It’s hard out there for a budtender. They’re expected to know dizzying amounts about all the products their dispensary carries—the lineage of dozens of different strains, the terpene levels and effects, the best options for individual conditions, and more. And that’s before delving into edibles.
There’s some real science to all of this, and for myriad reasons, many dispensaries do not offer their budtenders the degree of training they need and desire. Which is why you may have had the experience of asking about a strain that’s good for sleep issues, only to have the budtender reply, “Well, I dunno, but this Blue Dream is fire, brah. Fire.” (So take two grams of said “fire” and call you in the morning, then.)
But that’s usually not the fault of the budtenders, who only receive a certain amount of training from their places of employment. Sure, sommeliers for fancy restaurants get to go to France to try all the different wines, talk with growers, and learn about the terroir. Budtenders? They get some of the duff that gathers around the joint rolling trays and, if they’re lucky, can maybe pop a sample edible on their day off. Be still, my heart.
All eyes are on Oregon’s cannabis industry at the moment, from our groundbreaking pesticide-testing standards to our craft cannabis cultivators and our baffling social consumption laws. But it’s still the people who make Oregon’s cannabis community a world-class leader in all manners of the plant—and that includes the Portland powerhouse of cannabis knowledge and vision that is Emma Chasen. Emma is not here to fuck around, y’all. She’s on a bona fide raise-the-roof mission, and begins her budtender training programs later this month.
You may know Chasen from her work at the Farma Dispensary, where she built the budtender education and training program they use today. Perhaps you recognize her as Willamette Week’s Budtender of the Year for 2016. Or as co-founder—with Alyssa Wildrick—of Prismatic Paradigm, whose website (prismaticparadigm.com) eloquently frames their mission statement as seeking “to dismantle our capitalistic patriarchal society through herbal education, empowerment, community, and healing workshops.” (I think we can all agree that, in these hallucinatory times, anything that seeks to dismantle our patriarchal society should be given our full attention and support.)
Chasen graduated from Brown University in 2014 with a degree in medicinal plant research, then coordinated clinical oncology trials with the Brown University Oncology Research Group. When her supervisor refused a cannabis trial in favor of another expensive pharmaceutical drug, Chasen quit and quickly decamped to Portland.
“I believe there is a great vacuum in the industry when it comes to cannabis science and education, specifically with the dispensary,” Chasen says. “I came from Farma, which is known for its scientific approach to cannabis and its focus on education. The owners informed that ethos and hired a highly intelligent, motivated staff. I think that dispensaries should place value on training their budtenders, because these are the people that are simultaneously representing the industry (companies, products, etc.) and interfacing with customers who at times have serious medical concerns. For budtenders to have zero training on cannabis science and empathetic patient care is inexcusable. This is why it is my mission to take my budtender training program and offer courses to the community.”
Chasen begins her Budtender Boot Camp series on July 14. She will be joining forces with the Sativa Science Club to offer a comprehensive multi-week program that focuses on cannabis history, evolution, botany, biochemistry, physiology, product knowledge, empathetic patient care, best retail practices, and compliance. You can register at sativascienceclub.com/upcoming-events.
On July 29, Chasen will run a cannabis science workshop through Tokeativity that will be a three-hour-long workshop for womxn and non-binary people only. “This class will be a much broader overview of cannabis evolution and how cannabis affects us biochemically,” she says. “I love the opportunity to empower womxn with science and to share in a safe space with people who may feel too intimidated to sign up for the full Budtender Boot Camp series.” Sign up for Chasen’s workshop for womxn at tokeativity.com.