This interview is part of a special Q&A series where we talk to budtenders—who are some of the most fascinating and informative people in our industry—about the weird questions they get, what daily life on the cannabis front lines is like, and what they appreciate most about cannabis.
Name: Amber Sullivan
Dispensary: LoDo Wellness Center in Denver, Colorado
Currently, LoDo Wellness has made a very difficult, but responsible decision to shut its doors while COVID-19 causes ripples through society. Keep an eye on their website for updates on reopening – http://lodowellnesscenter.com/
What year did you start working in the cannabis industry?
2018. I had been working in the beer industry and wanted a change.
Who are your favorite customers at the dispensary?
We get many seniors coming in who are seeking to ease their physical pain and improve personal wellness and quality of life, and I really enjoy working with them. Their generation often has had extremely negative views about cannabis, but just being able to talk to them one-on-one can completely shift their view. Personal connections make it possible for us to break down those negative stereotypes they were given.
Groups like bachelorette parties are also some of my favorites. There’s usually a newbie, or at least one person who is super nervous because they had a bad experience with cannabis in the past, and I’m able to talk to them about CBD and different approaches to consuming. Those are the customers who often come back super excited because they gave it another try and actually had a great time! People are hungry for education and guidance, and one of the best parts of my job is being able to offer that to them.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give your fellow budtenders?
Really listen to people. I personally prefer indicas but they don’t work for everyone. Everyone has a vastly different experience with cannabis. When you treat people as individuals and find out about their past experiences, you can help prevent unwanted side effects much more effectively.
Because our location is so close to Denver’s Union Station—a major transportation hub downtown—I’d say around 60% of our clientele are tourists. Many of them don’t live in legal states and often this is their first time in a dispensary. I could give these customers a ton of information, but I try to follow the advice of the awesome astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (I’m paraphrasing): Even if you know a lot, you can’t overwhelm people with information. That’s counterproductive.
What’s the craziest question about cannabis you’ve ever gotten from a customer?
A woman came in with a huge stack of paperwork from her doctor as well as all of her medications. She wanted something that could help her skin, and she pulled up her shirt to reveal a really intense rash on her torso. She told us she wanted to avoid steroid injections, which her doctor had told her were the best way to treat the rash.
While I know what products could potentially help her, if a doctor is saying injections are the way to relieve her condition, I don’t want to contradict a medical doctor. Yes, cannabis topicals can help with many skin problems, but we are not dermatologists, and these products are not a magic bullet for every chronic condition. Sometimes finding answers for people is difficult, especially when there isn’t a clear-cut yes or no.
What’s the biggest misconception about cannabis you’d like to fix?
That people who consume suffer from a lack of ambition. Thankfully that myth is collapsing as the cannabis industry expands.
People use this plant for productivity. Cannabis consumers tailor their consumption based on their experience and what they want to do with their time. I use cannabis in different ways, but one of them is that it helps me write for hours at a time. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing on the couch, but that’s only a small part of the cannabis picture!
What’s the most challenging part of your day?
Right now, as we deal with COVID-19, work can be challenging and definitely is more stressful. I’m just trying to take it day by day. We are providing a valuable service to people, and a service to the state with the tax revenue we provide—we just want to be safe and hope we have the support and understanding of both our customers and the regulators.
What does consuming cannabis do for you?
I consume cannabis to help me write, storyboard and come up with ideas. I also use it to sleep, and to calm down in social situations; CBD in particular is really helpful for me personally. When I take it I feel like it actually helps me to be my own true self and not front.
If I had to choose one word to describe how cannabis makes me feel, it would be “even.” I feel a lot of things, and sometimes I go strongly in one direction or another. Cannabis helps me find that middle ground where I can feel all of my emotions and yet stay balanced.
Which LucidMood product do you use, and why?
I like Lullaby because I use it to help me get to sleep. Normally I need quite a bit of cannabis to be fully relaxed, but with this pen I take a few puffs and I’m out!
“If I were a LucidMood pen, I would be….”
I want to be Luminous but I’m actually Luscious. I enjoy the hedonistic feeling that the Luscious pen gives me. It makes me want to cook a giant meal for one, find the softest blankets possible and just soak in and enjoy all of life’s sensory pleasures.
Do you see product manufactures reaching out to educate budtenders?
We need more outreach for education. People come in and are told to ask for a product, or they reach for a product they want—without necessarily knowing what that product is or what it will do for them. Budtenders are a great source of the actual questions people need answers to, because we are plugged in on a daily basis to the consumer who’s telling us how they want to feel.
There are so many new products as well as so many people who are new to cannabis, and we need to communicate with consumers about what’s available, the possible side effects and how individuals can react quite differently to the same products.