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What Dispensary Employees Should Know About Chronically Ill Patients

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Editor’s note: Medical marijuana/cannabis is not legal in all states and countries. For a list of states where medical marijuana is legal, click hereThis piece is based on the experience of an individual. Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

My husband Zaine asks the cab driver to make a stop at the dispensary just before our house. Mary Jane’s Pot Shop is a tiny place but clean and well-stocked, with green barber poles outside that spin; they are a needed touch. I sit in the back and wait with the driver while he goes in.


Zaine takes a while, but he’s very picky – and he has his routine. Usually he walks in and one of the Kevins will greet him and start pulling product off the top shelf. They already know what he’s looking for: no CBD heavy strains, indica dominant hybrids if possible, nothing under 20 percent THC, something that tastes good and smokes easy but can be used for day and nighttime if possible. “She’s very into the taste of it, and the smell of it. She’s particular.” Kevin will pull a couple of things down, a few tried and true strains and brand new stuff I might want to try. He lets Zaine smell each one and look at it under a magnifying glass with a bright light.

Tonight, however, a new guy named Adam is working. Zaine pulls out his ID and his phone. “My wife has Crohn’s and fibromyalgia. We’re looking for products that help with pain and nausea the most.” Then he’ll explain what Crohn’s is and what it does to my body, what products we’ve tried, the criteria and what we’re willing to spend. All the time he’s watching Adam. This is Adam’s one chance to make a good impression on my husband; Zaine is very protective and he’ll only work with people who are honest and dependable and won’t settle when it comes to my medicine.

Adam doesn’t disappoint: “I have something I just tried recently, very good.” This is the right answer because Zaine doesn’t like to purchase anything the budtender hasn’t tried themselves. While Adam talks, Zaine is cross-checking reviews on Leafly to see what other people have said and to see if Adam knows what he’s talking about. “I give them one chance to tell me the truth.” Zaine explains, “Just one, that’s it.”

Adam helps my husband select a new strain and tries to talk him into some edibles, and Zaine laughs. “No, you don’t understand, she’ll want to eat all of these at once.” But Zaine buys them anyway because heck, if I have to take medicine I should at least enjoy it, right? (Also because he spoils me.) He doesn’t think they’re going to work but they do and he’s impressed.

He asks me later at home after I’ve taken my medicine what I think, how I feel and he watches me do things and keeps an eye on my body language to see how it’s affecting me and my ability to function. He takes note of how much it takes for me to feel comfortable, and how much is too much. Zaine compiles all of this knowledge into his brain and keeps it like a catalogue of options – every strain I try is a data point aimed at fine tuning my treatment. He’ll decide based on how fast I go though this medicine if we’ll buy this strain again.

Here’s what I want to tell all the dispensary employees, in particular, budtenders out there: us chronically ill patients have been through hell and back. Lots of us have been jerked around and have struggled for years with pain and finding support for that pain. People like me have had the run around with different treatments for years and promised something that would work again and again only for that relief to never materialize. We’re not skeptical because we’re cheap (although some of us are on fixed incomes) – we’re skeptical because we’ve tried so many things to no avail.

Keep in mind you might be the last hope for someone on their journey to manage their chronic pain at any given time. The kindness and patience I consistently run into when dealing with budtenders is so refreshing – never lose that. We need accurate information, we need support and most of all we need someone to listen to us and answer our questions. When we come into your shop, as so many different people, please take us seriously.

We’re counting on you.

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Originally published: August 28, 2017
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