You’re 17 years old and entering your senior year of high school. Your parents are pushing you to pursue an a career with a promising job market, your English Lit teacher encourages you to continue your studies in creative expression, and your best friend is begging you to want to do exactly what she wants to do so you can be BFFs forever and always.
You wish everyone and everything (including time) would just back up for a minute so you can get your head together and figure out how you went from playing house to moving out of it so fast.
You’ve been to a few career fairs and have taken your share of personality quizzes on BuzzFeed, but haven’t really found a niche or a career that has made you think, “That’s it! That is what I want to dedicate all waking hours to for the rest of my natural born life!”
Truth is, that job is probably not out there. Partly because life is a cruel place where all that nonsense of “dreams coming true” is not an actual thing and also that our dream job is already taken by the person this very article is about.
Meet Jake Browne, marijuana expert and the first pot critic for The Denver Post. Jake is also one of the key players in “Rolling Papers,” a feature documentary filmed in 2013 that introduces us to the writers of The Cannabist (The Denver Post’s marijuana centered spin off website) who navigate the terrain of Colorado’s newly legalized pot industry and figure out their role in it.
A must-see for all lovers of the kush, the documentary is historical proof of a wonderfully progressive time to be alive and something I hope kids are required to watch in school one day.
But if any of you think like I do — and I hope at least two of you do — the undeniably most interesting takeaway from the film is Jake’s job. And the fact that it is an actual job.
Which is why after watching the film, I tracked down Jake, posted a Facebook status asking my friends what they would like to know about him and his job, and sent those questions his way.
Luckily, he was awesome enough to provide some answers.
20something: What were you doing before you landed your job at The Cannibist?
Jake Browne: I was a partner at a national cannabis consulting firm, complete with a salary and benefits, a position most people would consider foolish to leave for a freelance writing gig. We should probably move on before I start crying.
How does one become a marijuana critic? How did you land your job at The Cannibist, specifically?
JB: I had tangible experience, both in the field of weed (plus literal fields of weed) and writing about it. When the medical marijuana boom happened, a number of publications launched and were all thirsty for content, so the fact that I didn’t have a pot-rich CV didn’t matter. Luckily, I had a body of work by the time the job opened at The Cannabist. Plus, I made my resume bacon-themed.
When you’re on the job, are you undercover like a secret shopper, or do shops know you are coming in before hand?
JB: They never know when I might strike, so there are times when I can tell my budtender is a little nervous — even though I don’t review the shopping experience itself. At the end of the day, the buds don’t lie, so there’s nothing they can do to sway what I write once I’m in their shop.
How does the rest of the process work? What kind of questions do you ask while you’re in the shop? Have you ever gotten a response that, as a professional, you knew was inaccurate?
JB: I’ll always ask about genetics on unusual names and you’d be surprised how often people don’t know and have to look at their “Strain Bible” or ask a manager. There are plenty of jars that are flat out not what they claim is in there, but I’ve learned it’s not worth arguing with growers. They can be a stubborn lot.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever done while you were high?
JB: I was doing an unboxing video of a Waterpik while super baked and hadn’t used one before. I turned it on and kind of freaked out because it was spraying super hard, then didn’t know how to turn it off for a second and it started shooting everywhere. But really, I do dumb stuff all the time when I’m baked. Other people tend to find it funnier than I do.
Have you ever accidentally been too high to function while on the job? If so, how did you handle that situation?
JB: Back in my dispensary days — wow, I sound old — I was in charge of making the pot cookies for our patients. Someone else had cooked up the butter, so I had no idea how strong it was. Four of us split a cookie and one budtender Dave wound up puking and hallucinating in the bathroom. We closed early that day.
Do you remember the first time you ever smoked? What was it like? Was it love at first inhale?
JB: I was in the back seat of a friend’s car and we were smoking out of a soda can. I blew back into it and shot ash everywhere like a real rookie. I wasn’t the biggest smoker, but mostly because I didn’t have a job.
What’s the best thing to do when you smoke so much that you think you’re going to die? (Also applies to eating an edible and thinking you’re going to die)?
JB: I try to remember that if I’m feeling anxious or paranoid, it’s because I smoked truly great weed and not whatever I’m worried about. Neil Young says to chew on a black peppercorn, but you can also taken Ibuprofen, which should reduce the inflammation in your brain that’s making you think crazy thoughts like you can die on weed.
Obviously we want to know what you’re snack of choice is…and do you basically always carry it around…?
JB: I always have a stash of discount holiday candy on hand. Halloween through Easter is my favorite time of the year, so April is usually bittersweet for me. I’ll try to clean them out of Reese’s early on and then clear them out of jellybeans and fruity candy when it goes to 75 percent off. Also, I have a problem.
What’s the best strain you’ve ever smoked and where can I get it?
JB: Space Helmet — this weird cross of Martian Mean Green and Headband that a caregiver used to have here in Colorado. If you find any, please let me know where. It’s the strain that got away for me.
What are your thoughts on g pens? because I think they are great but then only last like five minutes?
They’re making big strides in the cartridge market, making them stronger and getting rid of the fake smoke chemicals. Also, look for more companies to release variable voltage vaporizers in 2016, so you can pick a higher temperature if you feel like you’re not getting a strong enough hit.
Have you ever been in a stare-off with a dog. If so, who won?
I try to listen to Cesar Milan for all dog-related advice, and he specifically says “No eye contact.” Plus, thumb wars are my jam and they can’t compete.
For the 20something out there reading this who wants your job, being that you are literally nation’s leading weed sommelier, what are some tokens of advice you could give them? How can someone seriously build their resume and and skills as to impress, say, the editor of The Cannabist?
Try to look at as much cannabis, grown by different people, as you can. Look for the small nuances that make strains different and reflect on how you feel while you’re smoking, noting where it hits you and how long certain effects last. The better you can relate your experience to others, the better chance you have at landing a dream gig reviewing pot.