Sanctuary Spotlight: Da’Shawn Hopkins
How did you break into the cannabis industry?
Sanctuary was actually the path that opened the door for me in this industry. My father and stepmother both died of cancer, and they both consumed cannabis to ease the transition. My father was on dialysis and chemo at the same time, so he’d smoke to ease the pain, be able to eat or just not be so nauseous.
I was originally trying to get my real estate license but also filled out an application at Sanctuary Orlando. They wound up interviewing me over the phone while I was on a break at the real estate class, and they told me to come in. I graduated from the class and literally went from graduation to the store I’m at now to do an interview. It’s been about a year since then.
How did you progress from Day 1 to your current position?
Within three months of being there, I wound up going from a budtender to a manager-on-duty. One of our general managers left, and I already had assistant general manager experience from restaurants. I was a supervisor and AGM at different restaurants, so one of the managers at Sanctuary was like, “The things you’ve done at restaurants should translate into this business.”
It took me a good year to figure out how to translate the things I’d done in that business over to Sanctuary. They’re totally different industries, but it actually worked out. Recently, my GM Chantel had an unfortunate family situation where she wasn’t able to be at the store for a week and a half. I stepped into the role of acting AGM while she was gone, and the staff felt like I performed very well. When she came back, it was seamless; it’s like she never left. That was the whole goal.
What were some of the early lessons learned in the cannabis industry? What’s stuck with you the most?
Not everybody is looking for THC! A lot of people are looking for terpenes or to be medicated properly. There are THC-heads out there, but it took me a while to realize the other piece.
The idea that I was really helping someone was one of the most exciting moments. I remember getting a patient some cannabis that had a specific terpene, which was caryophyllene. Not being in the industry for that long, terpenes and other plant attributes were topics I needed to work on, so I vigorously tried to learn as much as I could in a short period of time. I wound up giving this woman exactly what she needed to help stop her from shaking. It was her first time coming to the store, and she’s been coming here ever since. That was roughly eight months ago; now, she’ll only come in if she sees my car in the lot.
You came to the Sunshine State from New York (by way of Atlanta) but have been in Florida for 20 years now. What makes the FL cannabis market unique?
Well, it’s always changing. Whether it’s the glass pieces we have in the store or tinctures or the 35-day allotments, it’s always changing. It’s a new industry, and here in Florida, I know it’s going to boom. Mississippi has just now become legalized, so I feel like with the other states around Florida [starting to legalize], it’ll become a real good thing.
What are some of your goals in the cannabis space?
What comes to mind is being the GM of my own dispensary in Orlando. Another goal would be to move higher up in the company, maybe move to a different state and open up locations. I went to school in Georgia, so that would be cool, but honestly, I just want to grow within the company.
I’ve been offered all sorts of money to get me to go back to the restaurant business; that would be going from budtender pay to a bigger annual salary. I’ve denied it and continue to deny it because I love where I work. I love the people I work with, I love the company, I love everything they do for us. It’s amazing to come into a place where people can’t wait until you get there. That’s a different feeling and one I never felt before I started working here.
How has working in cannabis impacted your professional development?
It gives me perspective. I know people have problems other than mine; when you’re not working in a place like this, you don’t think about other people’s problems. You only think about the problems you have on hand and what you’re going through at the time. Being in this industry, you have patients with so much going on.
I had one patient that didn’t want to deal with a man; they would only interact with a woman. It threw me off, but I understood that something had happened with a man that made them uncomfortable completing the purchase with me because of anxiety. It made me appreciate the importance of mental health and raised my own awareness.
As a Black man working toward a managerial position in legal cannabis, what is the personal significance of doing so in an industry still struggling with non-white representation and minority ownership?
Especially considering this month is Black History Month, I feel proud. I wish that my father or my stepmom were here to see that the young boy grew from that little dumbass selling weed on the corner to hopefully an AGM or GM soon. It’s an honor to be part of the company, and it’s an honor to be a Black man thriving in this industry. I believe that if I can do it, anyone else can.
Favorite Sanctuary product(s)?
Point Break flower is my favorite, hands down. I was never a big sativa guy, but I started smoking sativa when I started working here and fell in love with Point Break. I love the taste, I love the flower, I love the look of it and it’s a great high. Nice head high, euphoric–it makes you happy. Another thing would be the emergence of our Shatter; I love the fact that there are so many terps. We have two right now, one is 8 percent and the other is 7 percent terps, and considering what’s around here, that’s amazing. I tried the Gorilla Bomb and the Banana Bread, and the high, the taste–it was amazing.