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8 Questions for a budtender working during COVID-19

What was life like for a budtender working during COVID-19? Cannabis businesses were deemed essential during the pandemic and rightly so. Still, because of the situation, a number of places have had to close their doors. Since their opening day in 1996, the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club found a way to adapt operations and continue to serve their medical membership. The daily dealings of a budtender working during COVID-19 peaks interest. So, to satisfy curiosity, Nicole Downs, the Inventory Manager for the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club was willing to answer some burning questions. 

Nicole Downs

What are your current hours? Did they change because of the pandemic?

4 days a week. My hours actually increased with the pandemic. 

What are your sanitation practices?

We are doing daily deep cleans and sanitizing everything. Along with constantly wipe down surfaces, there is hand sanitizer at both tills for members. All staff wear gloves and change them often. It used to be that we would only allow two people in the store but now, that has changed to up to 6 people in the store total. We have x’s on the floor and outside of the door to mark where people can stand. Our smoking room is closed until further notice.

Why do you go to work? Why not just stay home and collect benefits? What motivates you?

We’re here to help the people. Without us, there would be people literally dying. I think it’s really important for us (budtenders) to be there for the people, especially at a time like this. Yes, I am putting myself at risk. But, I am young and healthy. I’d rather be there for the people who aren’t.

What is the general mood like on the day to day?

Happy. Of course, our staff are a bit exhausted, especially due to panic buying. As soon as this situation started, we decided to limit our hours to opening three days a week. For those three days, our sales went through the roof. With all the business, the staff are tired but, we are all getting extra days off. Either way, we are still getting lots of laughs in and that makes it a great place to work.

Are you worried about being shut down? Have you received any contact from the Community Safety Unit, since the start of the pandemic?

Being shut down is always a concern but there has been no contact or word asking us to stop operating. Of course, it’s always a worry. But, we are still working towards an exemption. For me, the biggest worry with that would be for the people who wouldn’t be able to get products. Every day, I hear people say that the VCBC saved their life and I just couldn’t imagine what would happen to them if they couldn’t get our products. That is my biggest concern.

budtenders working during COVID-19
Nicole Downs during VCBC Raid Nov 17, 2019

With COVID-19 being a virus that affects the respiratory system, have you noticed an increase in edible and capsule consumption?

Surprisingly, people are sticking to what they know. People who smoke weed are still smoking weed. People who like edibles are buying their cookies. The only difference would be that they are buying larger, bulk amounts. 

How are the members doing? Have you lost any that you know of?

Unfortunately, we are dealing with a lot of terminally ill people, and having them pass away is a part of that. Often, we hear about it either from their families phoning us or another member letting us know. There have been a few members that have passed away during this lockdown.

If a member called looking for medicine and knew that they had tested positive for COVID-19, how would you handle that?

That’s an interesting one. Um… I would say… we’d probably do mail order for them. 


It’s been really scary. It’s like we have all had a glimpse into a dystopian future and none of us like it. Regardless of how we all felt, staying at home meant saving lives. So, thank god there was weed. Without it, who knows how many of us would have managed, mentally, or physically. Cannabis businesses, and dedicated staff like Nicole Downs, have been labelled as essential and the title fits. They provide quality of life, at the best of times and the worst of them as well. To all the budtenders working during COVID-19, cannabis business staff, and other essential workers risking themselves through this pandemic, we here at The Cannabis Life Network would like to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation.  

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