to make 85 joints and it to be all cool with the government. So, say, somehow we yield 89 joints. Well, that’s four joints that someone gets.

"Smell the glory."

Is there stealing by the employees?

Everything is on camera. There’s a camera out front, there’s a camera coming down the hallway, there are nine shots of different angles. It’s not HD or anything so you can’t be like, “That motherfucker!” People probably can steal, but it’d be risky because there are cameras everywhere. Just like with anything, I’m sure there are people who do steal. There’s always a security guard, too.

Are people high at work?

So, the official policy is kinda like: Don’t talk about it.

Don’t ask, don’t tell?

Kind of. It’s just, don’t say, “I’m gonna go on my break now, guys, and I’m gonna go smoke this joint we just bought from you.” We all know that that’s what you’re gonna do. Have enough couth not to broadcast that shit. And if you’re not the type of the person who can hang high, good luck. When I first starting working there, I made that mistake. I went and picked up lunch for everyone and took a couple hits off a joint I got from work. I was like, “Oh, shit. I’m stuck on stupid.”

They’re very into handling it as medicine. Customers are referred to as “patients.” It’s “flower,” not bud. It’s “concentrates,” not hash. The attitude is, people rely on us, this is their medicine. Don’t belittle that and act like a fool.

One of our strains is very high in CBD, so the oil is good for kids who are getting seizures or people who have traumatic muscle issues. You’re kind of laughing at them if you’re just like, “This is a joke! Let’s get high!”

At the end of the day, drinking a beer is fine. Taking a couple tokes off of a joint should be fine, too. That’s your life; you’re not hurting anybody. You’re a single mom and you’re just chilling out on the couch fucking trying to get by.

Do you get a lot of tourists?

Tons. It’s just novelty to most of them. They’re like, “Oh my god, are you kidding me? This is weed?” They get real geeked out about it. You kind of have to remember that they’ve never seen this before.

Where are they coming from, mostly?

Lots of East Coast. Lots of Virginia. Lots of Texas. The Carolinas. New Mexico comes up.

And there’s a stricter limit for them, right?

On rec, if you don’t have a Colorado state-issued ID, we can only sell you seven grams. Which, to me, that’s a lot. Per person, per day. There are people who are from Wisconsin, let’s say, and they go on Craigslist and they find these crooks who say, for a fee, they’ll buy them more than seven grams because they’re from Colorado. And then these crooks end up ganking all of their money. So, they’ll tell the people from Wisconsin — that think they’re going to go back home and sell ounces of weed — to wait outside and they’ll come in and go out our back door with the money. They’re getting better about catching the guys who do this at multiple dispensaries.

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