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Entering the workforce in the 2000s can be a daunting thing, even more so if you’re queer-identified or embrace “alternative” fashion. When Amy Barttelbort studied forensic science and criminal justice, but found herself working in retail, she wasn’t sure how she was going to get the most out of her education.

“I was a manager at Ross for about seven years, and then I wasn’t able to move up anymore, because my persona was too rough due to all my tattoos, so my career was kind of at a standstill,” Barttelbort said. “A lot of people in my family have had cancer, and I started thinking about ways I could help out and make a difference with what I do.”

The final straw was when her cousin Max, whom she was incredibly close to, passed away. Max was a major cannabis enthusiast, and Barttelbort wanted to honor his memory by working in the industry. She immediately got her badge, pounded the pavement, and landed a job at local dispensary Kaya.

Once she started working with Kaya, Barttelbort had a great experience. She never felt descriminated against for being a queer woman, and quickly moved up in the ranks.

“I was a budtender for probably a good three or four months,” she explained. “Then I got promoted to assistant manager, and I was probably an assistant for not even three months. After that, I got promoted to inventory, and it kind of just went from there.”

From there, after she became purchasing manager, Barttelbort started working with compliance. Since her background was in criminal justice, she wanted to work something to do with her training into her new job, so she created a compliance management title to accompany her role in purchasing.

Now that she is solidified as a manager and tastemaker for the brand, she wants to find ways to make it even more inclusive to the queer community.

“I think if we opened up more to letting people know we support them, we would get even more queer business,” she said. “I’ve noticed that not a lot of people do sales for Pride and things like that, and I think doing that could bring in a lot more support from the community.”

Still, she feels empowered by the team she works with and her role at Kaya today.

“I love my job; I love my people; I think that we have a great team,” she explained. “Ever since our new management came into play almost a year ago, they’ve really changed the business, inside and out. It’s definitely a place where I want to be for a while. When you love something, you work hard for it. They have big plans for me in the logistics department, but compliance is also always where my heart lies, and someday I would love to run my own compliance department for all the locations. We are growing a lot, and I’m really excited.”

Catch Barttelbot and her team at Kaya for some quality cannabis and inclusive service.

Photos by DJ Head and Veronica L. Holyfield