The Black Budtender Series: Meet Valerie Boothe

Meet Valerie Boothe, budtender at Island Herb, a medically endorsed and veteran-owned cannabis dispensary located just north of Seattle on Whidbey Island. Prior to getting her start in the cannabis industry, Boothe worked as a pharmacy technician for almost 3 years. Working in the medical industry she witnessed patients spend tens of thousands of dollars on chemotherapy and other life-saving treatments weekly.

Experiencing first-hand how misinformed people were about the benefits of cannabis and medical marijuana, Boothe made the decision to leave her pharmacy tech career and get involved in the cannabis industry.

As a budtender, she educates Island Herb’s patients and guests about the medicinal benefits of cannabis and provides alternative treatments to patients other than regularly prescribed narcotics.

How did you land your job as a budtender at Island Herb?

I got my job through friends who work there. I was a regular customer and built relationships with the budtenders there. There was an available position, they told me about it and I applied. With a background in pharmacy it really helped to get my foot in the door at Island Herb.

What’s a typical day at the dispensary like?

It’s interesting. I talk to a lot of people from all walks of life. When I first started working here I was actually really surprised by the older clientele we serve. We’re a medically endorsed store so we serve many medical patients. Most of my day involves helping people find the right treatment to relieve their symptoms and giving them advice.

Do you have any favorite strains or products?

One of my personal favorite strains right now is White Widow grown by Phat Panda. It’s a 1:1, meaning it has equal amounts THC to CBD. My favorite CBD products are Rogue Ravens CBD bath bombs, Skagit Organics CBD hash oil, and Nectar Craft (Circanna) 1:1 Transdermal Salve.

Did you always know you wanted to get involved in the cannabis industry?

I always wanted to help people from a medical perspective. I think there are still a lot of people out there ill-informed of the benefits of medical cannabis. I wanted to get into the cannabis industry because I always wanted to help educate people and let them know there are other options other than prescribed opiates.

Valerie Boothe at the Dope Industry Awards in Seattle with Island Herb General Manager, Eric Wing

What’s your experience been like as a black woman in the cannabis industry?

I know there are not a lot of black people in the cannabis industry, especially in Washington, but I have to say it’s really been a welcoming experience. I haven’t had any negativity or anyone treat me differently, it’s really nice to have this open and inviting family at Island Herb and the cannabis industry.

I attended the Dope Industry Awards here in Seattle with my boss and owner of Island Herb, Lucas Jushinski, in December. It was such an amazing experience being able to mingle with different dispensary owners, producers/processors, and budtenders. It’s like one big family where everyone looks out for each other.

What skills/characteristics make for a great budtender?

Patience. You have to be a good listener and be understanding. Also, you have to really be able to communicate and read people to understand what their wants and needs are because everyone comes in with a specific need. Cannabis affects people differently, so no one is going to experience the same effects or “high”. Really make sure you’re listening to what they’re saying.

What do you enjoy most about working as a budtender?

Helping people. In the pharmacy world it felt like I was poisoning people, but in medical cannabis I actually feel like I am helping people. And it’s not causing liver damage, they’re not going to overdose on it. People aren’t getting addicted to cannabis and it’s not ruining lives.

It’s an amazing feeling when a guest comes in and says a product or recommendation really worked for them and now they can do this or that when before they couldn’t. One lady has been able to cut back on her pain pills and she’s been able to function much better. She used to be prescribed opiates every month and would be almost running out of pills at the end of the month. Now she refills her prescription every 2 months. I love hearing success stories like that. I love hearing that people are getting better and improving.

Any advice for WOC looking to get involved in the cannabis industry?

If you’re a woman of color, don’t let that stop or deter you, let it empower you. Keep pushing and striving towards your goals. Don’t let anyone hold you back and don’t worry about what other moms are going to think of you, just do it!

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