As a manager at Green Point Wellness, a medical cannabis dispensary, Erica Cegelski has heard all the questions from first-time clients. Must I smoke it? Will I hallucinate? Can I be arrested for carrying it?
Customers may be nervous, fearful or embarrassed. Cegelski, 26, will sit with them for an hour or two in the Linthicum shop, both allaying their concerns and explaining the options for relieving their pain.
“We educate them and, by the end of our conversation, they realize it [marijuana] is not what they thought — and they’re happy to try it,” Cegelski says. “I enjoy changing people’s perspectives, easing their apprehensions and that negative stigma. It’s a hump to get over, but once you do, you really build a connection with that patient.”
Her clients agree. Cegelski, of Glen Burnie, has been named Maryland’s best budtender in a poll of readers of The Baltimore Sun.
“Erica has a great personality and a better knowledge of medical cannabis than anyone I’ve ever met,” says Tony Toskov, who owns Green Point Wellness’ two venues (the other is in Laurel) that have served nearly 8,000 clients. Green Point Wellness also won the readers’ choice contest for best dispensary.
“When she came for an interview [last year], she was hired after a minute and a half. Now, we don’t hire anyone unless Erica approves them,” says Toskov, 58, who opened shop in 2018. “She takes her time with new patients, learning what they want to accomplish and exactly what product fits their profile. We’re fortunate to have her; if she ever opens her own place, I hope she includes me.”
Health and wellness have long piqued Cegelski’s interest. She played sports at Seton Keough High School and studied kinesiology at the University of Maryland, where she took up bodybuilding. She began using cannabis herself after a traumatic experience in college triggered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“That’s when I started studying up on its medicinal uses,” says Cegelski who, like most dispensary agents at Green Point, has her own medical cannabis card. “Now I can explain to clients, in detail, how they’ll feel because I’ve been there, too. I don’t want them leaving here thinking they’ve got a ticking time bomb.”
She walks them through product types — chews and capsules, tinctures and topicals — and the therapeutic value for their ailments, which range from cancer to Crohn’s disease, and from diabetes to depression.
“What I don’t do is give my opinion. I home in on the patient,” she says. “Some are desperate and willing to try anything; one woman had to hold onto me as we walked through the store.”
Their heartfelt tales tug at Celeski, who says the best part of her job is the response she gets from satisfied clients.
“Hearing how those in great pain got a hold back on their lives gives you an adrenaline rush,” she says. “Learning that someone who wasn’t able to even care for her children can now accomplish things ... well, it gives you a euphoria that is better than cannabis.”