Budtender Bios: Andrea
This is Andrea; Farma’s Director of Education, intake manager, and all around badass.
She’s a self-made science wiz with a passion for education. And she’s the reason our staff is the most knowledgeable team around; thanks to Andrea, we get complete terpene analyses sent to us every time a new strain hits the shelf. She also trains our newcomers, organizes weekly educational lectures for our staff, and maintains an online science archive, updating it as new research emerges. Andrea recently spoke at the Cannabis Business Times conference in Las Vegas, and her writing has been published in Cannabis Business times and Cannabis Dispensary mag.
Q:How long have you been using cannabis? What got you into it?
A: Like many curious adolescents, I tried ‘weed’ for the first time under the ‘guidance’ of a friend sitting atop a drainage pipe just below a Denny’s. It was Ohio in the early 90s. Either because I wasn’t inhaling properly or because my receptors weren’t primed, I didn’t feel it. Over the years I got it to work, but never felt a deep connection with the plant or its effects. Alcohol didn’t pair well with it for me and, more often than not, I had already been drinking when it was offered. After learning the hard way about compounded effects, I stuck with other intoxicants primarily. Though I did have one memorable experience with a little schwag and a Radiohead album, cannabis generally left me withdrawn and a bit of a wallflower. I preferred more gregarious drugs.
Many years later, while attending my 3rd Thanksgiving dinner of the season, I was offered a homemade edible by a friend who made a habit of using good judgement when dosing. We spent the evening running around our friend Bobby’s new Chicago distillery, chasing the shop cat, and giggling uncontrollably. It was delightful and unlike any high I had experienced previously. I made the decision then to start consuming cannabis more.
Prior to my cookie communion, I had taken to riffing on classic cocktails via boozy cupcakes and had been hosting game nights with friends where I could share my creations. The best one was an Aviation Martini cupcake. It was spot on. This was quickly adapted to cannabis consumables and, ultimately, ended up becoming a side business. One that still exists today if you’re lucky enough to know the right Chicagoan.
Q: How long have you been a budtender? What do you like about it? What are some difficulties?
A: I have worked within the legal cannabis market for going on three years now. I came out to Portland very specifically to work at Farma which I knew would allow me to gain a deep understanding of cannabis science and the many facets of the industry as a whole. I wanted to learn everything.
While my responsibilities and research have now taken me away from the shop floor to some degree, there is still nothing better than spending the time with someone seeking relief and helping them find it, even when pharmaceuticals and physicians have failed them. Maybe especially so. Watching social stigma take a backseat to trust and advocacy in even the most hesitant of consumers is exciting. I look forward to the day when cannabis is a first line therapy and not a last resort – when the bridge between plant and medicine, doctor and dispensary has been fully built.
The ECS has been with us since before the first human was conceived but wasn’t discovered until the early 1990s. This is all new science. And, as we gain a better understanding of how the ECS engages and optimizes nearly every aspect of mammalian physiology, I believe it will change the way we approach medicine at its core, from a single-target, single-compound pharmacology to a polymodal approach that enhances therapeutic value and reduces unwanted side effects – like opioid overdose. Nothing in the body works in isolation and the way we treat diseases and deficiencies must take this into consideration. Cannabis may not be a panacea, but it’s far more versatile and benign than the current pharmacopeia pushed by BigPharma. Endocannabinology is the future.
Q: What do you do at Farma? (any special role?)
A: I am the current Director of Education, a role I inherited from the remarkable Emma Chasen and one that remains central to the mission behind Farma. I organize weekly education sessions for the staff, analyze lab data for predictive patterns in each chemovar (strain) we carry, connect with the community through outreach and speaking engagements, and provide one-on-one consultations to folks in need of guidance and good information. When I get a chance, I explore topics in detail through the Farma blog and in printed publications. But, like so many others in the cannabis world, I wear many hats.
Q: What did you do before getting into the cannabis industry? (background/origin story)
A: You know, I always pictured myself in academia, I just thought it would be for architectural history and preservation, not ‘weed’. That being said, the writing, communication, and research skills I honed in college covering the influence of diaspora on contemporary Indian art or the East-West connection in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright allowed for easy adaptation as I descended into the rabbit hole that is current cannabis research and education.
Q: What made you want to get into the cannabis industry?
A: Most of us passionate about the therapeutic potential of cannabis come with a positive personal anecdote that first drew them in. For me, cannabis became a tool to treat anxiety and depression, but it also helped me realize heightened states of both emotional and rational discovery. But you don’t need a personal connection to the plant to recognize just how extraordinary all of its vast and varied effects can be for someone looking for relief – recreationally or medically speaking. I’m here to improve individual lives in the short term and help change the way we understand and treat the human body and all of its interconnectivity in the long term.
