What It’s Like to Work at a Pot Dispensary in Vancouver

"It’s the opposite of being a Starbucks barista. We deal with the happiest people."

March 10, 2017

By Stacey McLachlan / Photo: Getty Images

With dispensary raids in the news, now seemed like an appropriate time to reach out to someone on the front lines of Vancouver’s on-again, off-again war on drugs. So we sat down with “Mr. Dream” (not his real name!), a “budtender” (sorry for all the quotes!) at a local dispensary that shall remain nameless, to hear what it’s like to sell pot 9 to 5.

How did you wind up working at a dispensary?

I needed a job and thought it was something I was well-suited for because I have a background in customer service, I like talking to people and helping people, and I know a fair bit about marijuana from personal experience.

Does it worry you that your job exists in a legal grey area—illegal by federal standards but accepted for the most part by the city?

Of course it worries me. Cannabis Culture got raided yesterday. It scares the shit out of me every day that I could be negatively impacting my future for $12 an hour. That’s the most insane part, wondering constantly if I’m breaking the law for under $15.

Walk me through an average day on the job.

It’s like a lot of other jobs: you get there, make sure things are clean and tidy, turn on computers, open your tills, make sure you’ve got the right amount of coins. The only thing you do that’s different from other retail is that you have to calibrate your scale. You’re using an incredibly sensitive scale and you’ve gotta make sure that’s weighing correctly and that means weighing to a tenth, to a 0.1 of a gram—that’s pretty sensitive.

Also, we roll all those pre-rolled joints by hand.

What do you like about working at a dispensary?

I feel like I’m having a positive impact on my community, which I know sounds crazy. People make jokes about the grey area between recreational and medicinal use, but I’d say a good majority of our customers are actually using it medicinally. There’s so many legitimate reasons you would need to smoke; pain problems is the big one. If you have any any pain at all, it’s a lot safer than taking a painkiller. Painkillers are addictive. Just look at the opioid crisis: people who get hooked on strong painkillers wind up on heroin because it’s cheaper and easier.

People often use marijuana to sleep better, as well. A lot of people who come in are working professionals, they have really good jobs, and they need a way to relax at the end of the day and go to sleep.

Do you actually need to see a doctor to get pot at a dispensary?

It is supposed to be for medicinal purposes, but you don’t have to see a doctor anymore. Just like how you can buy things over-the-counter at a pharmacy without a prescription: you can load up on painkillers without ever talking to a doctor. You do have to fill out a bunch of paperwork here and you have to talk about the reason you need it. You don’t have to see a doctor and get anything else though. The only way we would decline someone was taking another medication that would be problematic. Then you do need a doctor’s note. But if you’re a consenting adult who doesn’t want to take prescription pain killers and would rather smoke marijuana, why shouldn’t you be able to get it? You can also use just CBD—that’s the part that doesn’t get you high, the painkiller aspect of it. We carry that as well. That’s a truly medicinal product that’s truly amazing when you think about what it can do.


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What’s the worst part of working at dispensary?

When it’s not busy. It’s really easy to help people and talk to customers but it’s not easy to look busy when you’re not busy at all. They want you to be cleaning, I wasn’t hired to clean. I was hired to talk to people, and I like it.

Do you have any favourite customers?

I had a customer once who told me that he broke his neck at a trampoline park doing “cosmic jumping,” but I forget who told me. I always think about that story and I always ask everyone who comes in if they were the one who told me, and it’s never him.

What would surprise people to find out about your job?

They probably wouldn’t know how little I make.

What’s the work environment like?

My coworkers are the most normal group of people ever. The typical person is somebody in their early- to mid-20s, and they’re just people that could be off being bartenders and could be off serving but they want to work at a weed store. It’s a good vibe. It’s a lot of fun, good tunes… it’s the opposite of being a Starbucks barista. We deal with the happiest people. Instead of someone who’s miserable on their way to work, everyone is ecstatic to be off work and able to purchase marijuana at a store.

Is there a stigma to the job? Do people just assume everyone who works there is stoned?

Oh, we’re all stoned all the time. If you make that assumption, you have assumed correctly. We take coffee breaks just like any office, but my coffee is weed. I also like to “drink coffee” while I’m working.

 


More from our Odd Jobs series:

What It’s Like to Be a Political Pundit

What It’s Like to Be a Cremation Operator

What It’s Like to Be a Cat Nanny

What It’s Like to Be a Background Artist

What It’s Like to Be a Professional Poker Player

 

Do you have any suggestions for who we should feature next? Drop us a line!

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