For those who know me, the early years of my cannabis experiences can be a little surprising. I know myself to be a determined, opinionated, tattooed woman with a knack for dropping puns and putting my heart 100% into everything I put my hands on.. which was always shared with a joint. Little known fact is that my first cannabis experience came from a hunting camp in rural Georgia with my high school boyfriend and his country-as-can-be father. We’d go out there with his family every winter and ride four wheelers, live without cable, and play cards while the men would hunt local deer and turkeys. The air was so crisp and comfortably humid To top it off, the stars sparkled at night away from the city lights and crickets played their own late night melody.
Late one night after setting up the hunting shed, we sat quietly in the dark, watching the open fields. At the tender age of 16, I smoked cannabis for the first time. I remember using a small hand pipe and although I didn’t really feel anything physically different (it actually took about a year before I felt effects from cannabis) , but damn did I feel like an outlaw. Weed was always spoke about in hushed voices, and dealt with behind closed doors. You really had to track down someone who “knew a guy” to find it.
Broadening my new-found rebellion, I had my first experience with edibles the very next night. I became a cliche by having the typical over-consumption experience that you’d hear from just about everyone who experimented with home edibles before legalization. I remember eating too much, having to lie down and feeling like I could hear sticks breaking in the woods from miles away. I didn’t sleep all night petrified of the noises I could hear. Turns out, a pack of wild dogs had gotten into the trash we’d left on the porch and my fear was a bit more validated, but holy shit, it didn’t make me want to continue experimenting with edibles. In fact, it was 7 years before I touched them again.
I didn’t know the term cannabis until living in Oregon. Back in the South, we called it pot, grass, weed, or even devil’s lettuce. The only people I knew who used cannabis also partied as a hobby. I rarely saw people growing up who didn’t mix weed with alcohol and it created a paradigm in my mind. I rarely used cannabis recreationally throughout high school, but really committed to a daily regiment once I graduated and met my first dealer. Back then, grams were $20 and there was only one or two choices provided at purchase, which actually didn’t matter because we didn’t know the names anyways. That’s an indica and that’s a sativa. Take your pick. See you next week. This was just the way our underground culture worked.
Moving to Oregon changed a lot of my perspective. Suddenly, I started hearing names attached to some of the most beautiful bud I’d ever seen and my wallet wasn’t emptied after picking up an eighth. People were actually active after they smoked—a 180 from the stigmatized stoners I’d heard about. Photos of people riding bikes or hiking the great PNW with implied cannabis consumption were popping up everywhere. I was still incredibly paranoid about being out in public stoned, but cannabis started to seem more normalized than before. I wasn’t a medical patient so I depended on a few friends to pick up my orders until the industry finally went recreationally legal in 2016. I don’t think I’ve ever been more sketched out walking into a store in my life.
The first dispensary I went to was Shango located off 82nd and Foster. A budtender, a term I later came to identify as the sales person who helped me find what I was looking for, walked me through my choices. Overwhelmed with the options I saw, I went for the only one I had heard of before; Jack the Ripper. And damn was I ripped. I began frequenting dispensaries for a few months after and smoking when I wasn’t at my tattoo shop gig or hitting the school books. It wasn’t till I felt that I’d outgrown the tattoo industry that I contemplated making my interests my career.
I applied at a dispensary due to it’s location and pay scale (and let’s face it, selling weed is the dream), unsure of what would be required of me to perform the job. Did I blaze all day? Was I required to function high? How did they even get all that weed? I was glassy eyed, not just from the chronic, but from my own dazzled venture. I was immediately hired and went about securing my Marijuana Workers Permit. The test seemed easy enough, at least for someone who was used to taking notes and memorizing do’s and don’ts. I learned more about limits, labeling, and who I could or could not sell to. It was odd seeing so much structure when I had been mostly accustomed to black market sales. My first few months flew by. There seemed to be so much room to grow in the industry and grow I did. Within three months, I was promoted to Master Budtender, and three months after that, I became the Intake Manager.
Now I’m one of three women who are running the little dispensary around the corner from my home; tucked away just outside of St. John’s. My passions are stroked continuously with days filled delving out knowledge, searching for quality products, and building lasting relationships throughout the industry. I don’t smoke weed all day, surprisingly, but I do smoke more medicinally than recreationally. Cannabis is used to relieve work day tension and stress. To slow my mind down when it’s not easy to slip into “off the clock” mode. On my days off, it’s used to fire up my creativity and help with my mental flow.
It’s unimaginable, to think that this is the path my life would take after that first toke off a bowl on a farm in Rome, GA. Little did I know that I would spend my free time and even my work time advocating for this plant and it’s equal accessibility for all. All I know is, my journey is just getting started.