SHEFFIELD — In sports, it takes a great team to execute a solid pass. In the tiny town of Sheffield, where the number of corn fields rivals that of residents come August, it’s game on: The Pass has assembled a solid team of passionate professionals, keen on welcoming you to their cannabis arena. This summer, leave time for a scenic drive through the iconic flats, and experience The Pass for yourself. It promises a friendly welcome, deep knowledge and premium products — no ticket required.
Meet the managers
A background in collegiate sports spurred Blake Gurgul toward leadership in the cannabis industry. “Joining the team at The Pass solidifies what I think about the community and underscores why I choose to advocate for cannabis use,” Gurgul explains. In his role as retail general manager at Sheffield’s only cannabis dispensary, Gurgul helms a team of professionals striving to make cannabis accessible to all — especially first-time users and those who have yet to visit a dispensary.
Michaella Tretheway, in her role as dispensary manager at The Pass, is tasked with coaching everyone — from check-in crew to budtenders (also known as cannabis consultants) — on the importance of working together to provide a stellar experience for customers.
“I was drawn to the unique sense of camaraderie here,” Tretheway says of her decision to join The Pass. As to what keeps her invested in the game? “My favorite part of my job is the team,” she says, shouting out her colleagues (a group that numbers around 26) who are not only well-versed in what they do, but who also bring 110% to the playing field each day.
Assembling the team
“We look for people with a passion for cannabis plus customer service experience,” Trethaway says of a hiring process aimed at identifying team members dedicated to all things cannabis: furthering their own knowledge, educating consumers and reducing the stigma surrounding cannabis products and their use. In this burgeoning industry, passion for cannabis need not translate to being a user of cannabis products.
“Passion for cannabis can come from many different places,” Gurgul says, the baseline being a deep desire to learn more. All original hires, many of whom remain at The Pass, went through a rigorous classroom-style training prior to the dispensary’s July 2020 opening. Today, iterations of that fundamental education remain available to all new hires through Google Classroom — evidence of a commitment to team dynamics.
A talented team of experts will usher you through each step of your visit to The Pass. For starters, ample parking — with no need to navigate the hustle and bustle of downtown — awaits. First stop? Upon arrival, each customer is greeted by a member of the check-in crew who will ask for identification. After verifying it’s valid (and that you’re 21+), you will enter the intake bubble. Here, your ID will be checked a second time before you are directed to the preorder line (if you placed an order online), or the in-store line (if you’d like to shop with a consultant). Next stop? The dispensary floor.
“Get ready to be greeted by all the consultants who are on the line that day,” Tretheway says of the energetic welcome awaiting each customer.
To get the ball rolling, customers need only share what brought them to The Pass: namely, what effects they aspire to achieve or symptoms they hope to alleviate. An experienced budtender will take it from there.
Tretheway calls her budtenders, “super friendly, super knowledgeable” while underscoring a feature unique to The Pass: display jars, with magnifying glass tops, illuminated from the inside to allow the customer to see the cannabis flower before buying.
“Jar appeal is a big deal in this industry,” Tretheway explains, adding that transparency — especially when it comes to understanding the particular product in which a customer is investing — is a top priority at The Pass. A growing trend among other dispensaries, to pre-pack inventory before it arrives on the floor, eclipses the customer from seeing or smelling the flower before buying.
This approach contributes to a feeling of ease for customers, and “makes the process feel familiar, even though it might not be,” Gurgul adds.
Each budtender is trained to focus on the customer directly in front of them, no matter how long the line. “We want to make visiting The Pass as easy, simple and smooth as possible,” Gurgul says. For his team, part of the process is to acknowledge that going to a pot shop can be an anxiety-inducing experience — hence, a popular adage: You waited in line and earned your time at the counter; ask as many questions as you’d like, and take your time.
“Our goal is to make sure each customer is more educated when they leave than when they arrived,” Gurgul says. Questions run the gamut from very basic to rather obscure. “How much can I buy?” is a popular query (one ounce of flower, five grams of concentrate or 500 milligrams of edibles in a 24-hour period). “Can I eat the flower directly?” is a less-common question (and not suggested as cannabis must be decarboxylated, or heated to a temperature of 230-250 degrees Fahrenheit, to glean the benefits).
“Knowledge is power, and there is so much to be learned about cannabis,” says Tretheway, who fields a lot of questions about pain, sleep and anxiety. She invites customers to take an active role in the learning process, adding “knowledge empowers consumers and builds a relationship of trust which is really important.”
Gurgul and Tretheway, both of whom served as budtenders at different dispensaries prior to suiting up for The Pass, conduct joint interviews when hiring for their respective squads in retail and inventory. Above all else, the emphasis is on learning.
“We rely on seasoned budtenders to share their cannabis knowledge with new hires,” Gurgul explains. The shadowing process allows neophytes to spend time with experienced consultants, “as each budtender brings a different interest and expertise to the table,” Gurgul adds, pointing to cannabis flower (including pre-rolls), vaporizers, concentrates and edibles. Downtime for all is dedicated to deepening knowledge of and creating reference materials for all things cannabis — from differentiating among specific strains to understanding the role of terpenes, and everything in between.
Tretheway points to, “on-the-ground training [as] everything in this industry,” especially when it comes to learning the ins and outs of compliance (fulfilling the obligations that state governments place on organizations in the legalized cannabis industry). There is much to learn, which is why pairing new hires with seasoned budtenders in those first few days is instrumental.
“Cannabis makes a difference in a lot of people’s lives,” Gurgul emphasizes. “It is very much a wellness product that I see people using, day after day, to make their lives better in some way.” Tretheway gets even more specific:
“A trend is afoot among individuals who have turned toward cannabis and away from alcohol,” she says, citing the positive, beneficial effects that have been shown to come from informed use of cannabis (to alleviate chronic pain, inflammation, nausea and serve as a sleep aid).
Gurgul and Tretheway remain advocates of the cannabis community both on and off the job. The end result? A stellar team working together to educate consumers about, and reduce the stigma surrounding, recreational cannabis use.
Ready to strike a visit to Sheffield’s pot shop off of your summer to-do list? It’s game time — with The Pass delivering teamwork for the win.
Visit The Pass Berkshires in Sheffield at 1375 N. Main St., online at www.thepass.co or call 413-644-6892.
PLEASE CONSUME RESPONSIBLY. This product may cause impairment and may be habit-forming. For use only by adults 21 years of age or older. Keep out of the reach of children. This product has not been analyzed or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. There is limited information on the side effects of using this product, and there may be associated health risks. Marijuana use during pregnancy and breast-feeding may pose potential harms. It is against the law to drive or operate machinery when under the influence of this product. KEEP THIS PRODUCT AWAY FROM CHILDREN. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product. Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination and judgment. The impairment effects of edibles may be delayed by two hours or more. In case of accidental ingestion, contact poison control hotline 800-222-1222 or 911. This product may be illegal outside of Massachusetts.