In December 2022, Explore Maryland Cannabis introduced their 2022 nominations with over twenty awards in four main categories: People, Company, Industry, and Products. These awards are a way to honor the best in the Maryland cannabis industry. Georgia Asmar, our field marketing events manager, reached out to Barbie Cyr, winner of patient advisor of the year, to learn more about her background in cannabis and spotlight her achievements in the cannabis community.
Hi Barbie and thank you for letting us get to know you! Let’s get started with the background basics... Where are you from and where do you work?
I was born and raised in Baltimore. I work at Green Goods Baltimore. I am one of their Assistant General Managers.
How long have you been in the industry?
I have been working full-time as a dispensary manager for just over 2 years now. 2023 will be my 4th year in the industry.
You’ve moved up so quickly, how did you do it?
I think I was able to become so successful at my job because I found something I was truly good at. I'm a huge people person. I love to talk to my patients while helping them feel better at the same time. I'm also not afraid of hard work. I usually ask to be put on the busiest of days to help pass the time. I enjoy budtending and being with my patients.
This award must mean so much to you. Were you nominated by your peers for this award?
Yes, the Explore Maryland Cannabis Awards are based off the cannabis community, patients and peers! They run two weeks' worth of nominations, then another two weeks of voting! Awards like these in our community bring us together to highlight those in the community working their butts off because they have passion and drive for our common love of cannabis and helping people.
What made you try cannabis?
I originally tried cannabis as way of pain relief, I watched my mom use cannabis to help treat her chronic pain so I was curious if I would also benefit from the effects.
What type of pain did you experience, and do you still live with it today?
Being severely overweight at 415lbs. caused significant damage to my lower spine. I used to have intense sciatica flare-ups multiple times a week. I was unable to stand for longer than 10 minutes without being uncomfortable and having pain shooting down my legs. I've lost 240lbs and although the damage to my spine is irreversible, I don't deal with nearly as much pain nowadays. I do have the occasional sciatic pain but I'm grateful to reach for my arsenal of medical cannabis products for relief!
What an incredible accomplishment and an inspiring journey. Congratulations! Would you say medical cannabis was a big part of your journey?
Yes, absolutely! I struggled with a lot of post-operative acid reflux and severe nausea. Having the option for medical cannabis has been the biggest blessing in my weight loss journey.
That must’ve played a major role in you obtaining your medical card! What made you want to get into the cannabis industry?
After becoming a patient in 2018, I applied for a part-time position at my local dispensary. I had built rapport with the team and management there. I had a full-time job at the Port of Baltimore, but when the dispensary manager told me of an opening, I immediately applied for a part-time position in addition to my full-time job. In 2019, I worked nights and weekends at the dispensary for about a year before transitioning to a full-time budtender position.
How does cannabis influence your lifestyle?
Currently, cannabis is one of the biggest influences in my life. I use cannabis to increase my appetite after struggling with acid reflux, following two weight loss surgeries. I also struggle with anxiety and OCD, in which cannabis helps me remain calm during stressful situations. As well as be able to cope with anxieties that can be too much to handle without the use of medical cannabis, for me personally.
Sounds like cannabis is the perfect intersection between your lifestyle and work, speaking of which, what is it like being a budtender?
I have so much fun being a budtender. Each patient I treat as I would my own family and friends. Quickly assessing why the patient is purchasing medical cannabis and what types of products they’re interested in. I like to also ask for feedback, the next time the patient comes into the shop, to help the patients feel comfortable engaging with me and the other budtenders. Also, so we can help tweak their needs when looking for different medical cannabis options.
What is one of the first questions you will ask a patient?
I usually start with asking about their medical conditions and what kinds of products they are interested in trying/ learning about and go from there.
Do you keep a log in the patient profile to keep track of their previous purchases?
Luckily, our POS system keeps a detailed log of prior purchase history, and we can leave notes in a profile that will relay important details specific to that patient. For example, if they only shop for vapes but struggle with social anxiety and being overwhelmed entering the dispensary, it helps the budtenders stay on track and not send the patient home with something they didn't necessarily want but felt uncomfortable speaking up in the moment. We try to encourage that the dispensary is just like a pharmacy and patients have the right to look at the packaging, dates and profiles. It's your medicine!
Why do you go above and beyond for your patients?
I thoroughly enjoy helping my patients. I grew up here, they are my community. They are someone's mom and dad or someone's grandparents. Cannabis doesn't discriminate and It brings me such joy ending the stigma on cannabis and helping people with this plant. Having medical cannabis has been a life changer for so many Marylanders.
I love your willingness to give back to the community. Have you struggled with the stigma on cannabis? Do you think that will change when we go recreational?
Thank you! Oh yes, I've absolutely struggled with the stigma that cannabis carries, even today! Growing up in the '90s the mentality was constantly... “Drugs are bad and you will ruin your life once you smoke pot and it will be a gateway to harder drugs.” I live with my grandmother, and when I moved in, she was completely against cannabis in any form. She would complain of the cannabis odor when I would come inside from smoking my medical cannabis on my porch. After making my career switch from a corporate environment a lot of my family members didn't understand my choice and didn't consider it a "real job" and told me it wouldn't last. Last year in 2022, my grandma became an MMCC patient herself and uses low dose edibles and topicals for rheumatoid arthritis and chronic pain. I consider that to be an accomplishment of mine too.
