Budtender Bios: Ian

Budtender Bios: Ian

Everyone, meet Ian. He’s one of the last remaining Farma OG’s who has been around since the early days of Oregon rec. He’s a tech-savvy internet navigator with a penchant for good humor; and has an arsenal of cool facts, vegan cooking hacks and dank memes up his sleeve at all times. 

Ian is a highly judicious cannabis enthusiast and a strong advocate for tolerance breaks and responsible consumption. He has an uncanny ability to demystify stoner lore with hard science, which means every interaction with him is interesting AF. That also means he’s an exceptional budtender, and he was even nominated for Willamette Week’s Best Budtender award last year. These days Ian’s our concentrate buyer, and is the person you want to thank for bringing old-school hash back into fashion at Farma.


How long have you been using cannabis? What got you into it?


I’ve been using cannabis for a little over 10 years. Around sophomore year in high school, a couple of my friends had started smoking after school, and had nothing but rave reviews. The D.A.R.E. programming was still fairly strong, but I was on something of an anti-establishment kick, so my curiosity got the best of me. What also interested me was the prospect of just feeling better, being happy.


I found it to be an experience enhancer, generally. Playing video games was fun, but playing them high was a blast. Watching movies was fun, but watching movies high was totally different. Simple things too, like a walk in the park, a conversation with a friend, or eating a particularly tasty meal, were just more interesting and fun to me if I had at least a little bit of a head-change.


Curiosity was also there from the onset. I was always doing weird experiments like checking my heart rate over time, logging how I felt on different strains or amounts, trying meditation exercises, all kinds of stuff. I love knowing more, so I was always crawling the stoner forums looking for answers. Little did I know, I was just scratching the surface.


How long have you been a budtender? What do you like about it? What are some difficulties?


I’ve been budtending pretty much since I arrived in Portland. I got here in October of 2015, and got my job at Farma in November of that same year. I didn’t actually start budtending immediately, because they already had an extremely knowledgeable staff. My real title was “Inventory Technician,” and I helped set up our back of house essentially.


My favorite part about budtending is getting to connect with people from all walks of life. While I am passionate about learning how things work (and why), the part that I really enjoy is imparting that knowledge and making suggestions to people. It’s the best feeling when someone comes in and says that my suggestion worked well for them. I think that’s why I liked working in the IT field so much, getting to know things that people don’t usually learn about, then using that knowledge to help people with their problems. Watching their face light up when it clicks for them, having someone come back and thank me for their positive experience. There’s nothing quite like it.


Difficulty for me ends up in one of two extremes. People who have done a ton of “at home research,” and come in with this belief that CBD or THC can cure everything that they’re suffering from, and on the opposite end are people with all kinds of problems, who aren’t being an active participant in their own health, and don’t try to remember what they’ve had before or even what works for them. I tell everyone that they need to try different things, and be very mindful of their experiences. When people say that they can’t sleep, I usually ask them what it exactly that’s keeping them up. A lot of people haven’t asked themselves that question, and just don’t know. That is information that can help us find solutions to their problems.


What do you do at Farma? Any special role?


I mentioned that when I started working at Farma, I was the inventory technician. I had some experience in inventory systems and ordering at Round Table, and a customer service background from IT Help Desk. I helped facilitate the ordering and stocking of packaging supplies and organized the downstairs into some of what it is today. Over time I transitioned into budtending, and really enjoyed that switch. Nowadays I order loose extracts and concentrates as a buyer, assistant manage on Fridays, and budtend the rest of the time.


What did you do before getting into the cannabis industry? 


Directly before getting into the Cannabis industry, I was working in computer services. I ran the IT Help Desk which is essentially a first step before you start talking to a real technician. I walked people through basic troubleshooting steps and about 90% of the time could fix peoples’ problems. For the 10% of issues above my knowledge level, we had a technician or two that I could transfer folks to, and a mobile unit we could send out if needed. Something about fixing those kinds of things for people was really rewarding. I recovered hard-drives filled to the metaphorical brim with family photos and financial documents, sped-up laptops for students who needed to turn in their thesis the next day, and replaced laptop screens for single mothers with reckless children. I get much the same kick from being a budtender, but instead of a broken screen it’s “why can’t I sleep?” “How can I reduce my anxiety?” “What would you suggest for a hike?”


I definitely get a lot more thanks being a budtender than I ever did fixing computers.


What made you want to get into the cannabis industry?


Honestly, it was a need for a job, and an excitement that it was even becoming an industry.  I also kept a garden in Washington and when I heard you could cultivate your own cannabis legally in Oregon, I couldn’t wait to get started! When I moved to Portland originally, I picked up a job in the prepared foods section at one of those upscale supermarkets. It was far too demanding of work for the amount that we were paid, and the conditions were abysmal. Every night after work I would send out resumes to different dispensaries, until my girlfriend pointed out that Farma was hiring. I briefly looked into what they were about, the accolades that they had gotten, articles written about the store, and felt instantly humbled. I had no experience, why would they hire me? She told me to apply anyway. Worst case, they would say no. So I sent in my resume ,and within the week I had a Skype interview with one of the owners. Surprisingly, they were looking for an inventory technician, and saw that I had experience in that from Round Table and the IT job that I had where I also kept inventory. I took the job and the rest, as they say, is history.


