The first thing that stands out in my memory was that it was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. One of those Pacific Northwest spring mornings where the rainy season has receded and a summer full of promise stretches before your mind’s eye, verdant and benevolent and perfect. It was very, very difficult to drag myself into work.
It was the first 4/20 of recreational Cannabis sales in the fine state of Oregon. We had been open for a few short months; nobody was sure exactly what to expect but we were buzzing with anticipation.
Morning crew came in an hour early. Per state regulations all Cannabis products have to be locked away nightly; we stocked our wares and doubled down on reserves to have on hand. Computer terminals were tested, coffee was supplied in fairly alarming quantities. We did a quick shift meeting / rehash of the sales and specials we were offering. It was quite a bit to keep mentally on hand. The competition for the 4/20 retail dollar is as cutthroat as anything else in the business.
By 9 A.M., when the doors opened: there was a line forming down the street. It didn’t stop until well after 6 P.M.
The professional life of a budtender is a fairly relaxed one on the average day. I think I can say, simply: 4/20 is NOT one of those.
By 10:30 the software we used to track all our sales for the state regulatory authority had crashed. Statewide, that is. Suddenly, with a line out the door and amidst increasingly panicked whispers among the staff: virtually every dispensary in Oregon collectively face-palmed into their racing thoughts and tried to figure a way around losing the biggest sale day of the year.
We started hand-writing receipts, per gram and edible and cartridge and dab, in duplicate so we could retain a copy and sort it out later. We hand-wrote the labels for the pop tops. We kept track of our registers and the cash coming in and out as best we could. The volume of goods sold was such that we needed to have a mental list of strains hitting the shelves as we flew through grams and eighths and ounces of others. Three of us had to rush downstairs and begin assembling new prerolls mid-shift to keep up with demand.
By the end: boy. We were frickin frazzled! It ended up being fourteen hours of pure, unadulterated Crazy. We smoked a couple quick joints in the parking lot under the flickering neon strobe of the streetlights. We went home to sleep. The party was over. We had done what we could. It felt celebratory but also exhausting and draining in a new way the job hadn’t presented before.
“IT’S ALL WELL AND GOOD TO BE EMPLOYED AS A BUDTENDER, BUT TRY LISTING THAT AS YOUR OCCUPATION WHILE APPLYING FOR A MORTGAGE…”
While not being officially recognized as such: 4/20 is as reverent a holiday as any I’ve come across. Cannabis culture has always blossomed best as an ad-hoc, word-of-mouth enterprise, shared by good friends for good reasons. The level of intensity required to maintain some continuity of community through prohibition has bred a certain hearty independent ingenuity and devotion that’s as quintessentially American as any other day on the calendar. It’s hard to put its gravitas into words for people who spent any portion of their life looking over their shoulder simply because there’s a certain plant that means the world to them, and the government disagrees.
For many of us, who’ve devoted to the idea that Cannabis is a benefit to our community and society worth risking freedom and life for: this is OUR fourth of July.
Most people who work in Cannabis do so for a reason. Between the wild fluxes in the industry, shifting landscape of businesses, overwhelming tax structure and legal dubiousness of employment (it’s all well and good to be employed as a budtender, but try listing that as your occupation while applying for a mortgage…): this is a hustle for the true devotee. Most of us who are here because we love it, and most of us who make it for any length of time are the ones who work damn hard to do what they do well.
My pitch is simple, I’ll make it now. As consumers, business owners and industry workers: EVERYBODY who enjoys legal, safe Cannabis should advocate in one way or another for holiday pay for workers on 4/20. Same as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Black Friday or any other time people are trying to enhance their special day.
Working in Cannabis is far from easy: for the vast majority of workers there’s no health benefits, no retirement structure, few guarantees of any kind. There’s a number of reasons for this but at the end of the day the sad fact is, turnover is extreme and often includes a lot of the best talent to grace the stage.
We need to KEEP our best talent on board. We need to incentivize the brightest and most dedicated voices in the field as advocates for the plant, ensure that the most knowledgeable and capable staff stay in the industry and help inform and educate the public at large. Businesses who offer holiday pay on 4/20 just as they would on any other holiday should be celebrated and frequented. In the end: a line out the door will always be worth a happy, productive workforce.
If you’re a consumer: support dispensaries who advertise holiday pay on 4/20! Reach out to your favorite shops, ask if this is something they currently or are planning to offer their workers. Make it clear that the buying public supports the move. This can make all the difference.
For growers and producers: Find ways to celebrate and promote shops who pay their workers commensurately to rep your goods! This is your busiest sale day of the year too. Flood your insta, update your vendor day pitch. Tag your name and your products into good works that help everybody.
Dispensaries: Get Proud!!! There’s no better way to rep yourself than to take care of your most valuable assets. This can ABSOLUTELY be advertised in a way that maximizes the foot traffic coming through your doors. Retail is all about having long-term employees your customers trust and come back to for repeat business. See to it that the workers who take the time and initiative to work The Great Stoner Holiday come away from their shift happy that they showed up, and happy to come back the next day.
FOLLOW DICK FITTS ON INSTAGRAM! Keep up on 4/20 holiday pay and cannabis behind the scenes.