Meet Buffy Montgomery, assistant manager and budtender at Suite 443 July 11, 2022 By Griffin Coop Buffy Montgomery, assistant manager and budtender at Hot Springs’ Suite 443 dispensary, has been named a finalist for the Best Budtender award in the Arkansas Times’ annual Best of Arkansas readers survey. Montgomery, 47, says good budtenders know their product and connect with their patients. She also advises patients to take it slowly, and to research the products before they go to a store. What drew you to working as a budtender? It was something that I knew that I belonged in from the time that I was really young. I had used marijuana from a very young age, recreationally and medically. … I had been in a really bad car wreck in 2001 and [dealt with other serious medical conditions]. So, I dealt with a lot of pain at a very early age and did what I could to try to manage that pain. And so marijuana was always a good way for me to do that. When it became legal in the state, I knew that it was something that I had to get involved in because it had helped me so much. What makes a good budtender? Knowing your product. Really being able to connect with the patients that come in the store. … If you don’t know the issues that they are dealing with, then you can’t prescribe the right kind of medication, so it has a lot to do with getting to know your patients. What questions do you get most often from customers? “What’s the best weed?” That’s generally the question. I have a lot of patients who ask me what my own issues were, why I’m a patient. So I’m able to connect with a lot of patients because of that. I also have fibromyalgia. I have neuropathy. I have arthritis. So, I have a lot of ailments that allow me to be able to connect with a lot of the patients that do come into the shop and that are suffering. Anecdotally, we’ve heard that customers often gravitate toward marijuana with the highest THC even though that’s not necessarily going to lead to a positive experience for everyone. Do you try to steer customers in other directions, or educate them on other considerations? The THC does not make the medication and that has been an uphill battle on trying to reeducate patients. There are cannabinoids and terpenes and a whole other slew of things that make up your medication and that does not determine how medicated you can get. So, I let them know there are many times where I’ve smoked a strain that may have been 28 or 30% [THC] and it didn’t give me the pain relief I was looking for, because it doesn’t have anything to do with the THC content. It has to do with the terpenes and cannabinoids that actually make up the plant. … A lot of them are starting to realize that their sweet spot might be at 18% or even 15%. For me, my sweet spot is at 20. Are the customers receptive to that? Some of them are, some of them are not. I don’t get anybody that gets upset about it, but some of them do want to argue with you about it. And in some cases, for patients that have high blood pressure or that have glaucoma, they would need a strain that has a higher THC content because they’re dealing with such inflammation that the higher THC content is really going to help bring that down. … Some of them don’t necessarily believe you, but most of them are willing to try it and, once they figure out, “She’s being honest with me, she’s not jacking me around with this,” they are more receptive to it. What strains are popular these days? LA Kush Cake [from BOLD Cultivation] is a really popular strain. Tiger’s Milk [from BOLD] is a really popular strain. Blueberry Clementine [from Delta Cannabis Company] is a really popular strain. Blackwater from [Natural State Medicinals] is a really popular strain. Sour Diesel from Osage [Creek Cultivation] is a really popular strain. There are a ton of them. There are so many and the cultivation facilities are continuing to pump out more, so I’m really excited about that. I do have to say that we have a lot of patients that complain about strains that came out in the first year or two of the stores being open and no longer being able to find them. … They find something that really works for their ailment and then (the cultivator discontinues the strain). And you have patients that are upset they can’t find their strains anymore. Do you sell a lot of edibles and other products? We sell a lot of edibles. We sell a lot of concentrates. Those are also big sellers at our shop. Lots of, lots of, lots of edibles. Now that a lot of patients are figuring out how to use the edibles, they are getting more success with them. A lot of people think that when you buy a gummy that you just chew up the gummy and you eat it and that’s how it works. Well, that’s not how gummies are meant to be used. When you get a gummy, you are meant to leave it in your mouth and let it dissolve in your mouth until you sublingually absorb that medication. That way your body does not have to break that down. You absorb it directly into your bloodstream that way. So, now that a lot of people are being educated on that and how to actually use the edibles, they are finding they are getting more success with them. I use the edibles a lot. For me, they are very important for pain relief. That and the fact that they last longer than smoking does. If you had one piece of advice for a new consumer, what would it be? Start slow. Slow and easy. It would probably (also) be to research their product. Research strains that would help their illness so they don’t come in the store blind. There are a lot of budtenders that don’t know patients well and don’t know the products well enough. … You don’t want to come in the store blindly and then end up with someone that may or may not help you and you may end up in a really bad spot. If you are a patient that’s got anxiety or PTSD and you have a budtender that gives you 100% sativa, you are not going to have a great, awesome day that day. My advice would be knowing what your own body is dealing with and doing the research on what will help. That way you don’t go in blindly.