In just a few years, cannabis has gone from a criminalized drug to a multibillion-dollar industry. Colorado became one of the first two states in the country to legalize recreational marijuana use in 2012 and has hosted some of the oldest and most successful legal retailers, such as Starbuds, a dispensary with locations across the state and in Oklahoma, Maryland, and another opening soon in Jamaica. Cetan Wanbli Williams, the general manager of the Pueblo locations, still sees the industry as being in its early stages. Citing the benefits of the cannabis plant not only for medical and recreational use, but also as a food source, textile, building material, plastic, and biofuel, Williams sees the potential for the industry to grow even further. One of the biggest hurdles, but one that he had already seen a shift in Pueblo, will be the weakening of stigma and social taboos surrounding marijuana use and the acceptance of the substance as a normal part of many people’s lives.
Since marijuana is still illegal under federal rules, banks are unable or unwilling to handle the proceeds of any marijuana transaction. As a result, the whole industry runs on cash.
Sonya Maes, 27, and one of the employees of Starbuds Pueblo, carefully measures out buds for a customer. Each customer is legally limited to 28 grams of cannabis flower per transaction.
Maes, and her coworker Gabriel Douglas, 22, were both cannabis users before they began working at Starbuds. Both are hoping to pursue careers in the industry.
The day-to-day of working at a dispensary is similar in many ways to other retail jobs: inventory, checking out customers, and replenishing product.
While Starbuds and other dispensaries offer a variety of edibles, ranging from ice creams to gummy candies to energy-esque bars, the majority of customers pass over these novelties and opt for one of many varieties of flower instead.
Maes wanted to work at Starbuds because of the consistent high quality and customer service she’d experienced there as a customer. “My favorite product is good old flower for sure. Nothing beats flower, but it’s nice to have a variety of options.”