It's often said that budtenders are the face of the legal cannabis industry. But how well do we really know them? In this new, occasional feature, we chat with the people responsible for guiding our highs to get a little insight into their background, their goals within the industry, their favorite strains—and the things you do as a customer that totally annoy them.
Name: Ian Stewart
Dispensary: Farma (916 SE Hawthorne Blvd.)
Years as a budtender: Three
What was your first experience with cannabis?
I was around 14. I had been really interested in trying cannabis for a while, but I didn't know where to find it or how to get into it. I met a friend who told me he'd done it, so we met up at his friend's house, and they had the cannabis there, of course, with a bong. I didn't necessarily feel anything—a lot of people report that. The next time I did it, it was the same group of people, but it was much more sensory-oriented. I definitely had this interesting experience where I felt colors all throughout my body. I remember having no hangover, no ill effects from it, I just felt this moment of bliss.
How'd you end up working as a budtender?
I grew up in Tacoma, Wash. I moved here kind of on a whim and found out after I moved to Oregon that the state was legalizing literally that month. At that time, I was smoking ridiculous amounts of cannabis, so my partner recommended I get a dispensary job, to help cut down on costs and because it seemed like something I was really passionate about. Apparently, Farma was really looking for people at the time, because recreational was just happening and they were really short-staffed.
Aside from smoking a lot, how much did you know about cannabis at the time?
I actually had a lot of experience throughout the years. The person I bought it from was one step removed from the grower, so I got to meet that grower a few times and see what he was doing. We didn't necessarily know a whole lot about terpenes, for example, but we knew about, like, boiling points of different cannabinoids, because we had vaporizers.
What is the most annoying thing customers do?
A lot of the negative things they might do come from the place of just trying to have a good time, but a lot of that can be draining for a retail person. I just heard the term "emotional labor," when you have to smile or be happy in a situation where that's just taxing for you but it's a requirement of your job. One example recently is, we asked someone for their ID, and as they were handing it over to us, they just pulled it away as kind of a joke. We have to just smile and nod through that. You can't say anything negative in that experience even though it doesn't feel good to have that happen to you.
What are you future goals within the industry?
My ultimate goal is to use what I've learned and what I've gathered from all my experiences here to help guide policy in another state. I want to try and find someone who's willing to invest in my knowledge in a way that puts sustainability and education first. I hope we can educate people on what product they should buy.
What's your favorite strain?
We use a color-coding system at Farma. The blues are more relaxing and the red is more energizing, and we have depths of those colors, so deep reds are far more energizing. I find myself usually in that deepest red category, where we have things like Mount Hood Magic, Jack Herer, sometimes Super Silver Haze can end up there. I'm a huge fan of that particularly combination of terpenes—terpinolene, carene and pinene.
What's your favorite thing to do when you're high?
Definitely video games. That's what I do in my off time, that's how I recharge my batteries. So I'll smoke something that's more euphoric, then dive into something I've played before. Sometimes it's just a mindless management game. I've been playing a lot of Factorio, which is a really weird factory-building game. But yeah, it's just a blast to get lost in something for a few hours.