CANNABIS CLASS

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BUDTENDERS GO TO SCHOOL

> BY AMANDA SIEBERT

Ever won­dered what it takes to be a pro­fes­sional bud­ten­der? You might be sur­prised that it re­quires much more than sim­ply “know­ing your weed”.

Lo­cal ed­u­ca­tor, con­sul­tant, and all-around cannabis ex­pert Adolfo Gon­za­lez op­er­ates Cannareps, an in­dus­try im­prove­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides train­ing for cannabis pro­fes­sion­als in Canada.

With a back­ground in cul­ti­va­tion, Gon­za­lez has been en­gag­ing with re­searchers, aca­demics, en­trepreneurs, grow­ers, and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als as a front­line worker for over 15 years and has de­vel­oped a way to teach budtenders skills that will al­low them to en­gage with their pa­tients more ef­fec­tively.

Through Cannareps, Gon­za­lez has al­ready helped train em­ploy­ees at over 60 or­ga­ni­za­tions. In an in­ter­view with the Ge­or­gia Straight, he said he’s look­ing for­ward to his next in­take.

“Our course is re­ally about clar­i­fy­ing the role of the bud­ten­der in so­ci­ety,” Gon­za­lez said in his down­town of­fice.

The course be­gins with a full-day sem­i­nar that cov­ers the ba­sics of ser­vice, in­take pro­to­cols, in­ter­pret­ing sci­en­tific ev­i­dence, and hands-on prod­uct knowl­edge. That is fol­lowed up by six monthly work­shops.

“We want to keep our budtenders grounded, make sure they are act­ing re­spon­si­bly, and, more im­por­tantly, get them to un­der­stand what qual­ity prod­uct means and how to ver­ify that,” he added.

With more than a decade of ex­pe­ri­ence as a grower, Gon­za­lez said very few peo­ple ac­tu­ally know how to iden­tify qual­ity cannabis. Al­though he said that stu­dents shouldn’t ex­pect to leave his course a “cer­ti­fied cannabis ex­pert”, he is able to take that 10-year learn­ing curve and con­dense it.

He isn’t a fan of tra­di­tional test struc­tures, so in­stead of mul­ti­ple­choice-ques­tion ex­ams or sur­prise quizzes, stu­dents will be smelling, tast­ing, and touch­ing dif­fer­ent prod­ucts in or­der to be­come fa­mil­iar with them.

“Then we’ll get into the de­tails. We’ll sit down with a lot of dif­fer­ent ver­sions of one strain, and then ex­tracts that are made from that strain, and then we’ll ex­am­ine test re­sults and iden­tify ter­penes,” he said, as­sert­ing that the only way to learn how to de­ter­mine qual­ity is “by hang­ing out with a weed geek”.

An im­por­tant re­source, and the blue­print for the course, lies in Gon­za­lez’s Cann Help Deck, a com­pre­hen­sive guide that com­piles 12 years of face-to-face in­ter­ac­tions with med­i­cal users, aca­demic pub­li­ca­tions, and men­tor in­for­ma­tion to out­line spe­cific ar­eas of ed­u­ca­tion. Each stu­dent gets the deck of ref­er­ence cards as part of the Cannareps course.

Many lo­cal dis­pen­saries use the deck, and in al­most two years of use, Gon­za­lez says, he has only ever re­ceived pos­i­tive feed­back.

Cre­ated with his wife and busi­ness part­ner, Enid, the deck is di­vided into four sec­tions that de­tail cannabi­noids (THC, CBD, et cetera), dif­fer­ent med­i­cal con­di­tions and how they might be treated with cannabis, the var­i­ous modal­i­ties for treat­ment (smok­ing, va­p­ing, cap­sules), and sub­species of cannabis (sativa, in­dica, rud­er­alis).

Al­though the deck is just one com­po­nent of the course, it pro­vides stu­dents with im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion that Gon­za­lez says many doc­tors and re­searchers can’t pro­vide.

“A lot of what you find work­ing in the field is ac­tu­ally con­tra­dic­tory to what re­searchers and doc­tors will tell you, and they hold the power—but, un­for­tu­nately, they don’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence to wield that power,” he said.

While the re­search com­mu­nity is of­ten lim­ited to study­ing spe­cific prod­ucts or com­pounds, the op­por­tu­ni­ties for anec­do­tal data col­lec­tion at dis­pen­saries are end­less.

