“Legacy Vs Legal” — Budtenders And Front Line Canna Staff on Legalization’s Effect on Canna Industry Workers
It’s been nearly four years since Canada legalized cannabis coast to coast. And while longtime cannabis fans and industry advocates point out that the negative changes some feared legalization would bring have not come to pass — we haven’t seen any notable rise in any of the kinds of negative behaviors we see with that other legal intoxicant, alcohol.
Those who use cannabis have noticed a lot of other differences though. The experience of buying cannabis has been taken out of the shadows of fear, stigma and misinformation, and brought into the light. A huge choice of quality controlled cannabis products — flowers, infused food and drink (edibles) concentrates of all kinds — are now available 7 days a week, all day long and well into the night, at a myriad of brightly lit, comfortable to shop in, legal locations across the country with friendly and knowledgeable staff ready to answer all your questions and match you with the right product for. Peek into any well run cannabis store and it’s easy to see the difference.
Take Purple Moose Cannabis, which opened just before the new year, in the SmartCentre North Park Plaza at 1383 Lawrence Avenue East in Toronto, for example. At Purple Moose, you’ll find the true profile of the cannabis consumer goes far beyond the stigmatized stoner image. If you talk to customers, you’ll find some newbies who might not have been comfortable with the plant before — but now that prohibition is over they’re finding an alternative to the beer with the boys or wine o’clock. Of course you’ll also find long time canna consumers and canna-sseurs — on both sides of the counter.
In fact, Purple Moose founder Jacob Stevens says that it’s not just cannabis consumers whose lives have been changed in the three and a half years since legalization. Previously those who were passionate about the plant, whether they had come to it from the medicinal or the recreational side, had to work in the shadows — illegally growing, illegally selling and buying, always worried about the ramifications of potential legal action. And while there were passionate activists in the legacy cannabis marketplace, longtime cannabis advocates will tell you there were some bad actors, too — and today cannabis retail workers — known as budtenders — enjoy the same workplace protections under the law as those in other industries.
Stevens said he doesn’t discriminate against those who have worked in the legacy market when he makes his hiring decisions. To the contrary — he encourages those with cannabis experience from pre — legalization days to apply as they have in-depth knowledge and experience to share with customers, new and old.
Purple Moose’s Lawrence Ave East location is the second of three Ontario retail cannabis stores owned by the local chain. Their third, in North York,opened just weeks ago.) The flagship store was the very first legal cannabis retailer in Oshawa, and Stevens was one of Ontario’s initial cannabis license “lottery” winners in January 2019 and the very first legal recreation cannabis retailer in Oshawa. Remaining in the same popular location at Oshawa SmartCentre South at 575 Laval, Stevens introduced the world to the epic Purple Moose Cannabis brand on June 1, 2021.
When evaluating resumes to make staffing decisions for that first store location, Stevens noticed that “most applicants who had worked in the legacy market before didn’t mention it on their resumes — they feared it would work against them to apply for a “legal” store. Even though a number of the applicants had been criminally charged for working in pre-legal dispensaries, AGCO told Stevens that has long as he completed the required criminal check “As we do with all employees, then they said it was up to me to decide whether I want to hire them or not.” My response was that I wanted to see that they had previous experience with cannabis — and only those who worked in Legacy market had this cannabis experience.”
Thomas, one staff member who worked in the legacy market under the name Ragnar Lothbrok was a budtender and a host among other positions. He says that at first he didn’t want to tell potential new employers about his pre legal work. “But then I figured my experience would be a plus for me and the company I work for.” Though he says that one frustration he has is with “the government restrictions on what we can explain to customers about cannabis.’ He also says, “I believe stores should seek out legacy workers, our knowledge and experience is a great asset for any cannabis company, we can teach others and help companies grow. It’s most definitely helpful, we have the experience and knowledge that others would not have.”
This approach to staffing the Purple Moose stores has clearly worked. This staff knows their canna-stuff! As they point out with pride on their website, they “are not only advocates, but experts, always ready to answer your questions and match you with the perfect product!”
Or as Thomas puts it, “I enjoy helping people, I love what this plant can do for us and like sharing that with others.”
Company owner Stevens says Purple Moose is proud to provide access to product people can trust It’s important to build consumer confidence and, he says, “I heard many comments both from staff and customers that many people had negative experiences from using illegal cannabis — they felt sick, got way too high or tripped out — but they didn’t have negative health effects from legal cannabis like a sore throat. Some are concerned about additives and chemicals In the illegal cannabis, as well as unclear about the real THC percentage, because in the legacy market they could say anything — it is not regulated and no one is confirming legacy percentages.”
When asked for his thoughts on his favourite products Thomas says he prefers edibles and concentrates — then says with enthusiasm, “The edibles have been a nice surprise, the drinks and gummies taste great and the doses are perfect.”
Kate, another Purple Moose employee who made the legal transition adds, “I worked in the legacy marketplace for about 8 months. My role during pre legalization was ensuring I was providing knowledge and educating other consumers. I was definitely open about my legacy experience because it has made me gain so much knowledge on recreational cannabis. Surprisingly there are more varieties of products to choose from. Also knowing where your cannabis comes from has a positive impact on the consumer.”
Marie, who manages one of the Purple Moose locations, says she has used cannabis both recreationally and medically for more than 25 years and was never shy about listing her legacy experience on her resume or on her linkedin. “We have seen too many companies without a single member of their sales team or decision-making team have little to no experience with the plant, industry, or culture. How are you supposed to speak to someone (the market at large) while ignoring the very people and practices which made our government decide legalization was a safe step forward for Canadians?”
Ask Marie what is different about working in the legal marketing place and this is what she says “Having good relationships with local police has been an interesting switch. The first time one walked into the store and I didn’t immediately tense up was a real treat. Another excellent aspect is the additional information we have from Cultivators and processors which only allows for more custom and confident recommendations.”
All three Purple Moose locations have developed a reputation for excellence in their neighborhoods, differentiating themselves from the pack in terms of style and service.
More about Purple Moose Cannabis at https://purplemoosecannabis.com