What it's like to work in an Orlando cannabis dispensary during the pandemic


  • Photo via @kiffen/Unsplash

Cannabis in the Time of COVID-19: A Journal

I started smoking weed in high school. My mother taught me how to roll a joint, to sift through the stems and seeds at the bottom of a sandwich baggie of shake and to always pay attention to the rotation order when smoking with a group of friends. I use marijuana mostly to manage moderate anxiety. I am a late-20s college graduate, and I work in a medical marijuana dispensary. We have been deemed an essential service since the outbreak of COVID-19. I am continuing to use marijuana to manage moderate to severe anxiety through the pandemic.

The dispensary I work for has implemented a few changes since the city has been put under mandatory lockdown, but mostly maintained a business-as-usual attitude. In fact, business has been booming. My co-workers and I all feel extremely lucky to still have our jobs as we watch our friends in other service industry positions suffer layoffs and furloughs. We wear masks now. We gently encourage patients to use curbside pickup or online ordering. We disinfect surfaces, whenever we can.

Compromised respiratory system
I’m trying to kick my smoking habit and switch to edibles and tinctures. It’s tough, though. I’m realizing how much of my habit is about the ritual of smoking flower. I sit down, a hardcover book in my lap, to roll a joint, folding the thin paper into a valley and carefully lining it with my freshly ground bud. I walk out onto the porch and light up. I think about how grateful I am to be able to breathe. I think about how I shouldn’t be so flippantly compromising my healthy lungs. I take a long drag on the joint.

People keep coming into the store. Lots of people. Probably more people now than before COVID-19 started spreading throughout the state. Everyone is nervous. Some people wear masks and maintain a six-foot distance from our counters. Others lean in and talk close about the economic perils of quarantine. Either way, people are smoking lots and lots of weed. While other businesses are closing, dispensaries continue opening new stores.

April 20 is approaching. I’m thinking about smoking with friends last year, and about all the closeness that was taken for granted. I wonder what everyone is doing this year. I wonder who is practicing social distancing and who is pretending that everything is like it used to be. My friends from the dispensary and I are all scheduled to work that day — all hands on deck.

The new normal
Today I went to work and the masks and distance almost felt routine. We’ve figured out how to adjust to things. Our uniforms and policies have adjusted, as well. Masks are mandatory now, and we even posted a sign suggesting our patients wear them, too. We’ve gotten into a rhythm of wiping down all surfaces. We are figuring out our new normal.

Cooking at home has replaced late-night gas station munchie acquisitions. I am channeling my anxieties about bolstering my immune system against viral assailants into making healthier high snacking decisions. I miss getting milkshakes.

I do use marijuana to treat a diagnosed anxiety disorder. I also use it to chill the fuck out, sometimes. And to, god forbid, experience pleasure. I’ve prioritized pleasure in what small ways I’ve been able to during all of this.

Strain recommendations for quarantine:

9 LB Hammer, an indica, to help you sleep despite your recurring fears of infection and devastation. The strain contains high levels of Myrcene, a terpene that functions as a bronchodilator, which might be helpful during the outbreak of a respiratory illness.

Blue Dream, a sativa-dominant hybrid to lift your spirits, also high in bronchodilating terpenes Pinene and Myrcene, to help you focus on your quarantine projects and forget about that looming sense of dread.

Super Lemon Haze, a sativa containing high levels of the mood-elevating terpene Limonene, to complement all the citrus you’re eating for the vitamin C content, and to help you fight the pandemic blues.

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