Principles of Pot: Ganjiers are the new certified experts on cannabis

Ganjier Official

Illustration by Cassondra Jones

It can be difficult to understand the role of a Ganjier. For those without the knowledge on dispensaries or how flower makes its way into stores, a Ganjier seems frivolous. Who wouldn’t want to make money sitting around observing and smoking weed? But much like a sommelier or chocolatier, a Ganjier specializes in assessing cannabis buds for qualities like color, density, smell, taste, and overall experience. They’re essentially giving your cannabis a grade.

First, it’s important to note the differences in cannabis flower sold legally versus illegally. Oftentimes, buying underground can be a somewhat sketchy experience, even if you know who it’s coming from. Usually, it’s impossible to decipher if the flower is a sativa or an indica, let alone what strain it is. There’s no way to estimate the potency of the bud and it’s more often than not dried out, filled with seeds or poorly trimmed. 

Sure, you’ll get high when you smoke it, but there’s no telling how it will make you feel. Worse, it tastes like… a leaf you’ve set on fire. Mites, mold or other drug presences can’t be ruled out.

Medical and recreational cannabis strains are completely different. It’s lab-tested, quality tested and grown under very specific conditions. Every piece is accounted for in the system and stored in safes under lock and key. 

That is to say that a first-time experience with legal cannabis can be intimidating. You need to know what you’re working with. More important than simply asking a budtender for their recommendation is understanding the foundation of the plant to make your own informed decision. Learning the parts of the bud and how each interacts with the other is necessary for making a choice.

“The advantage of [having a Ganjier] is that the more information you have on what you’re going to buy, the better. If it had eyes on it by someone who is certified, I think there’s value in that,” says Morgan Seaman, one of two certified Ganjiers in the state of Missouri. “I want to convey the importance of why you should be interested and aware of where your cannabis is coming from. Who is growing it, where they’re growing it? And [what is] the impact it’s having on the Earth, or society or your community?”

So much more goes into judging what makes cannabis “quality” than expected. The color of the stigma (hair-like pieces on the bud that usually show in shades of orange and purple) indicate maturity. The opacity of the trichomes (mushroom-shaped outgrowths on the bud) become darker as THC forms and breaks down. Terpenes (compounds that determine the taste and smell) are essential in determining how a plant will make you feel.

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Ganjiers. // Courtesy Derek Gilman

“It’s not necessarily true that THC percentage is what will get you really high. It’s what they call the entourage effect, or ensemble effect, because it’s a plant. This is holistic medicine; you’re not taking one molecule and treating one singular thing. It’s a whole pantheon,” Seaman said. “Myrcine helps the cannabinoids pass through the blood-brain barrier more easily, and it’s also in mangos and hops. Humiline is in hops as well and has a more relaxing realm of a high, like an IPA. For me, if I drink a really hoppy beer, it makes me sleepy. That’s the humiline.”

Seaman explained that the entourage effect is best analogized through alcohol percentage. No one is drinking Everclear to have a relaxing evening, but wine or beer with a lower level of alcohol will create a more rounded experience. This all goes into the initial assessment before any consumption of the flower even begins. 

The Ganjier Program is a fairly new but highly regarded training course for anyone who is interested in becoming informed on more than just smoking the weed. Legacy farmers, CEOs, celebrities, budtenders, and enthusiasts are all signing up to sit through 35 hours of online courses before working in California to gain hands-on experience. Most classes are instructed by some of the most respected and longest-working professionals in the industry.

“Right now we patterned and tailored the program off of the wine sommelier programs that have been established and existed for the past five decades,” says  Co-founder and Managing Director of Ganjier, Derek Gilman. At the time of interview, he was looking forward to seeing the company’s filmed feature for The Today Show.

“The certified level was designed to provide a thorough and robust foundational base of knowledge to the aspiring Ganjier, where we cover everything from history to botany to science, genetics, cultivation, processing, consumption, assessment, and ultimately sales and service,” Gilman says.

Step two requires traveling to the infamous Humboldt County to conduct live trainings and a final test to receive certification. This gives Ganjier students the opportunity to interact with their instructors and meet some of the cannabis industry legends who take part. Friends are made and future plans are discussed. This is how Seaman ended up working on legacy farmer Wendy Kornberg’s land with a fellow Ganjier from Virginia.

“We were harvesting hothouse grows of Ice Cream Cake, these big purple, really beautiful buds. We had harvested probably a hundred or so pounds, and you could smell that from up on her ridge. We spent maybe two days harvesting that and hanging them when it started raining,” Seaman says with a sigh. “It was not great. All of it molded. It was very heartbreaking, but that was the lesson. It’s not all happy sunshine and rainbows, it’s tough work. You’re at the mercy of nature and you don’t really have much control. You have to just plan and prepare.”

Beyond the training, Ganjiers tend to go on to become leaders in the industry, either offered promotions due to their extensive knowledge or becoming judges at cannabis cup competitions where brands and cultivators battle it out for the top spot in a variety of different categories. 

“There’s a benefit of this community of support. Out of that have come employment opportunities and opportunities for people to relocate or get their foot in the industry because of this connection they made since they went through the program,” Gilman says. “We’ve had so many examples. One of the students that was going through the program last year was the manager of the Arizona Dispensaries Association. He just got hired on as the CEO of this new company in Arizona.”

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Ganjiers. // Courtesy Derek Gilman

Unfortunately for Seaman, he has found it difficult to put his expertise to use outside of judging cannabis cups. A current budtender at BesaMe in Smithville, he anxiously awaits more opportunities as the market develops. However, cannabis professionals in the know are slowly becoming more aware of The Ganjier Program and the benefits it provides to consumers.

“I’m very, very interested in meeting them. They’re definitely something we’re aspiring to become and incorporate into our practice and offering as well,” says Dan McCauley, a patient educator with Nuthera Labs. Currently, Nuthera is working on constructing and operating a new space to cultivate their own cannabis plants. In the past, they worked strictly in extracting from flower sourced from other suppliers. 

“I think that working with a Ganjier is something that Nuthera Labs would be super interested in,” McCauley says. “What’s different about cannabis and the Ganjier versus a wine sommolier is that they get to talk about more effect-driven results, rather than just ending with the taste profile of the plant or product… I think that’s where the market is going to be headed. On a lot of levels, even in a rec market, it’s driven by a medical need. I think a lot of people who participate in our rec market are self-medicating in certain ways and would benefit from the little tidbits of information that could help them better choose what works best for them.”

If any of this seems intimidating, don’t worry. It’s a lot of information and all of it is still in the process of being disseminated to patients. The most important thing is to understand what you want out of the plant and ask your trusted budtender to guide you through terpenes and their effects. 

“Cannabis is big and it touches so many things. Ultimately, cannabis is going to be in so many different products. It has the potential to replace any product that is currently being produced by petroleum, wood processing and so on. So, when it comes to people trying to educate themselves about this, [they should] find a topic that inspires them,” Gilman says.

He encourages new patients and the curious to begin researching before going to the dispensary to have a better knowledge base. What interests you? Science, botany, taste, culture, or just a really good high? 

Categories: Culture