No job? Imagine signing up at the unemployment office and seeing, among the professions to choose from, all kinds of jobs related to marijuana. Perhaps this scenario is a bit utopian, even in Colorado. And forget about Spain.
Now imagine entering specific portals where you can search for cannabis-related jobs. These already exist in the United States, and one of the profiles in high demand is that of grass taster. Yes, you have read that correctly. A year ago, the Denver Post was looking for a specialised writer and several tasters as it decided to start a section dedicated to this industry, as well as the specialized publication The Cannabist. Since then, many expert tasters, obviously already available over there, have managed to turn their passion into licit and legal careers, working as marijuana tasters.
A marijuana taster is an ordinary person with an ordinary life who, just like Jake Browne, shuns mysticism. The article “The Life of a Pot Critic, Clean, with Citrus Notes” published in the New York Times, shared with readers around the world the routine of this young American. In the article Jake explained people's reactions when he tells them what he does for a living: “People normally say to me: 'dude, you have the best job in the world.' That or, if they happen to live outside Colorado, they ask me to mail them some marijuana.
Browne ended up in the cannabis world almost by accident. Born in Iowa, he first tried his luck as a male model and, after realising that he wasn´t getting anywhere, decided to emigrate to Colorado. There he worked as a waiter and bartender for a few years before becoming a clerk in a medical marijuana dispensary (recreational use was not yet legalized). He wasn´t even crazy about smoking, but he was really drawn to the commercial side of it. He became the company's marketing director and general manager, began a blog, and started up a business selling products online with his partner. A year ago, he became a taster for the Denver Post and, according to the New York Times, the first official marijuana taster in the United States.
Specifically, his work consists of tasting one variety of marijuana every week. He begins by examining the bud in search of traces of mould, degradation, and other flaws. He also analyses its smell, taste and appearance. Then he places it in his glass pipe and takes a couple of hits - just two, he says - to evaluate its combustion, initial impact, and subsequent sensations.
The effects are as varied as the varieties of marijuana on the market. Most of them today are hybrids, with a higher percentage of indica or sativa. For a an expert or connoisseur the differences are much more subtle. “People underestimated cannabis,” says Browne. “Just as you don't walk into a restaurant and just ask for a wine, people are looking for a specific variety of marijuana, with specific characteristics.”
This world is actually full of subtleties and arcane adjectives. A buzz or highcan be electric, or one that sticks you to the sofa: “couchlocking.” The same is true of a variety's flavour; depending upon its terpenes, it can contain traces of pine, citrus, gasoline, musk, lavender, soil, and many more.
Browne provides all this information and even grants himself literary licenses to stimulate the reader's imagination. He recently wrote something like “smells of rubber and pepper dominate the jar as if it contained an army of little plastic green soldiers kicking up a row.” He also informs the reader about the origins of the plant, whether it was organically grown, the chemical products it contains, the dispensary where it was purchased, and even how hungry it makes you, and what he ate later.
Although the New York Times has dubbed him America's first marijuana critic, the experts have been sharing their expertise in specialised cannabis publications, books and contests for some time. One of the best known of these is Danny Danko, editor of the magazine High Times, a publication that has been around for 40 ears, and its cannabis competition for 26. Every bit the icon.
Danko got into the scene via the most usual path: smoking marijuana. According to him in this interview in Soho, he earned a living selling marijuana in New York until he began to work in a hemp clothing store, before ultimately ending up at High Times magazine. According to him, to be a good marijuana taster one has to try it and try it, just as a sommelier does. “I like sativas that are electric, creative, energising, edifying, encouraging...” He is at no loss for adjectives.
Danny Danko matches the traditional profile of an expert forged by his passion for smoking and growing marijuana. On the other hand, Jake Browne (and in this the NYT may be right) matches that of an expert created in response to the demands of the medicinal cannabis industry, followed by the recreational. In Spain, unfortunately, we will still have to wait a bit to perform this type of work. Let's hope it will not be for too long.
Photos by Matthew Staver for the New York Times