Name: Derek Oldham, Certified Ganjier
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Ganjier Graduating Class: October, 2021
MzJill’s “Jilly Bean,” Millerville Farm’s “Jaeger,” and Thug Pug’s “Peanut Butter Breath.”
What was your position before joining the Ganjier Certification Program?
Before joining the Ganjier Program, I was the Corporate Trainer for Bloom City Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I started as a budtender during the caregiver supplied medical market in 2019. During that time, we could source from local caregivers, but now they are forbidden from participating in the licensed market. It was fascinating to witness the transition to the “Adult-Use” market.
Only a few months passed before the COVID pandemic hit and everything changed. My job was Federally illegal, but I was deemed “essential to society” in the state of Michigan. The hypocrisy of cannabis prohibition hit me every day on the bud-room floor as I helped travelers from as far as Mississippi and Arkansas.
My leadership skills and cannabis knowledge helped me become a manager and I created a training program for new employees right as the Ganjier program became available. After graduation, it was my honor to help Bloom build out multiple dispensary stores and train their staff to be the most professional and knowledgeable budtenders in Michigan.
What is it now?
I now work independently as a consultant for dispensaries and brands across the state of Michigan. I have had the pleasure to work with multiple dispensaries and have personally trained over 200 budtenders through my Cannabis Guide School program. After a decade as a professional outdoor adventure guide, I found many similarities to budtending. Whether you are guiding a guest down a canyon river, or the canyons of their own mind, it is the goal of the guide to provide the knowledge and tools necessary for a successful adventure with an unknown outcome.
The Ganjier’s Customer Interaction Protocol (CIP) aligns seamlessly with this philosophy and has been integral in improving my ability to teach professional cannabis service. I also teach community classes through Earthbound Remedies, a local CBD wellness company. I want quality and accurate information available to the public in a safe and welcoming environment. Earthbound Remedies has a beautiful classroom, and they are an awesome team that makes high quality hemp derived products available nationally.
To expand on my community outreach, I teamed up with professional videographer Adam Boroniec and started a YouTube channel “Nuggz of Wisdom”. With inspiration from Derek Gilman’s “Quick Hit” series, I focus on entertaining and practical knowledge that is approachable for new consumers and connoisseurs.
The community that the Ganjier network is creating is one of the most powerful assets to the program. I have made new connections locally and all over the world. Certified Ganjier, Larry Paul from New Jersey, specializes in financial literacy and has been an incredible mentor and friend helping guide me through the adventures of cannabis entrepreneurship. I am also a part of a graduate mentorship team helping Ganjier students through their journey. My latest connection has led to me becoming the Lead Michigan Representative for Cannabis Bar Services. We provide elegant and professional cannabis bartending service for private events and weddings in Michigan, Colorado, and California.
What was your primary motivation for joining the cannabis field?
In 2010 my father was in a serious snowboarding accident where he suffered a broken neck and spine. Thankfully he was able to walk again, but he had a traumatic brain injury that left him with impaired cognition. During his recovery, he turned to cannabis for pain management. He realized that it was also helping with his mood and emotional state as well as improving his memory and attention. My father and I knew that cannabis was helping him, but some of our family members couldn’t see it as a medicine. I started studying as much as I could about the legitimate science of cannabis and its medicinal value, specifically with the brain. I learned about the neuroprotective and neuro-generative properties of cannabinoids and I was blown away. I developed a voracious appetite for knowledge of medical marijuana. I began studying and sharing this information with my skeptical family members. Combined with improvements in my dad’s cognition and emotional state, they are now believers in this powerful medicine.
With my advanced knowledge I have been able to help hundreds of medical marijuana patients on their adventurous road to wellness. I have helped those with even the most debilitating diseases find relief. When patients have success with the products I suggest, it charges my soul.
Why did you choose the Ganjier program?
I chose the Ganjier Cannabis Sommelier Program because I have a thirst for knowledge and a competitive nature that drives me to be the best at whatever I set my mind to.
