When was the last time you felt truly unwanted?

The kind of unwanted where everyone would be happier if you just left and never came back. Like being stuck outside an amusement park, watching the other people have fun in the sun while you bake in the parking lot. This is the experience I have had over the last year trying to break into the cannabis industry. Like a hamster on a wheel, I’m putting in massive amounts of effort with no forward momentum coming so far.

It can be truly soul crushing to be so close to a dream but be unable to push through that final barrier, especially if you are the only one that seems to be experiencing the challenges. There is little that can ease the pain of being shown that you are not welcome at the table. The powers that be will gladly take your money but that is as far as it will ever go.

I had this experience repeat regularly for the last 8 months. This week was the worst example I’ve experienced though. Let me give you some setup first. I heard that one of my favorite dispensaries was short-handed and in desperate need of help. Several employees had been fired or quit and the owner was having to cover multiple shifts.

So, I got myself ‘interview ready’, printed out a resume and headed over. When I entered the store, the owner recognized me and struck up a conversation. The subject quickly turned to his need for help and I offered my services and turned in the resume. After a token scan, he thanked me and set it in the back to ‘look at later’. Everything seemed to be going well but there was no offer made which seemed fine at the moment since it seemed like I was getting an interview.

That was, until another customer entered. I stood there for a moment as the owner and the new person began to talk. Apparently she was also looking to work in the cannabis field too but had no experience or real knowledge of weed according to her own words. I was incredulous as I heard the owners’ immediate response of, ‘You want hours? I got plenty to offer. Can you start Monday?’

It was at this moment that I got the hint. I was never going to be hired here. They didn’t want to work with me at all. They would gladly take my money and give me good customer service but my presence was not wanted. That’s when I left, feeling pretty low.

That night my wife asked how things had gone. I told her that I didn’t get the job. In fact, in the middle of my ‘interview’ the owner basically left to offer the job to another person. When she tried to comfort me by saying they were probably more qualified, my heart sank and I could feel my chest begin contract as tears of shame threatened to well up. I had to explain that the girl he offered it to explicitly stated that she had no prior knowledge or experience but she was basically on the schedule before I could leave.

I keep playing the scene over in my mind, looking for ways I could have sold myself better. And every time it fills me with a mix of rage and quiet submission. I have spent decades and thousands of my own dollars leaning everything I can about cannabis so I would be ready to take advantage of legalization. I have sacrificed thousands of dollars, relationships with close family, risked jail time and otherwise dedicated myself to the idea that I could earn my way by showing I am committed to the cause.

Yet in the past year, I have applied to ever single dispensary in a 75 mile radius and then some with no positive results. I managed to land several interviews but in every case I can verify so far, a young people with no experience was chosen for the job instead. I know because I have gone back and met the new hires when following up and they are excited to tell you about how little they understand cannabis. I don’t hold any ill will towards the people who got the jobs, they simply threw their hat into the ring same as me. Who knows, I could simply be a jerk and not know it.

At the end of the day, it is the owners call on who they hire. I understand that there are many things going on behind the scenes that outsiders cannot see. There are issues of team dynamics and a myriad of other factors that can contribute to someone being chosen over another. My experience as a 30+ year old white male is only so sad as my demographic basically gets everything they want. Yet the fact remains that  in my interview with bends oldest dispensary I was told by the owner in my interview that “girls are genetically better at multitasking and are overall better workers”. There were no caveats or qualifiers to the statement and I was expected to explain how I could overcome my genetic deficiency. I shit you not.

I have done everything in my power to EARN a place in the cannabis industry but it simply isn’t enough. The Central Oregon cannabis community has gone out of its way to show that I am not wanted here. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do or who I talk to, there is no room in the cannabis industry for this dedicated and passionate advocate. Perhaps one day there will be a place for me at the table, somewhere I can contribute my passion and fire. Until then I will just have to swallow my pride and find work in an alternative industry. Given the nature of the Central Oregon economy, I’ll likely be asking you the 5 most soul crushing words in the English language; “Would you like fries with that?” Thanks for reading.