Know Your Budtender

A Q&A with Humboldt County’s best

By Cassie Curatolo

Illustrations by Jacqui Langeland


How is Humboldt County cannabis different from cannabis grown in other places?

“The knowledge and care that goes into it. … If you buy Humboldtgrown cannabis, you know where it’s from, you know its going to be free of pesticides, microbials and mold.” — Jessica Hemker

“The history, environment, local culture and the people involved. Customers are conscious about packaging. … In general, growers are concerned about the environment. In Humboldt County, everything is rooted in community.” — Timolin Mahan

Above: C.J. Balangue at Proper Wellness; Below: Michelle Seelye at HPRC Arcata

“Humboldt cannabis is grown with love and care. They take time with each plant, unlike the big mega grows. It tastes better, fuller bodied. It has a better nose and is cured well. It’s generally more organic than the cannabis from other places. Humboldt farmers use alternatives to pesticides and make sure it’s the cleanest. They have high standards for themselves. People have been doing it for generations. They are experts.” — Savannah Snow

“It’s generally accepted as the best in the world. The industry here is more community driven, whereas in the Bay Area, it was profit-focused. Humboldt County cannabis really sells itself. Most customers are not local, they come here for local product. With Humboldt County flower, in general, you experience everything that went into it. People know that their cannabis comes from a place it’s truly cared for.” — C.J. Balangue

“Love and Passion. People here have fought for this for so long. We’re known for it. Its not just a cash grab.” — Briana Chapman

“Cannabis is the soul of Humboldt County. Nowhere in the U.S is as accepting, and it empowers people to take control of their own health. We also have experienced growers, so more knowledge is going in to the product.” — Michelle Seelye

What do you wish customers knew before coming into a dispensary?

“Don’t worry so much about sativa/indica/hybrid. Intuit the medicine — smell it, look at it. That will give you an idea of what you want when. That’s how plants work, they’ll tell you.” — Timolin Mahan

Above: Jessica Hemker at Satori Wellness; Below: Timolin Mahan at Pacific Paradise

“Things have changed over the years. We have so much more than just weed. If one thing doesn’t work, keep trying. Keep an open mind. It’s not just young kids coming in, it’s a whole range of customers, every gender, every age. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. — Jessica Hemker

“Never be afraid to ask questions. Have a positive outlook. Take inventory of your body.” — Michelle Seelye

“Know the baseline of what you’re looking for, whether it be certain results or how you’d like to consume cannabis. Take notes, bring a pen and paper. Keep track of what you’ve tried or like. It really helps the budtenders. Also, be comfortable, take your time, ask questions. Don’t ever leave not knowing about your product or feeling like you’ve been rushed.” — Savannah Snow

“Don’t be afraid … budtenders and staff are always welcoming and friendly.” — C.J. Balangue

“It’s not a used car lot, there’s no pressure to buy. We want to break everything down and make sure you’re comfortable and happy.” — Briana Chapman

How do you feel about budtending or about budtending in Humboldt County, in particular?

“I get to help expand how wellness is defined.”  — Jessica Hemker

“I’m here for the communal aspect and because cannabis is medicine that hasn’t been treated as such. I love feeling like I’m giving people medicine and I’m stoked about that every day.” — Timolin Mahan

“It’s refreshing. Brands are people here in Humboldt. In the Bay Area, people want names. Here, people want stories about who grows their weed. In other places, you only get to meet brand ambassadors. But here, you get to talk to owners one-on-one.” — C.J Balangue

Above: Savannah Snow at The Humboldt County Collective; Below: Brianna Chapman at The Heart of Humboldt

“We love starting from scratch with people. As a budtender, empathy is so important. We have the opportunity to change people’s minds about cannabis.” — Briana Chapman

“We’re all about giving back to the community — and that means more than free swag or block parties. We want to cultivate wellbeing, and that’s why HPRC offers free yoga, tai chi and selfhelp classes at The Connection in Eureka. … I’m proud to work for HPRC. When I walk out of the house, I represent a company. I go out of my way to show integrity.” — Michelle Seelye

Which local products do you recommend?

“Talking Trees’ hash collabs and rosin, Space Gems edibles and Papa & Barkley salves.” — Jessica Hemker

 “Humboldt Terp Council’s concentrates and flower. HPRC’s live resin and Sweet ReLeaf’s topicals.” — Michelle Seelye

 “Humboldt Seed Company’s Blueberry Muffin flower. It’s fruity and has great eye appeal, nice color, flavor, smell and structure. It literally smells like a blueberry muffin. Space Gems edibles. They’re vegan and don’t use artificial color. Sun Kissed live resins, they’re clean, have higher potency and have good prices for top-tier products. And Native Humboldt Farms’ salves. — Savannah Snow

“Our own in-house products. We always recommend Space Gems as a starter edible. Papa & Barkely tinctures and topicals, UpNorth products — they have an amazing staff, it sets them apart from other top shelf.” — Briana Chapman

“Eel River cartridges and vape pens … they hit smooth and are discreet and long-lasting. And Humboldt Farms’ Super Lemon Jack Gio G pen. It helps you focus and channel your creativity.” — Timolin Mahan

“Space Gems edibles. Errl Hill’s concentrates are high quality and affordable. Humboldt Terp Council’s live resins are consistent in quality. And Humboldt’s Finest, which has 16 strains of live resin.” — C.J. Balangue

C.J. Balangue at Proper Wellness

Proper Wellness, a small farmfocused dispensary, opened on Feb. 21 with C.J there budtending. Before joining the team at Proper Wellness, he worked for dispensaries in the Bay Area for more than three years. He has also been an activist with Veteran’s for Cannabis, where he advocated for access to cannabis as medicine.

Michelle Seelye at HPRC Arcata

A budtender for more than six years with Humboldt Patient Resource Center, Michelle began her career in the industry working on farms both in Humboldt County and out of state. She’s a certified herbalist and HPRC’s lead budtender and is well-loved by regular customers.

Jessica Hemker at Satori Wellness

Making her entre to the industry in Southern California dispensaries, Jessica has been budtending since 2013. A former skate company, Satori Wellness opened its doors for cannabis sales in 2018 and Jessica was there to greet the first customers.

Timolin Mahan at Pacific Paradise

Before working as a budtender, Timolin worked on local cannabis farms for three years, giving her insight into various aspects of the industry. A head shop and disc golf supply for years, Pacific Paradise officially opened as a dispensary on April 20 with Timolin behind the counter.

Savannah Snow at The Humboldt County Collective

A woman-operated dispensary, THCC is owned by a grandmother/ granddaughter duo. Budtender and buying manager, Savanah, has been involved with the business since 2012.

Briana Chapman at The Heart of Humboldt

Involved in the industry since 2016, Briana got her start in dispensaries in Sacramento. When she came to Humboldt to attend HSU, she got a job at Heart of Humboldt. Now, she’s the dispensary’s floor manager and lead budtender.