“Dis­pen­saries have this unique po­si­tion­ing, where they have very broad pop­u­la­tion sizes and very broad prod­uct types that have ef­fec­tively be­come the stan­dard of treat­ment, so when doc­tors and aca­demics are learn­ing what they know based on stud­ies that use iso­lated par­ti­cles, even though the stan­dard of treat­ment is full­pro­file medicine, it cre­ates a bub­ble of mis­un­der­stand­ing.”

Ul­ti­mately, Gon­za­lez hopes to cre­ate a bridge be­tween dis­pen­sary work­ers, grow­ers, and aca­demics by en­cour­ag­ing dis­pen­saries to col­lect ob­ser­va­tional data for fu­ture study while also cre­at­ing a train­ing pro­gram for doc­tors and phar­ma­cists who are still un­fa­mil­iar with cannabis in a med­i­cal con­text.

“When you start work­ing with the re­search com­mu­nity, you re­al­ize why they’ve had all these blocks in ad­vance­ment. I can only do so much,” he said. “We need the spe­cial­ists to see the value of what we’ve built, what this com­mu­nity has ac­cu­mu­lated, and where to start us­ing it.”

Cannareps’ September term be­gins on September 24. Visit cannareps. ca to reg­is­ter, and en­ter “mas­ter” at check­out to get a 10-per­cent dis­count.

When this man be­came the last to stay in an apart­ment com­plex after it was sold, he en­dured ev­ery­thing from cop­per thieves to a lack of wa­ter. Kate Wil­son photo.

Kaya Dorey’s North Van­cou­ver la­bel Novel Sup­ply Co. of­fers laid-back, uni­sex ap­parel and up­cy­cled ac­ces­sories made from non­toxic, biodegrad­able fab­rics.

September 7 to 13, 2017

Mer­cury ret­ro­grade: done, check. Full moon in Pisces: done, check. If good in­ten­tions have been way­laid for the start of the back-to-it rou­tine, take heart. Ex­pect to hit a bet­ter, faster for­ward as of Thurs­day.

Still act­ing as a trig­ger for last month’s so­lar eclipse, Mer­cury, fin­ish­ing up in Leo through Satur­day, in­fuses the here and now with bet­ter-than-av­er­age creative po­tency. Once it is launched, un­der­taken, or ex­pressed, ex­pect it to have a sig­nif­i­cant life force and to carry you the dis­tance.

Build­ing to Satur­day, the sun’s trine to Pluto keeps de­sire and mo­ti­va­tion in am­ple sup­ply. To­gether, they’ll help you to build it bet­ter and/or to get it un­der bet­ter con­trol.

Last Tues­day, the same day that Mer­cury ret­ro­grade ended, Mars ex­ited Leo for Virgo. Mer­cury treks into this in­dus­tri­ous sign as of Satur­day evening. Team­ing up with the Virgo sun, Mars and Mer­cury sup­port all re­pair work, up­grade and im­prove­ment projects, and heal­ing man­dates. Make sure to put self at the top of that list. When op­er­at­ing at peak, ef­fi­ciency ex­pert Mer­cury in Virgo has a tal­ent for putting the mind to use­ful tasks, while en­ergy ex­pert Mars in Virgo works on the mus­cle end. Venus, con­tin­u­ing in Leo, keeps the heart beat­ing at cen­tre stage. Com­bined, they are work­ing all the an­gles.

Hold­ing court over the com­ing week, Venus in Leo trines Saturn on Tues­day, and sun/saturn turn a cor­ner on Wed­nes­day. Com­bined, they are con­struc­tive and shap­ing. They’ll sup­port all ef­forts to so­lid­ify, es­tab­lish, se­cure, and mo­bi­lize.

Ac­com­plish­ment is a sim­ple equa­tion: get at it now and gain.

ARIES

March 20–April 20

Feel­ing es­pe­cially mo­ti­vated, en­er­gized, and/or peaked? Aim to make the most of it Thurs­day/fri­day; look to Mer­cury, now out of ret­ro­grade, and the Aries moon to keep you lit up and go­ing strong. Mars is onto task in Virgo, and as of late Satur­day, Mer­cury gets there too. Venus and Saturn keep the com­ing week mov­ing along a pro­duc­tive track.

TAURUS April 20–May 21

Thurs­day/fri­day, set it into mo­tion. You’ll gain bet­terthan-av­er­age trac­tion. In fact, you should find ac­tion-tak­ing flows eas­ily and nat­u­rally. The sun, Mars, and now Mer­cury in Virgo now set you onto an es­pe­cially fruit­ful and suc­cess-gen­er­at­ing track. Waste not, want not. Along with Venus on a roll, the next 10 days are op­ti­mized for go, get, and gain.