I still get looks when I go to the store and I'm sporting my "Cannabis is Medicine" hoodie and then there's the opposite end of the stigma where you get folks coming up to me in support of the message on the hoodie! I enjoy starting conversation with those that have a negative perspective on cannabis. If I can educate and possibly sway their opinions to the green side, I'm going to try! When recreational is in place, I think Maryland may become a bit more comfortable with the thought (and smell) of cannabis being as accessible and normalized in everyday life. However, I do understand parents being concerned, but if everyone is being responsible with their cannabis use, the opportunities to normalize our medicine is going to be endless!
Me too! What is your favorite CULTA strain, and why?
Currently my favorite CULTA strain is Amnesia OG!! The THC content has always been in the 30% or higher category, which is perfect for a long-time patient like myself, requiring a higher dose. I love the brightly colored nugs with the sparkly trichomes that surround each bud.
It is definitely one of our higher testing strains. Do you consider yourself a sativa or indica person?
I always would have said I was an indica girl. However, a couple years ago, one of my co-workers convinced me to try Poochie Love by CULTA and I instantly fell in love. Back when I was a baby budtender, I was under the impression a sativa would give me an anxiety attack. Boy, was I misinformed back then! There was no paranoia as I was anticipating. Nowadays, I enjoy keeping an array of strains and products in my traveling Caboodle box. I'm prepared for any kind of situation. I still have to smoke flower outside because my Grandma still hates the smell, so keeping my stash accessible is very convenient.
What is your favorite CULTA product and why?
My favorite CULTA product would have to be the flower and concentrates! I will always love flower, but in most recent years, I have been obsessed with dabs! I recently picked up Pink Mango and Wolfhound Badders! Both are fantastic strains.
Do you use a traditional rig, or have you upgraded to an electric rig?
I actually have both set up at my little dab station! I really like to have my options. I think it depends on my mood and/or how much of a hurry I'm in, but I would say I use my Puffco more often than the traditional rig.
What are some of your hobbies, and how do they intersect with cannabis?
My favorite hobby is doing makeup looks on myself. I also enjoy photography and taking hikes that have beautiful views to photograph. I love being around my friends and family. I also like to travel around Maryland and visit new dispensaries to see the selection and meet more industry friends!
You mention family and friends as main focuses in your life, are there any mentors you would like to shout out as we end the interview?
Yes 100%. I have two that come to mind:
My Mama is my #1 supporter and biggest fan. She's been there beside me through every high and every low. My mom became disabled when I was 13 with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and I became her caretaker when I was 13yrs old. Trying to navigate middle school while taking care of myself, my mom and our house while my stepdad worked two jobs, was a lot. I watched my mom struggle in hospital stays and countless pharmaceuticals prescribed to her with loads of side effects. She had used cannabis in the past to help with her pain but didn't mention it to me until I was just about 18. Medical Cannabis helps her pain while giving her back some quality of life. In 2018, my mom and I became MMCC patients together. We enjoy visiting new dispensaries around Maryland. Watching movies and shows, listening to music, and eating good food.
In 2018, my mom and I became MMCC patients together. My favorite memory is the first time we walked into the dispensary (that is now Green Goods) for the first time as patients. My mom looks at me and says, "Oh wow, I can see you working here!" I laughed and shrugged it off thinking “that would be fun!” Fast forward four (almost five) years later . . . I get up every day and am excited to go to work and see my patients, see my co-workers that have become some of my best friends and make a small difference in the world!
Second would be Jasmine "Jas" Vanderheyden, one of my best friends and another Assistant General Manager at Green Goods Baltimore. We met at the dispensary before Green Goods, and we like to joke that we "Trauma Bonded" and from there we became a constant in each other's lives. Jas is from Illinois, so living in MD after leaving the military, she didn’t have her family here. So, I've claimed myself as an honorary family member. She has been a huge support system for me, and we've enjoyed keeping the dispensary running smoothly for about two years now in management. We complement each other perfectly, I'm 5'11 and she's 5'3. I'm the social butterfly leader that has a great memory and spot-on gut feelings, and Jas is our spicy, confident and smart leader that when the two of us come together we get things done and move in sync during the day. It's kind of cool when I stop to think about it. I'm grateful to have her to bounce ideas off, for us to talk about ANYTHING and I know she isn't judging a word of it. It's rare to find a human you trust that doesn't have a hidden motive. I know what I get with Jas and I'm grateful to have her as mentor and best friend!
What are some awards you would like to continue to see in the future?
I'd love for my dispensary to win an award and for all our hard work to be recognized as a whole. I would absolutely be honored to win Budtender of the Year, as long as my patients keep supporting me and my passions.
Closing off this interview, what are your new year's resolutions for 2023?
My 2023 resolution I would say I'd like to continue moving forward in the industry and I'm excited to see where the start of recreational is going to take Maryland but I'm here for it! I don't really make too many resolutions, life and time move so quickly I just like to go with the flow and see where each day takes me. I have a goal to learn to grow! So, I'm going to try my hand at that this year.