Walking into a dispensary for the first time can feel overwhelming. It’s a cacophony of strains, edibles, topicals, vapes, concentrates and joints—which is why a good budtender is as vital to novice users as they are to experienced users. Being a budtender is way more than just being a pot enthusiast. It’s about having the ability to clearly express the unique qualities of each strain and method of consumption to a revolving door of clientele who place their trust in the budtender’s expertise.
In this profile series, we aim to highlight some budtenders we’ve met who leave a lasting impression through their professionalism, knowledge and character.
Life can throw quite the curveball, as Laura Wrong can tell you. A budtender at Therapeutic Healthcare Collective in Santa Cruz, California, Wrong has experienced more than her fair share of difficulties, including social anxiety, insomnia and homelessness.
Wrong credits cannabis with helping her get healthy and stay healthy, as well as giving her a way to connect with others seeking advice on the benefits of incorporating cannabis into their self-care regimens.
“Ultimately, a budtender is a caregiver, and it’s important to stay empathetic and educated.”
We asked Wrong to share the ways in which cannabis has impacted her life.
KW: Why do you consume cannabis?
Laura: Cannabis consumption has helped me in a wide variety of ways, from easing my social anxiety to helping me get a full night’s rest. I initially turned to cannabis after trying myriad sleeping medications, to no avail. As it turned out, cannabis was the only option for my insomnia: It not only put me to sleep, but it kept me asleep without the nasty hangover in the morning. From there, I educated myself and branched out using cannabis for different concerns—with much success.
KW: Flower, edibles or concentrates?
Laura: While I enjoy medicating in all ways for different reasons, flower is my favorite. I really enjoy the ritual of touching and breaking nugs, smelling and tasting the flower in its original form. I prefer sun-grown cannabis that is ecologically sustainable and organic when possible. In a joint, of course.
KW: What is your favorite strain?
Laura: It is near impossible to pick a favorite strain! The first that comes to mind is Black Jack (a hybrid strain of Jack Herer and Domino). I gravitate toward euphoric hybrids. They give me a happy medium of feeling very stoned without getting stuck in the couch. The more euphoric strains give me rose-colored glasses, and my anxiety tends to melt away.
KW: Tell us about your favorite kind of high. What’s that feel like?
Laura: My favorite high is kind of happy-go-lucky; when I’m high enough that I’m impervious to negativity and the energetic optimist comes out in me. I become motivated, friendly, outgoing, happy and relaxed. It is incredible how some highs can actually boost energy!
KW: What do you value that doesn’t cost money?
Laura: One thing is community. Fortunately, the cannabis industry has an incredibly strong community and has always relied heavily on volunteers and donations for patients. It is so beautiful to watch people come together to help each other. Also, I value imagination. Without it, we wouldn’t have thought of math, gravity, cars, anything. Imagination is the spark to discovery.
KW: What was the most impactful event of your life?
Laura: Probably going through a period of homelessness. In 2006, the recession hit my family hard, and we lost close to everything. I was living out of my car for over a year and didn’t have enough money to feed myself most days. That time was definitely a big lesson in humility and gratitude.
KW: What turns you on—creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Laura: My interest in nature and community and how they are intertwined… that’s what I spend most of my time thinking about these days. It is so important to actively create the community you seek. You have to put your realizations into action, and that attracts the right people to you. Everything you seek is within.
KW: What turns you off?
Laura: These days, I’m turned off most by a general lack of respect—lack of respect toward each other, the environment and our own bodies. If we find ways to appreciate each other, we can respect each other enough to motivate ourselves to do right.
KW: What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in a dispensary?
Laura: If you are seeking a career in the cannabis industry, I recommend that you learn as much as possible about the main cannabinoids and how they function. Strain knowledge is important, but even more important is helping patients make educated decisions about how they treat themselves.
KW: Why do you love being a budtender?
Laura: Nothing is more fulfilling than helping people learn how to heal themselves through cannabis.