Tiara Darnell
Photo: Tiara Darnell

Editor’s note: This story was previously published on EstroHaze, a multimedia company highlighting the business and lifestyles of multicultural women in the cannabis industry.

Tiara Darnell is a multimedia journalist and recent graduate from the University of Oregon in Portland, where she completed dual graduate degrees in strategic communications and multimedia journalism. While studying for her master’s, Darnell worked as a budtender at Farma, one of the top dispensaries in Portland.

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Last year, Leafly named Darnell Oregon’s Best Budtender of 2017. Darnell recently transitioned from budtending to focus her attention and efforts on her true passions and career goals within the cannabis industry, which are advocacy and increasing the representation of people of color in cannabis media.

“Being a black budtender in a predominantly white industry, living in a predominantly white town in a predominantly white state, has meant that I’ve become more aware of the social issues that come along with working in the cannabis industry,” Darnell says.

At this year’s Cultivation Classic, a craft cannabis competition and event in Portland, Darnell moderated the “High, Good People: Representation in Cannabis Media” panel featuring women of color who are media-makers. The panel featured event curator and plus-size model Coco Madrid, Women.Weed.WiFi co-founder Amanya Maloba and EstroHaze contributor Nicolle Callier discussing their individual and shared experiences as women of color creating and contributing to cannabis media.

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Aside from curating necessary panels to showcase and highlight women of color in the cannabis industry, Darnell is currently in production for the first season of her new cannabis podcast, High, Good People, where she discusses these issues and topics at large, and introduces listeners to the experiences and perspectives of people of color in cannabis.

The concept for High, Good People came about as a final project for Darnell to complete her master’s degree (listen to the pilot episode here). In researching the landscape of cannabis media, specifically podcasts, Darnell says, she discovered that it’s mainly white men who are discussing cannabis. And as a result, in many ways, white men and women are becoming or being perceived as the authorities on cannabis education and science in the media.

“What I’m aiming to do with High, Good People is showcase narrative-style storytelling that focuses on the experiences of POC in cannabis. There’s no one really talking about culture, lifestyle, history and social issues as they relate to cannabis and POC, especially from the perspective of POC cannabis consumers and those who work in the cannabis industry,” Darnell says. “I thought it would be especially interesting to do something like this here in Oregon, where they have an issue with diversity and a history of exclusion. I wanted to do something that really highlighted the POC experience in the cannabis industry, but also highlights what it’s like being here in Portland.”

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Getting her start as a budtender has educated Darnell about cannabis and the industry at large, and it has helped create opportunities for her to pursue interests beyond cannabis retail sales and bring about real change for women and POC in the cannabis industry. While forever grateful for her experience at Farma as a budtender, Darnell believes that cannabis retail sales positions such as budtending may be a great start for individuals who want to gain some initial experience in the cannabis industry or educate themselves about the plant, but for someone like herself, who has bigger aspirations and career goals in the cannabis industry, she believes that budtending should be seen as a “stepping-stone and not an end goal.”

“Budtending is not a highly paid or even competitive position in some areas, depending on where you are. Some people go on to budtend for a year or two, but if you’re someone who’s motivated and ambitious, it probably isn’t going to be something that you want to do long term,” Darnell explains. “So if you’re going to be a budtender and it’s something you’re only going to be doing for a temporary time, then think about what it is you’re really learning, who you’re learning from, and how you can then take that knowledge and build something for yourself.”

To read the rest of this article, go to EstroHaze.