Feature: Jessica Neil – Minerva Cannabis
Working at different dispensaries can be a challenge this early into a new industry. What challenges have you faced as a budtender and manager?
Having worked in the Cannabis Industry since legalization I have had the opportunity to work multiple roles across different dispensaries both independent and corporate. Starting as a budtender with one of the first shops to open in downtown Toronto, then stepping into an inventory lead role, and later as an assistant retail store manager; I have been able to see the growth and changes within the industry firsthand as well as the areas where improvement still needs to be made.
At the beginning with only three shops open in Toronto, we were averaging $80 – $100k in sales per day. Everything was so fast-paced and we often had lineups down the street. While these days are long gone, the focus on getting customers in and out quickly left a gap in product knowledge and guest education. There was a lack of information and resources for budtenders to educate themselves on products outside of store-specific technical training. The conversations being had with guests at this point were around the excess packaging, THC content, and price points in comparison to the legacy market, as well as rules and regulations put in place by the AGCO and Health Canada.
While some of these issues have been addressed, the over-saturation of the retail market has led to new problems, especially for independent shops that often have tighter margins to consider. How do you make your shop stand out in comparison to the shop two doors down that may be carrying the same products at a similar price point? While a well-curated menu makes a world of difference, ordering through the OCS makes this extremely difficult to maintain as products are often removed from each shop’s order last minute with no opportunity to replace the items or place a second order.
Many independent and corporate retailers are missing another major key to ensuring their shop stands out, and that is through staff retention, appreciation, and supported education. There are so many passionate and knowledgeable people in this industry and the retailers that stand out and achieve longevity are often those that value their staff and have that backed into their business plan.
With new products constantly being introduced to the market, what secrets do you have to stay in the loop with what is actually good?
I am a big advocate of doing your own personal research and journaling the results to keep track of what you like or don’t like and why, dosage, as well as the effects you felt. I have a collection of notebooks containing legacy market and now legal market strains, their lineages, terpene, and cannabinoid profiles, as well as the effects I felt. I originally started my research using Leafly to find out information on strain lineages and possible effects. The OCS can be used as a starting point, and their Reddit thread is full of product reviews as well as photos of products and is a great resource.
I have also found Licensed Producer websites can be very informative as well as provide information about growing processes and causes the LP supports or donates to. I would love to see more LPs be open about their strain lineages as sometimes it can be difficult to find accurate information and knowing what you’re consuming is very important.
There are a few social media accounts that support budtender education such as Higher Education, Budtenders Association, and High Buds Club. I recommend following the social media accounts of the brands and brand reps that you like as they often have educational content and offer a look behind the scenes as well as a sneak-peek into any new products or strains about to hit the market. I am a recent follower of The Cannabinista on Instagram. Her account offers tons of information on cannabis infusions and recipes. There are also some incredible print resources and podcasts. Broccoli Magazine does a little of both and covers culture and education beautifully. I’d also recommend following groups that do advocacy work in the industry as we have a lot to make up for. Cannabis Amnesty is doing great work to pressure the federal government into expunging records of those targeted by the criminalization of cannabis and waving all fees associated.
How has cannabis influenced your life?
I have had an on and off-again relationship with cannabis throughout my life, mostly in a social manner but fully incorporated it into my wellness routine about four or five years ago. Having been a bartender in the Toronto financial district for many years when I left the industry I began to take a closer look at some patterns I had developed and coping mechanisms that were no longer serving my best interests. I was able to reassess my relationship with alcohol and found that cannabis was not only helpful in that process but could be used to help me process some experiences from the industry itself. I found that while alcohol was used to numb certain feelings and experiences through cannabis use I was able to access those feelings and emotions comfortably. I live with complex PTSD and have found that for me, cannabis has been an incredible tool for managing my symptoms. The more research I’ve done the more fascinated I become with this plant. New information is constantly being discovered providing the opportunity to always be learning, which I truly enjoy.
What are you using right now?
Pura Earth developed a Japanese Cedar Bud CBD Face Cream through Avicanna’s advanced scientific platform. The light scent of cedar is soothing and dissipates quickly as the cream soaks into your skin. The rigorous testing this product has undergone allowed me to feel comfortable trying it, and I have enjoyed the increased level of luxury it has added to my daily skincare routine.
Avicanna has also formulated a deep tissue gel I’ve been loving, Rho Phyto, which has been optimized for faster absorption of cannabinoids into the deeper layers of the skin. It provides this gentle cooling sensation and has a light clove scent that again dissipates quite quickly. I tend to use it on my neck and shoulders where I hold a lot of tension and have been so impressed with the relief it provides.
I often reach for 1964 Organic Sour Cookies when I have a day off, or morning to myself and can go for a walk along the water. Being in nature is one of the best ways to enjoy this flower which is derived from a cross between my favorite strain GSC and Sour Diesel. Sticking with 1964 another favourite of mine right now is their Organic Romulan strain. I find it offers a nice combination of happiness and relaxation and is a perfect way to end the day.