Tip Jar: Budtending With Emma Chasen of Portland’s Farma

Screen Shot 2016 09 29 at 5.37.10 PM
Screen Shot 2016 09 29 at 5.37.10 PM

Emma Chasen, 23, graduated from Brown University in 2014 with a biology degree focused on medicinal plant research. She then coordinated clinical trials for the Brown University Oncology Research Group, but quickly became disillusioned with cancer research’s financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

“When my supervisor rejected a cannabis trial in favor of another billion-dollar pharmaceutical trial, I quit,” Chasen said. “Shortly thereafter, I packed up my bags and trekked across the country to Portland, Oregon.”


She began budtending at Farma in 2015.

Why budtending

When I moved to Portland I thought I was going to work in cannabis research, as that is my background. It was never my goal to work at a dispensary or be a budtender, but I serendipitously found myself in a very special cannabis clinic: Farma.

Career or passion

A passion. I truly believe that cannabis can change the world. It has its hand in many industries and has the potential to change them for the better. For example, this plant can inspire local, regenerative agriculture and affordable healthcare and wellness.


I like to hike, garden, cook, and eat really delicious food with family and friends.


Know what you’re talking about. Never up-sell. Actively listen. There are a lot of stigmas surrounding cannabis and the people who sell it. Many people believe that budtenders are “stupid stoners” who try to pressure them to buy products. You need to subvert those stigmas by knowing your product information inside and out. Lastly, listen to your customers. Create an empathetic connection. More often than not we are helping people find the right product for their mental and physical health issues. That takes a lot of trust and a lot of listening.


I hope to be publishing books regarding my work in the cannabis industry. I would love to be speaking at cannabis and botany conferences. I want to be a public advocate for this plant and the people who use it.

Inventory and buying

I was recently promoted to general manager, so I am very well acquainted with all of our inventory. I am personally responsible for processing all of the paperwork to make our products sellable.


We’ve seen a tenfold increase, but I can’t take credit for that. I started at the shop before recreational sales began. During the medical-only days, we’d see maybe twenty customers a day. Now that we can sell to anyone 21 and older, we see between 200 and 300 customers a day. Things have changed quite a bit this past year.

Asking for a raise

Be upfront and non-aggressive. The worst thing you can do is act entitled. Request a meeting with your supervisor and calmly and confidently explain why you’re in need of a raise and why you think you deserve it. The worst that can happen is your supervisor will deny you a raise and, hopefully, give you explanations as to why.