Q: What’s so special about Farma?
A: Our dedication to good data and continuing education. Also, transparency. Far too few dispensaries, the gatekeepers of product, are limited by lack of knowledge, rampant misinformation, and regulatory hurdles to discuss options with folks with openness and accuracy. Transparency is key – the pros and the cons, the successes and the failures – if we are to reinstitute trust in a plant that has, for the majority of all of our lives, been demonized for no other reason than it’s perceived association with minority, immigrant, and subversive populations. Google quotes from Harry Anslinger, the inventor of ‘marijuana’ prohibition. What you’ll find is nothing but hatred and lies steeped in racism. We still have a lot of work to do to overcome the damage that was done.
Q: How do you spend your free time?
A: With Nature. Since my arrival in Portland nearly three years ago, I’ve been working my way through all of the most beautiful settings – hiking, driving, boating. I bought an inflatable kayak that I keep in my car for quick escapes. Best purchase ever.
I also find gardening therapeutic – getting my hands in the soil, learning how to create better micro-ecosystems from the often depleted environments left behind at the apartments I’ve inhabited. I like to leave behind magical little spaces full of life.
Q: What’s your favorite way to consume cannabis? (method of consumption)
A: Oh, well, for all my talk about best practices, I still enjoy spliffs. Though I’ve tried to cut my tobacco consumption by adding herbs to the blend. That method is probably more of a habit that needs some breaking than a preference. Of course, edibles are still near and dear to my heart, too, but honestly, each method of consumption has its time and place.
Q: What are some of your favorite things to do while high?
A: It depends on the high. A terpinolene rich chemovar is great for being out and about in the sunshine where everything is endlessly fascinating because of that compound’s ability to engage with receptors similarly to many hallucinogenic drugs. Listening to music on a particularly sensory-enhancing chemovar can be transportative. I can produce creative and clear writing while enjoying chemovars with lots of Pinene and Myrcene at the top of the ingredient list far faster and with greater confidence than I can without.
Q: Favorite terpenes?
A: It’s not just single terpenes that are the answer to this question, but recognizing the synergistic profiles that relate to your personal preferential patterns. How individual cannabinoids and terpenes stack up against each other and balance one another’s effects – or not. I love a high Pinene content in conjunction with Myrcene and Limonene for creativity, mood elevation, and calm motivation. Smoky, citrus profiles like Orange Cookies or Tangelo Haze which often have a high concentration of beta-Caryophyllene along with a citral terpene like terpinolene or limonene usually produce some of my favorite effects as well – happy, creative, and social with a carefree physical momentum that allows me to clean my house without feeling like it’s a race.
Q: Favorite minor cannabinoids?
A: I mean, who doesn’t get excited by a little THCV?
Q: Favorite cannabis type (I, II, III)? Favorite ratio?
A: Type 1s are my go to, but in a world where I didn’t feel the need to ‘keep up with the shelf’ I would be consuming a lot more mixed ratio, Type 2s. The effects are more forgiving but more layered and longer-lasting than many Type 1s on the market. These 30% THC cultivations are often less nuanced than their Type 2 sisters – one-note-wonders that serves to increase your tolerance and limit your choices. The future of cannabis is mixed ratio and craft hemp that offers full-spectrum therapeutic effects.
Q: Favorite non-flower product (and why)?
A: Again, no one product is right for every moment and every need. Patches are great for traveling. Vaporizers keep medicine mobile. Tinctures and infusions offer great doseability with high cost efficacy. But, edibles do offer a distinct and pleasant intoxication for me that can fall anywhere from a light mood lift and productivity to a euphoric and sensory full-body high. There is a lot of variability within edibles and they are more fun than drops of oil under the tongue.
Q: Describe a favorite memory of using cannabis.
A: So many. My first edible experience actually predates my Thanksgiving cookie. It was a brownie, of course. The guy I was dating at the time gave me a safe space to try it and then took me home, put some Aphex Twin in the headphones and gave me a legit foot massage. To this day, massage and music paired with cannabis have a regular place in my life.
Q: What is popular misconception about budtending that you can mythbust?
A: A good budtender does more than sling weed. We are herbalists with an intricate knowledge of how cannabinoids work in the endocannabinoid system and should be taking a lead role in bridging the gap between medicine and product.
Q: What do you think is the most important skill a budtender can have?
A: Knowledge, patience, and transparency.