EXPERT OPINION ADOBE/YANUSHKOV
If you can’t treat the people coming through your dispensary door with a little compassion and understanding, then this may be the wrong work for you.
o you remember the days of medical Cannabis? It wasn’t long ago that you needed a special card to walk into a dispensary – one acquired with a surprisingly quick (and sometimes seemingly seedy) trip to the Cannabis clinic. Years later, there’s a dispensary on every corner, leaving longtime leaders like Starbucks and McDonalds behind when it comes to mass retail. You no longer need a card to shop for Cannabis and selections have skyrocketed. But was there something lost from Cannabis culture when a community founded in care and medicinal value revealed itself to recreational riches? Speaking as someone that suffered a stroke at the rise of legalization may pepper this perspective with a bit of bitterness, but please, stick around for a little more. The issues in the following sentences are far from isolated feelings. Friends with IBDs, hearing loss, seizures and an array of other ailments have expressed frustrations when it comes to the occasionally daunting task of dispensary visits.
Sure, delivery is available and location options are plentiful, but delivery isn’t accessible or affordable for everyone yet. And while there may be numerous dispensaries to choose from, few are catering to the needs of someone that considers themself disabled. Ableism is all around us, and although most dealing with a disability would prefer nothing more than understanding, it’s clearly a skill acquired through experience. Those lucky enough to walk through life without physical or mental challenges may have a hard time understanding what that burden is like – the extra obstacles throughout each ordinary day. But let’s hold space for some issues that affect a large portion of this community: dealing with dispensary environments. It’s where most of us get our Cannabis products these days, but more than that, it’s where many migrate for the medication they’ve come to rely on. We all know the long list of ailments that this plant can work wonders on, ranging from mental health matters to severe physical pain. But what’s less discussed are the challenges faced when dealing with dispensaries. Some budtenders and shops serve up fabulous,
factual and kind customer service, with patience and effectiveness rarely found from your local health care practitioner. Some, however, seem to forget that many (if not the majority of) consumers are using Cannabis for a medical reason, no matter the severity. According to a 2017 analysis penned by Dr. Hongying Dai of the Nebraska Medical Center, 35.1% of Cannabis consumers reported that they used Cannabis only for medical reasons, 45.6% reported that they used Cannabis only for recreational purposes, and 19.3% reported using it for both. If these statistics are even close to correct, it’s safe to estimate that even in the recreational era, one out of every two customers is visiting the dispensary in search of relief from some sort of medical condition. Do those conditions make it difficult for them to enter your business? Sometimes they do. From a lack of bathroom access to loud music to uncooperative staff, dispensaries often don’t offer standards for atmosphere or best practices. That’s an entirely acceptable fact of the free market, except if you’re in an industry where half of the consumers may require accommodation for a medical condition. So, make room for accessibility: Install that new wheelchair ramp, offer alternative communication methods like physical menus for the hard-of-hearing, stay away from flashy signs that could promote seizures, ask the customer clearly struggling with social anxiety how you can make their experience easier. If you can’t treat the people coming through your dispensary door with a little compassion and understanding, then this may be the wrong work for you. Please don’t forget that you truly never know what others are going through. Cannabis may be all fun and flowers for some, but it’s a life-changing medical tool for many. Amanda Day is a multimedia artist and journalist based in Eugene, who has worked for Oregon Leaf since 2019.
STORY by AMANDA DAY @TERPODACTYL_MEDIA