The Joys of Meeting Our Customers

[Canniseur: The good old days: Illegal growers would bring bud into the shops that were quasi-legal. Some of these growers still go out and meet their customers. They visit not just the budtenders and shop owners, but the end consumers too. Swami and Nikki want to stay connected. Maybe this is something all growers should do.]

Back in the “OG days,” as we’ll probably fondly recall the time before legalization, one of my greatest joys was bringing in a turkey bag full of flowers to our urban dealer friends, or later to the buyers at emerging dispensaries.

First, we’d have to “run the gauntlet” as driving the weed down the highway from ranch to the city was known. That was one part paranoia, one part hyper-awareness of the road and one part transcendent confidence. But once we got to the dealer friend or the saw our friends at the dispensary, it was always so worth it to open up a big bag of luscious buds and let the thick terpenes fill the air with delicious scents from the garden. “Whoa” was the usual response, as delighted friends would put their whole head into the bag and breathe deeply.

We used to love going into places like Harborside in Oakland, one of the oldest dispensaries around, and the staff would be thrilled to see us. “Oh boy, we’re getting some Swami bud in here!” they’d exclaim, and it always felt so good. We’d hang around the sales room and meet happy customers. It gave us the opportunity to hear what they used cannabis for, what strains they liked the best and so much more. We’d meet other farmers dropping off their products and remain friends with some of them to this day. It was all so canna-familial.

We knew, of course, that things would change with the advent of Prop 64, and as of Jan. 1, 2018 indeed it has. Now it is the distribution team who delivers cannabis flowers, carefully packaged in fancy glass jars, to the stores. I speak with the buyers primarily by phone or over the internet. Such is life in 2019. But that is why it is so important to schedule in-store meet and greet sessions to get face to face with our customers. This is how we stay current with the real beat of what is happening in cannabis, and it is so different in various parts of California.

Swami and I are on the road a whole lot these days, experiencing parts of our state that I didn’t even know existed. A couple of months ago we were in Riverside County to visit Green America, a dispensary in the town of Perris. The landscape in this part of Southern California is reminiscent of old Wild West movies with barren, rocky hills dotted with scrub brush. I expected to see the Lone Ranger ride by smoking a fatty. Well, there must be a lot of stoners living in the region, because the store is doing great and new ones are sprouting up like desert flowers after a rainfall.

In out-of-the-way places like Perris, real farmers from the famed Emerald Triangle like us are a rare sighting. In more urban settings, the budtenders and the clientele primarily meet sales reps from the various companies who set up a table in the sales area to show off their product lines. But Swami and I enjoy doing it ourselves as much as possible, and customers are always surprised to meet us actual farmers. We explain to them how the plants grow, the process of harvest and the benefits of growing in full sun with organic methods. In a few stores there are even attached smoking lounges where we can share a smoke with the customers, which is always an extra treat.

We’ve met yogis and mystics, bikers and soccer moms. Sometimes seriously ill people come in to ask us about what cultivar is best for their symptom and to get a blessing from Swami. One well-dressed senior woman recently spoke with me while her husband was purchasing some flowers to take home. “I don’t like to smoke it,” she expressed matter-of-factly. “Sometimes I will enjoy an edible, but mostly I like speed.” What? I thought I had heard her wrong, but she continued, “It’s so easy, I’ve been getting diet pills from my doctor for years and it’s just my thing.” Well, as they say, whatever gets you high … but I pray she moves on to cannabis instead.

On our display table, I like to set up an altar to Ganja Ma, the goddess of cannabis, to create a sacred tone and be a conversation starter. Swami also has begun to offer meditation sessions at some stores, which is proving to be a real bonus to all of us. Most people arrive after partaking in some cannabis, so they are in the perfect headspace to get even higher via meditation and chanting. We are so fortunate to live in California, the home of conscious consumption and higher living. The place where Timothy Leary boldly declared at the first Human Be-In in 1967: “Tune In, Turn On and Drop Out.” These days, we may all need to function under lots of rules and regulations, but the ethos remains the same.

Some shops are slick, some are funky and a few are spectacular. In fact, it’s a whole new profession to be a cannabis store designer. Clearly some take their cues from Apple stores, such as MedMen, while others are much more comfy and welcoming. So much of the vibe depends on the budtenders and sales staff.

Turns out the budtenders may be the most important link of all, from farmer to consumer. They need to be knowledgeable and patient and compassionate. They need to be the sommeliers of cannabis and know which cultivar that they carry is best for each customer’s needs. There even is an annual Budtender Awards ceremony held in Las Vegas to honor the best of them. Whenever we visit stores, we make sure to meet them and share stories and welcome them to our ranch for further education. Many have never seen a big girl plant growing in full sun, flowers stretching towards the sky! And when they do, it often changes their minds about outdoor versus indoor weed.

We are all part of a large cannabis community, and it is growing every day. It’s a blessing to be a part of this pioneer movement and to get out and be with the people. After putting nine months of love and care into cultivating fine flowers, it is a bonus to meet the folks who end up enjoying their many benefits. As they say, it’s a whole process, from seed to sale, and we relish being a part of every step along the way.

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