GEMINI

May 21–June 21

You’ll have no trou­ble stok­ing a good fire and/or keep­ing the con­ver­sa­tion go­ing, es­pe­cially through Satur­day. Once Mer­cury joins the sun and Mars in Virgo, the spot­light turns to what’s miss­ing and what needs to be tack­led or healed. Take it one step at a time. Try not to let it get overly com­pli­cated. Stay prac­ti­cal, aim for ef­fi­ciency, and sim­plify where you can.

CANCER June 21–July 22

Dive into it fresh Thurs­day/fri­day. Take a new at­ti­tude with you. All it takes is for one good one to launch you on your way and/or to set you onto a ma­jor turn­around. Roll up your sleeves and get at it. The next 10 days or so can prove to be the most op­por­tune and ad­vanc­ing of the month.

LEO

July 22–August 23

Mars has just left Leo, but you’ll have a good han­dle on Mer­cury’s gift pack­age through Satur­day, and on Venus through September 19. Through Satur­day, it comes eas­ily, read­ily, and nat­u­rally. Mars and Mer­cury in Virgo can put you to work, but they also help you to make bet­ter use of your time and money. They’ll keep on you un­til the job is done right.

VIRGO

August 23–September 23

Now that the full moon is out of the way, you should find yourself on a sig­nif­i­cant bounce back and en­ergy boost. What’s most ex­pe­di­ent or ap­pro­pri­ate will be­come ob­vi­ous. Look to Mars and Mer­cury in Virgo to thrust you onto full­steam ahead. They’ll cut to the chase with bet­ter clar­ity, too. By next week­end, you’ll have sorted out plenty.

LIBRA

September 23–Oc­to­ber 23

Thurs­day/fri­day, Mer­cury keeps it/you go­ing strong. Per­haps there’s some­thing spe­cial to cel­e­brate or some­one spe­cial on your radar? Satur­day is good for mak­ing the most of it too. While Venus in Leo con­tin­ues to boost mat­ters of heart and wal­let, the sun, Mer­cury, and Mars in Virgo call at­ten­tion to the work that needs to be done. Stay con­fi­dent; keep ex­pec­ta­tions real.

SCORPIO

Oc­to­ber 23–Novem­ber 22

Take aim wher­ever you like. It won’t take much for you to make a suc­cess out of it, es­pe­cially Thurs­day through Satur­day. Mer­cury leaves Leo on Satur­day evening, but it will keep you busier and give you even more to do while it tours Virgo. Tues­day/wed­nes­day are ideal for money talks, bank­ing, get­ting it un­der bet­ter con­trol, con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions, or of­fi­cial un­der­tak­ings.

SAGITTARIUS Novem­ber 22–De­cem­ber 21

At your best and mak­ing the most of it, a grand trine in fire gifts you Thurs­day to Satur­day morn­ing. Mer­cury leaves Leo for Virgo late Satur­day, but you still have a few more weeks of Venus in Leo gracing your chart and your heart. The dy­namic con­cen­tra­tion of plan­ets in both signs sets up a suc­cess­ful run over this next week.

CAPRICORN De­cem­ber 21–January 20

Last week­end through next week­end can take you through an im­por­tant process, ne­go­ti­a­tion, tran­si­tion, plan­ning, or im­ple­men­ta­tion phase. The next 10 days set up the most lu­cra­tive por­tion of the month to get it sorted out and to achieve your de­sired re­sults. Take your best shot. Thurs­day to Satur­day and next Tues­day, your stars are op­ti­mized.

AQUARIUS

January 20–February 18

Some­thing spe­cial on the go? Some­one spe­cial to spend time with? Mer­cury con­tin­ues to keep the creative, so­cial, and ro­man­tic spark well lit through Satur­day. En­joy, but also keep an eye on prac­ti­cal­ity and bud­gets. Mer­cury in Virgo, start­ing late Satur­day, sharp­ens your per­cep­tion, in­tu­ition, and ne­go­ti­at­ing skills. Play it smart; get a bet­ter deal.

PISCES

February 18–March 20

Mer­cury in Leo and the Aries moon make for a great fin­ish to this first week back to the rou­tine. On an ex­tended run with Venus, you can make good on the week ahead, too. Mars and Mer­cury in Virgo keep you es­pe­cially busy with clients, the pub­lic, a new ven­ture, or a key some­one.

Adolfo Gon­za­lez helps budtenders gain in­sights. Amanda Siebert photo.

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