When you think of essential workers in a pandemic, budtender is probably one of the last that comes to mind.
Five years ago, people saw weed as a gateway drug, Nathan Southers, a manager at Nectar, tells me. But he’s happy to see that the industry is an essential service and that he has a job during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The industry is still fighting to be treated like an ordinary business — and dealing with problems with federal banking regulations — but for now, the state of Oregon looks to dispensaries like Nectar for a revenue source, something the state will need more of soon.
I called around to some local dispensaries to see what the weed industry’s “toilet paper” is while finding out how to get newbies like myself into the dank world of weed.
At Nectar, pre-rolled joints are selling fast, as well as flower.
“People are just chilling at home, and they have nothing else to do,” Southers says, adding that for some out-of-work people, drug tests aren’t a concern right now. “People have lost their jobs, too, so they’re able to smoke again.”
It’s been nonstop at his store as employees constantly sanitize and run orders out curbside, something that the OLCC allowed a few weeks ago.
Southers says the store goes through so much flower that he can’t say which strain has been successful, but they do offer weekly deals because for the most part customers just want the most bang for their buck.
Pre-rolls are popular right now because it’s a simple way to get high — you don’t need a bong or any apparatus — and an ounce goes for $48.
Because of the governor’s social distancing measures, dispensaries are not only dealing with fewer people inside a store at one time, but they aren’t able to offer customers a whiff of what they’re buying — something unique to Oregon. Flower is still selling without customers’ catching a whiff, but concentrates (THC or CBD separated from the flower through a means like temperature) aren’t selling as well.
At Moss Crossing, co-founder Cam McNeeley says this is a weird time for the industry. Dispensaries are considered an essential business but don’t qualify for federal assistance.
Management at Moss Crossing know this has been a tough period for the staff who have been coming in. So they enlisted the support of hip-hop artist Afroman of “Because I Got High” fame to give a pep talk and morale boost to the store’s troops (I sent a message to him via Instagram, but he didn’t tell me what he’s using right now).
“Thank y’all for staying open during the coronavirus, ay, gettin’ those deliveries to the patients who need that medication,” Afroman says in the video with a rhythmic meter. “When all the buildings in New York City fall, Moss Crossing will be standing tall — gettin’ deliveries to all of y’all.”
McNeeley says customers are stocking up on things like flower, edibles and vape cartridges. And people who are feeling anxious about current events have been buying CBD gummies and tinctures. At Moss Crossing, pre-rolls aren’t selling as well, though, since those are traditionally shared with friends — and you can’t pass a joint over Zoom or FaceTime (yet).
For the newbies, there are other options to feeling good during quarantine.
Southers says microdosing with edibles is a way to avoid smoking weed, something to consider since we’re all laying low to avoid catching a respiratory illness.
Moss Crossing co-founder and CEO Heidi Fikstad says a low-dose edible is a fun way to fuel one’s creative process or make TV binging more entertaining.
“A daily regimen of high CBD, like a Luminous Botanicals Earth Blend, may help relieve some of the anxiety people are feeling these days,” she writes in an email. “It might be a good time to step the relaxation up a notch and try some Empower soaking salts in an evening bath. We also have tinctures like Sung God’s Hypnos Sleep Tincture, that could help those suffering from sleepless nights.”
For some, being home all day has meant learning how to garden, according to search aggregator Google Trends. Apparently gardening is at its all-time peak right now with people searching for terms like “how to garden,” “gardening” and “victory garden.”
Fikstad says now is the time to learn how to grow your own cannabis plant. The store has clones to get started in spring and copies of Sungrown: A Grower’s Guide to Cannabis for a simple how-to that can get you a special kind of green thumb.
Now, I may not be steeped in the weed world like Afroman, but I’m not a total square either. Don’t think I’m a regular weed consumer based on the fact that I work at Eugene Weekly. I stay away from the herb because it aggravates my already over-the-top anxiety levels.
But when I found out about the Portland-based Aprch (pronounced “approach”), my use of CBD increased immediately. See, I drink a lot of sparkling water. It started as a way to cut down my alcohol drinking (since the moment I drink, I become a new person and that person wants a new drink, to paraphrase Robin Williams) but grew into a two-to-three-can of La Croix a day addiction.
Aprch chief marketing officer Brett Wiley tells me he prefers CBD-infused sparkling water over beer, too.
“It doesn’t get you high,” Wiley says, adding the drink is good for you because of added vitamins.
Aprch started when Wiley and two other people joined forces in November 2018 to form a group with experience in the cannabis and action sports industries. It began selling in July 2019 and first sold its sparkling water in October 2019 in 600 retailers throughout Oregon.
Wiley says CBD has a lot of positive benefits for many people and it’s coming to light as the market has grown. Besides 30mg of broad spectrum CBD (zero THC), the sparkling water also has amino acids and vitamin C.
Aprch has three flavors of its sparkling water — lemon and lime, cucumber and mint, and watermelon — and has more flavors on the way, Wiley tells me. In July, the company will have coconut papaya, peppermint in November and cherry lime will be out soon.
In the meantime, Aprch is here to chill me out as the world has ground to a screeching halt.
Nectar is located at 340 River Road and is open 7 am to 10 pm; call them at 541-255-2457 or visit Nectar.Store/River-Rd. Moss Crossing is located at 2751 Friendly Street and is open 10 am to 7 pm Monday through Saturday, 7 pm for pick-up, 10 am to 6 pm for delivery, closed Sundays; call them at 541-636-3724 or visit online at MossCrossing.com. Visit DrinkAprch.com/