From Food & Beverage to Cannabis: Interview with Richard

This October marked the three-year anniversary of cannabis legalization in Canada. As I write this, I am staggered by the realization of how this industry is so new, so young. So much has happened in the world, it’s easy to forget that truly it has only been three years.

To celebrate this anniversary that is near and dear to my heart, I decided to pay a visit to my local fully licensed dispensary; if not to celebrate then I suppose to support the industry, buy local!

But It was there that I first met, Richard.

The store itself was a mesmerizing experience. Smooth, sleek counters, with different weed buds displayed exquisitely under warm spotlights…everything, just so. Apple store for weed would be the most apt description. Richard works as a budtender; think genius bar expert for weed.

Richard has been working in the industry as a budtender since the early days of legalization. What better way to celebrate the 3-year anniversary than to get a real-world, on-the-ground, inside scoop about how the industry has been faring since legalization. The map is never like the destination.

Richard Poston is thirty years old and has been all over Canada. Before moving to Ottawa, he was in Banff, Alberta where he worked in the food & beverage industry for four years.

OK! Let’s start from the beginning. How did you end up being a budtender in Ottawa?

Well, Ottawa was right in the middle of where my parents and my girlfriend’s parents live, so it was the right place to be. I actually had a job offer lined up to work at this fancy restaurant in the Byward market but when I came to Ottawa, apparently the HR person took a leave of absence and didn’t tell anyone, so they were like the position doesn’t exist anymore.

Wow! that sucks!  how did you make the jump from that to weed?

yeah! so I was walking down Bank Street and I’ve never been in a dispensary in Ottawa. But people were lining up out on the sidewalk, so I was like what the hell. And I never bought weed from a dispensary, the people I get it from are the people I get it from.

But I go in and it was wild. The people working seemed to genuinely enjoy working there and just being there. They’re mostly students and early twenties but very knowledgeable about cannabis. The energy and liveliness… So, as a weed smoker, I totally saw myself working there.

Immediately I asked to speak to a manager. It was the first time I heard of ‘bud tender’ as a position. But we talked and thankfully, I already knew my weed, terpenes, trichomes, genetics, growing…all of that. So, I got the job.

Beautiful! You mentioned it’s mostly young people working there, are your customers also mostly young people?

Mostly yes. But we do get an older crowd occasionally. It’s funny how the older crowd would buy something that a young person wouldn’t. Like we get the older customers asking us about classic items like Moroccan or Afghani Hash. Whereas younger customers just want a bang for their buck.

And your job as a budtender is to expand minds and tastes by answering any questions and to recommend a strain suitable to the occasion?

Yep, exactly. Also, it’s not like walking into a liquor store where there’s marketing to let you know what bottle is good for what. There aren’t any aisles at a dispensary. It’s more like working at a speakeasy during the prohibition. You would come up to the cashier and order what you wanted and then it would be ready at the fulfillment window.

Also, there’s still a limit on how much you can buy. It’s not like liquor where you can walk out with a case of wine. You can’t buy more than forty grams. So, I think there’s this entire market we’re missing. Those who want to buy half a pound or a pound. But I think we’ll get there.

So, what does your career future look like? Can you be a budtender and meet the demands of life as you grow older?

Well, there’s not much money in it. It’s slightly more than minimum wage but there’s no tip money. So, that sucks. But being a budtender opens up so many career paths in the industry. Once you get some experience you can move around. Like Keithan who worked with me as a budtender is now a sales rep with Redecan, Maddy works for Pax, Jason went to Green Hedge. Also, stores are expanding so we lose store managers and hire from within to fill any openings. So, it’s really cool that you can move up the chain while working with something you’re passionate about.

Thanks for your time, this was really cool.

Same here! my pleasure.

Richard Poston has an Instagram account where he reviews different strains of weed to enlighten customers about what to expect.