What’s so special about Farma?


What sets us apart is definitely our commitment to excellent service and our highly curated selection. The other dispensaries that I’ve been to typically don’t have either. You’re usually met with lackluster service, products that aren’t interesting, or aren’t particularly well made, even just bad aesthetics. It’s amazing how Farma has continued to set itself apart in this industry that is oversaturated with milquetoast options. One of my favorite things is hearing from customers about how they try to go somewhere different and they are frequently disappointed by the lackluster selection. It literally and figuratively leaves a bad taste in their mouths. Even people with serious brand loyalty try something at Farma for the first time and end up switching over completely.


How do you spend your free time?


I need to find better things to do with my time, because right now I spend the vast majority of it playing video games. It’s fine for de-stressing, but it’s particularly sedentary and hurts my posture. I’d like to spend some more time on bettering myself, like working out, reading, maybe taking a class. Ever since our EDU with Mule Extracts, I’ve been deeply fascinated with plant phenols and other essential oils that we lose in more common extraction techniques. I’d love to learn more about the chemistry side of things.


What’s your favorite way to consume cannabis? 


Combustion is my favorite, particularly in a bong/water pipe. I’ve found that flower or extract vaporization never got me the depth of high that I was looking for, and I’ve always like the ritual around smoking from a bong. Fitting, because it was the first thing I ever smoked out of.


If I’m on the go, I use a distillate pen. Discreet, no re-loading, no combustion, definitely more portable, and I honestly don’t need to get that high when I’m out and about, so it’s perfect.


What are some of your favorite things to do while high?


My top two favorite things right now are playing video games and watching movies high. Hiking is fun when you’re high, but you should either know the trail well or have someone along who does!


Favorite terpenes?


Terpinolene, Limonene, Pinene, some B-Carryophyllene (to balance the rest). I typically enjoy things that other people say cause them anxiety. I’m very interested in finding out how/if that changes over time, because the vast majority of older folks that I serve report experiencing more anxiety from cannabis as they get older (which isn’t really an issue that I experience).


Favorite minor cannabinoids?


Probably THC-V, CBC is cool.


Favorite cannabis type (I, II, III)? Favorite ratio?


Type I’s are what I typically smoke, since I’m mainly doing it for recreation. There is a threshold with THC where it’s sort of just overwhelming. My sweet spot is about 20-25% THC, but I also have some favorites that are in the 15-18% range too (Blueberry Sorbet definitely comes to mind). I suppose it depends on what I’m smoking for. If it’s focus, I’m really into the lower THC stuff, but recreation will definitely put me in the mood for something more intense.


Favorite non-flower product (and why)?


I love the Luminous Botanicals line of tinctures. I feel like there’s something for everyone, and they’re very versitile, if you know what I’m saying. The Physic Field Balm is my favorite topical. Great for healing cuts, bruises, dry skin, you name it. I generally stay away from edibles because I have such a high natural tolerance (50-100mg). Whether that’s due to having too few receptors in my system or something else, I’m not sure.


Describe a favorite memory of using cannabis.


There was one memory early on in my cannabis usage that particularly stands out to me. I was smoking with a friend for their second time, and we had something that we were told was seriously potent, so we were excited. I remember smoking with him, and we were getting particularly high, when I leaned back and closed my eyes. I remember seeing a representation of my body in my mind and it was all these different colors and they were radiating out like a rainbow from the center of my chest to the tips of my extremities. I could also feel a tingling, warm sensation, followed by an intense feeling of euphoria. Wondering if my friend was in about the same zone, I opened my eyes again to see what he was doing, and he was leaning back in his stool so much that he toppled backwards about the same moment I looked over at him. He fell backwards off the stool and into a wall, which we both found hilarious.


What is popular misconception about budtending that you can mythbust?

I feel like it’s so simple, but there is no one-size-fits all product for anything. Everything is deeply personal. Just because your friend with anxiety likes a certain strain, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to have that same effect for you. Taking some time to understand how naturopathic medicine works (which is difficult, because we all mainly have experience using the allopathic model) is greatly beneficial to your ability to find something that works well for you. We can make all the suggestions and recommendations that we want, but if you aren’t being mindful and conscious about how you feel or how things are effecting you, you’re going to have a more difficult time finding what works.

What do you think is the most important skill a budtender can have?


I don’t know if it’s a skill as much as it is a trait that every budtender should cultivate, but empathy is very important. Your ability to empathize with people will directly impact how they interact with the products that you recommend and sell to people. Personality mirroring is also a helpful skill. Being able to employ those in tandem means that you can set people at ease, and meet them on their level. People who feel at ease typically end up feeling more confident in their purchases, and that feeling of confidence can only help when it comes to how they feel while they’re on that particular product.