The experts behind the cannabis counter
By Lynda Wheatley | April 16, 2022
One of the biggest benefits of legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use is that you can finally be sure of what you’re ingesting, inhaling, or applying topically.
Gone were the Ziplock bags of that dried green that tasted like it had been dug up from a basement of stale houseplants. No more “brownie special” mishaps that leave you lying on the couch when you wanted to go dancing.
Now you know the difference and can choose between sativa and indica. You can measure your intake not only per serving, but also by the percentage of THC (and/or CBD) per serving. You explain what you’re looking for – relieving back pain, relaxing before bed, sharing a few laughs without becoming antisocial, or simply turning off your hamster wheel brain for a few hours in order to be a more present and patient parent – and choose a strain accordingly.
Your guide in this new and improved universe? Your local budget. Today we tip our hats to three Up North personalities, each a non-judgmental, knowledgeable professional who works one-on-one with clients like you to listen, explain and ensure the buzz you buy delivers the benefits that you wish.
Baylee Cox: Pincanna, Kalkaska
Baylee Cox tells Northern Express that he has been actively using cannabis products for six years, but only started as a budtender in the industry last year. The appeal: “I’ve always been curious to learn more about the benefits of cannabis. There’s no better way to understand the ins and outs of all the strains than to have a career in the field.
Any customer who has felt overwhelmed by the sheer variety of cannabis products has instant empathy from Cox. Although he’s on the proverbial ‘other side’ of the counter, he’s been in your shoes, and that feeling plays a major role in how he approaches his job.
“My second week as a budtender, we had a very busy day. I felt like a small fish in a big pond. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to answer all the customers’ questions, because I still had a lot to learn,” he says. “When my shift was over, I was praised for a job well done, and it inspired me to push forward and become the best budtender I could be. I doubled down and I learned everything I could about cannabis products.
The best part of the job, he says, “When a customer comes back to tell me that a product I suggested really helped them.”
Of course, he himself learned a little something as a budtender.
“I was surprised to see the wide range of customers who visit our store. We’ve built a solid customer base with everyone from corporate executives, construction workers, old-school hippies, and more,” he says. As far as he is concerned, the more people who give cannabis a chance, the better: “Cannabis is a wonderful supplement to well-being and there are many benefits to its use. There’s something for everyone, it’s not the life-destroying drugs we claimed to be in the 70s.”
Cox’s favorites: “Smoking products, whether flowers or concentrates, for immediate effects. I also like hybrid strains for those great relaxing but not sedating effects.
Brenna Faircloth: The Woods, Cheboygan
A budtender for a year and four months, Brenna Faircloth says she’s long had a fascination with cannabis, so when it became legal in Michigan, her path was obvious. “I dreamed of working in a dispensary,” she says. “Now my dream has come true, and I couldn’t be happier.” Faircloth works at The Woods, which has locations in Cheboygan and Detroit.
She says the combination of experience and extensive research has taught her everything she’s learned so far, and she’s putting that knowledge to good use as a budtender. Hint: she says you’ll know you’ve got a good budtender when you’ve found someone who not only knows what products are good, but why they’re good. “You want to find someone with a deeper knowledge than the basics,” she says. “Knowledge is key in this industry.”
She adds: “One thing I wish I had understood better about cannabis is that there is so much more [to it] than the percentage. Coming and asking for the highest flower percentage doesn’t mean you’ll get the best effects. There are so many things that come into play – the percentage is only part of it. [Budtenders] are here to help you. You can tell us what effects you’re looking for, what taste you want your flower to have, and what your budget is, and we’ll find what works best for you.
Faircloth Favorites: “I have so many it’s hard to narrow them down. When it comes to concentrates, I have a special place in my heart for live resin and hash rosin. Their taste is much cleaner and more pronounced, as are the effects. Along with the flower, there is such a variety of strains that I appreciate. If we want to go with business, I really appreciate Glacier Cannabis products; every strain we got from them was fire. For the cartridges, I prefer, again, live resin. The flavor is much better and I find that I don’t max out as quickly as with the distillate cartridges.
Steven Jackson: Authentic 231, Manistee
Steven Jackson has only been a budtender for six months. But during that time, he’s already proven himself invaluable, winning several small competitions that his home clinic, Authentic 231, has run.
He has strong beliefs about what makes a budtender shine: “A good budtender wants his clients to feel comfortable from the first impression. It’s not just about offering a customer a candy or a pre-roll. I start budtending by asking, ‘What kind of effect are you looking for?’ Maybe they don’t want euphoria at all,” he says. “A good budtender will interview you in a way. They try to get to know you and offer you a product that matches what you are looking for: “What kind of pain do you feel? Let me see how I can help you, and if that doesn’t help, I want to find you something that works!” THC is always trial and error to find what works best for you.
Jackson, who has been using cannabis “regularly and legally” for medical purposes for several years, says he knows from experience the benefits it gives people. “That alone was a big reason I was drawn to working in the industry.”
Well, that – and this: “There’s nothing on this earth cooler than something that can give relief and laughter and love from something that started as a seed in the floor.”
Jackson’s Favorites: “I love flowers! The unground bud is my favorite. I love learning about the sources – so many different terpenes, tastes and effects – I never get bored of stumbling upon my new favorite strain. The flower is also what works best for me.