When I first saw the movie SOMM, I was blown away by the sommelier’s ability to smell and taste wine so accurately. In the film, they mentioned how this can be a learned skill and not necessarily something you are born with. I instantly wanted to apply this skill to cannabis and I even thought of becoming a sommelier to translate the skills. Learning how to interpret different terpenes is a skill this industry needs to move forward. Being able to smell the different nuances helps me provide the most appropriate profile for the patients I work with, and every consumer deserves that care and quality of service.
Until the Ganjier program was released, I called myself a cannabis sommelier, because there was no title for professional cannabis connoisseurs. A coworker asked me one day if I’d heard about this new “Ganjier” program coming out, and I freaked when I heard the name. After looking at the roster of legendary council members it was a no brainer to send in an application.
What did you expect going into the Ganjier course?
I expected to finally learn a more complete understanding of the plant from legitimate experts. Where did it come from? What’s in it? How do you identify genuine quality?
One of the most important learning expectations for me was a standardization of language and terminology. Indica and sativa are far too juvenile for describing effects and experience. Although widely accepted in any shop, the terms we use range from inadequate to downright inaccurate. To elevate the conversations we have about cannabis, we must elevate the language we use.
What did you find?
I had no idea how many informational gaps were present in my personal knowledge. I now have a complete storyline from its origin, to prohibition, and the modern industry. I still use terms like Indica and Sativa, but now only as a bridge to flavor classes: Earth, Fuel, Fruit, Floral, Sweet, and Faulty(Off). I can use these flavors to describe experience with infinitely better elegance and accuracy than the binary Indica and Sativa. I also now know the difference between strains and cultivars or Kief and dry sift. But as a Ganjier, we never shame someone for using the wrong term or not knowing, it is our chance to educate, not intimidate.
Was there a game-changing “A-ha” moment for you during the course?
There were many, but the first was just a few minutes into the first class. Frenchy drops the fact that cannabis is 27.8 MILLION years old (with sources cited). BOOM! I finally have an answer for “how old is this plant!?” Up until then, I had to just accept its existence. “It’s old, it’s been around since the beginning of time.” Now I finally have a real answer to what should be a basic and simple question. And adding that scientists learned the exact age only a few years ago is another layer to this mind blasting realization.
Then we stack the exact location of its origin, Lake Qinghai, and how this plant covered the globe from a single great salt lake in China. I am only half way through the first class and I have an understanding of the plant’s origin story like never before. I didn’t enjoy history in grade school, but now I have a fire to learn everything I can about Ganja’s unavoidable entanglement through every chapter of human history.
The deeper I go, the more I have come to learn and appreciate how truly foundational the cannabis plant has been in human development and religious worship.
What skills/knowledge/philosophy have you been able to take away and apply to your cannabis career?
My ability to answer, “WHY?” I have no issue with someone telling me, “This product is fire!” as long as they can tell me why it’s fire. Through Ganjier’s Systematic Assessment Protocol I now have a honed sense for the quality of aroma, appearance, flavor, and experience. Combined with a refreshed understanding and appreciation of terroir and sun grown cannabis, I can use these skills to highlight the true value of a product such as how it was produced or processed, and not just its THC expression.
What impact did the Ganjier training have on your cannabis career/future?
I’ll challenge anyone to find me a new industry that is more volatile and competitive than cannabis. Each state operates its own market as differently as other countries. Right now, almost every market has started in a boom, and then oversupplied to a crash. Through all of these dynamic swings, having the Certified Ganjier designation has been an incredible lifeline.
Being able to consistently communicate with other Ganjiers across the globe has given me a global market view along with updates on legal, medical, and technological innovations keeping me on the cutting edge of knowledge.
There are a lot of armchair experts out there, and those with legitimate experience, but until the Ganjier program, there was no official designation of knowledge. The certification has helped give me credibility upon introduction and quickly elevate myself from other industry professionals.
To those considering the Ganjier course, what advice would you give?
I highly recommend this program to anyone with a passion or connection to this plant. But know that this program does not pass every student, and you will have to put in the work to graduate. It felt incredible to pass the exam, because of the work involved. Also, the leaders are inspiring, the education is entertaining, the work is rewarding, and the community is amazingly supportive.