Former actor finds new role as budtender at CROP

Former actor finds new role as budtender at CROP

Addison Aquino, a 23-year-old budtender at CROP dispensary in Jonesboro, was acting in a professional traveling production of Cinderella when the COVID pandemic shut down the show in 2020. Aquino, who played Prince Charming, packed up his apartment in New York City and headed back to Jonesboro. He worked in pizza delivery before taking a job at NEA Full Spectrum dispensary in Brookland. A non-cannabis user at the time, Aquino studied up on cannabis and its benefits to help patients who visited the store. Aquino  is now a budtender at CROP dispensary in Jonesboro, and said he enjoys helping patients so much that he has no plans to go back to acting.   

Budtender Addison Aquino ditched showbiz for cannabiz.

What drew you to working as a budtender?

Originally, I was a theater actor and then, when the pandemic happened, I lost my job. I used to live in New York City. I moved back to Jonesboro, working as a pizza delivery driver. They had just started doing delivery at NEA Full Spectrum dispensary in Brookland, so I applied to do delivery and then fell in love with budtending. I was going to do acting, but I’ve really fallen in love with this. 

Were you a cannabis user? 

I wasn’t, but they gave me a book [“Cannabis Pharmacy” by Michael Backes] at my job interview. They were like, “This is the information you need to learn.” And I said, “I’ve memorized scripts that are hundreds of pages.” It became very scientific for me when I first started working at NEA. I read that book front to back, memorized all the strains, all the pharmacology behind it, and the history. If I’m going to keep this job, which was paying me a lot more than pizza delivery was, I need to know this information to help these people. 

What makes a good budtender?

I think that you have to be able to adapt to the patient in front of you. Yes, this is a medical program, but there are certain people who want this to be transactional. They want to be in and out, so you have to be able to provide that for them. But then the patients who want to slow down and they want to talk for longer and get a more in-depth [understanding] from a more pharmacological standpoint, a budtender has to be able to switch from transactional to Dr. Weed right there. 

What questions do you get most often from customers?

Usually, “What’s the highest THC?” Other than that, it’s really, “What’s the best thing?” A lot of patients come in there and they just want their problem solved. People are hurting, so the first question is usually, “What is the best?” And it’s our job as budtenders to kind of break it down based on their history and what’s going to be the best for them. 

Do you get customers who seek out the highest THC products? Do you try to steer customers in other directions, or educate them on other considerations?

What I always like to say is, there are strains with low THC that aren’t going to be good for you and there are strains with high THC that aren’t going to be good for you. It is a factor of it. A lot of budtenders will say it doesn’t matter, THC doesn’t matter, but it is a factor of it. To some people that have been using it for a very long time, it is definitely part of it. I’m not going to tell these patients that they are crazy for wanting that, but I like to explain how the tolerance works for them and you can fix that. … When you come in, instead of saying ‘What’s the best THC?’ instead just let us know what effects you are looking for and we’ll get you the strongest thing with that effect. That way you don’t have to worry about the THC. 

Are the customers receptive to that? 

They actually are. A lot of them know me from NEA Full Spectrum and just from giving recommendations before. And because I did read that book, I could explain it to someone for 25 minutes if they wanted to. They are pretty receptive, actually. … I really do try to get people to try to the lower THC, because in my own experience, it does actually work that way. It does actually cover those bases you are looking for. Even though it says it’s only 11% THC, that does mean that only 11% of it is good for you. 

What strain is especially popular these days?

It’s definitely Jungle Scout from Osage [Creek Cultivation]. People are loving that one, because of the huge energy boost quality of it. What’s on sale [is also popular]. Cookies strains have been [popular]. They are the new guys, so they’ve been really popular up here as well. 

If you had one piece of advice for a new consumer, what would it be? 

When you come into the dispensary, we’re not trying to figure out a way to get you high. We’re not trying to figure out a way to get you messed up or whatever you saw in the movie. We are here to actually help you. And the great thing about CROP, we don’t make commissions, so we’re not going to try to push anything. I always say, ‘Just trust your budtender,’’ because we have no reason to give you something bad, because we don’t make any more money [based on what you buy]. 

Do you get tips? If so, what’s an average week look like?

We have an hourly wage on top of whatever tips you bring in. You keep your tips, which is very nice. When I was working at NEA, we had to split our tips and that was tough. … In terms of tips, if you are working four or five days a week, it can be pretty good. It can be upwards of $200 a week. … It really depends on what day of the week it is as well, because we’re very busy on Fridays. We see a lot more faces on Fridays. 


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