As we approach a new chapter in the world of Cannabis, people from all walks of life are finding that they can do something they love by working in this industry. Budtender Julia Lillis from Caroline’s Cannabis is the perfect example of what it takes to become successful while getting your feet wet in the bud business. Previously a bartender, she describes the respect, safety, and love of the patrons she serves nowadays as such a better feeling. In this Budtender of the Month feature, we talk terps with Julia as we try to get to the core of her story and how she ended up here.
What’s it like getting to wake up every day and work at one of the leading dispensaries in Massachusetts?
Having the opportunity to wake up and go to a job I enjoy every day is a blessing all on its own. Working for one of the leading dispensaries in Massachusetts is the kief on top. It gives me confidence that I am doing my job well and that I make a difference. It feels like at Caroline’s we’re doing something right. There is a reason people keep coming back. We are personable, kind, and patient, and we make sure that everyone that comes in feels confident with what they are leaving with. They don’t just feel like a number. Caroline’s is also a small, women-owned business, not a corporation. I also think that resonates with the people that choose us over so many other dispensaries in the state.
What are some of your favorite strains on the menu at Caroline’s?
I definitely have a top three, and the list of favorites grows as I get to try more. Early Lemon Berry – fruity and smooth – it leaves you with the perfect balance of chill and social. It’s good for being creative, hanging out with friends, or a great night with your partner. Motorbreath – when we have it – is so relaxing you could just sit and watch TV. Or it might leave you laughing your ass off with friends over your favorite snacks. And then Jilly Bean – this is ME if I were a strain – it leaves you feeling giggly and energized. Sweet and full-bodied, good for singing your favorite songs a little too loud or a day at the beach with your toes in the sand.
How did you start consuming Cannabis? Do you use it medicinally?
The very first time I smoked I was a sophomore in high school. My best friend made a makeshift water bottle bong, and we smoked behind the train tracks. Then we hopped onto the commuter rail and went to our very first “Silent Rave” in Copley Square. I remember the train ride feeling like a rollercoaster. We danced with headphones on to our favorite music with a huge group of people – it was a blast. As for treating medical concerns, nothing severe. Cannabis definitely helps me with nights I can’t seem to turn off my brain – whether it’s to simply relax or fall asleep, it gets the job done. Otherwise, I like to enjoy Cannabis to enhance experiences, whether it’s a concert, a night out with friends or an art project – there’s a place and time for all of it.
It must be a trip to have been a bartender when you were younger and now you’re a budtender. Did you ever think this transition would happen?
If you’d asked me 10 years ago if I would be where I am today, I’d have told you that you were dreaming. I’ve always been a hard worker in whatever job I’ve had, and always knew I was meant to help people in some way. Before I even started bartending, I was slinging coffees and living in my mom’s basement. One of my regulars, who is now a very close friend of mine, saw my potential and knew I was meant for better things. I had always thought that bartending was a ‘cool’ profession – thanks Coyote Ugly. I worked in the restaurant industry for just over seven years, got my license, my own car, and was able to afford my own apartment. Bartending was fulfilling in the way that I love making people happy, and I am truly a social being. I love networking and talking to people, getting to know them and listening to their stories. I got to be creative and create fun drinks, competed in contests, and met some really amazing people. It wasn’t always the most ‘fun’ place to be. … Once COVID hit, a lot changed for me. I was feeling overworked and burnt out. I wasn’t allowed to socialize, which is half of the fun of being a bartender. … My friend that helped me into the industry, was also the friend that helped me out of it. He told me I would be an incredible fit as a budtender, and I deserved more than what I was settling for now. … Selling Cannabis legally, who would have thought it could be so much fun?
Now that you get the chance to improve the quality of others’ lives with this plant, how do you go about finding what products work best for each customer?
Each person that I take care of, I try to ask simple but informative questions to get to the root of what they are looking for. I ask them how they want to consume their Cannabis, and what they are looking for it to help with. Getting the answers to those two questions definitely helps narrow down our large menu for them. Coming in and not really knowing what you are looking for can be incredibly overwhelming. I know what that is like. If I notice someone is anxious and feels like they need to rush in and out, I assure them that I am not worried about getting to the people behind them in a rush. It is my job to make them feel comfortable and confident in their choices and what they leave the store with.
A woman came to my register one day and said she was having a really tough time falling asleep and staying asleep. She had tried melatonin and other sleep medications but nothing had helped. She’d never consumed Cannabis before, but her friends suggested she try it. She wasn’t really interested in smoking if she had other options. … We had just started offering these edibles called Cheeba Chews – we have one called ‘sleepy time’ that contains THC, CBN, and melatonin. I told her about how CBN is the part of Cannabis that gives you that heavy eyelid feeling, and how the trace amounts of melatonin work with the THC to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. … She was willing to try anything, so she left with the max amount of edibles you are allowed to buy. She was very grateful, and I wished her a happy sleep. A month or so later, she came back to the store and raved to me about how she now gets a full night’s sleep because of the edibles I suggested to her. She told me I changed her life – which seems a little dramatic – but when I think about how important sleep is to how well we function in our lives, a good night’s sleep really can be life-changing.
Other than visiting you during store hours, where can Northeast Leaf readers continue to follow your passions and love for Cannabis?
I feel like a slacker, but I really don’t post much on social media. They can feel free to follow me on Instagram @theplussideoflife. I don’t post often, but they can definitely enjoy my random postings if they’d like to. I am a social being – I love talking to people about Cannabis and how it has helped them or what is new in the industry, or about how we can change the industry with just one idea. On my days off you can either find me home with a good show, my latest doodles, or watching some funny TikToks. I do occasionally get out of the house and go to my regular bar and visit my friends, where they also like to ask me about the newest and best things Caroline’s has to offer. I WILL host an infused dinner party someday, and I won’t stop coming up with recipes until it happens! Come visit me and tell me your favorite thing to do after you smoke. Maybe I’ll give you an idea on something new to try that will blow your mind.