I'm a 36-year-old cannabis trimmer in Pennsylvania who gets strange looks when people find out what I do. I wish more people knew how much quality control goes into production.

I'm a 36-year-old cannabis trimmer in Pennsylvania who gets strange looks when people find out what I do. I wish more people knew how much quality control goes into production.
Megan Gottschall has been working as a cannabis trimmer since 2019.Megan Gottschall
  • Megan Gottschall, 36, is a senior cannabis trimmer based in Μuncy, Pennsylvania. She leads the cannabis trimming team at the Danville plant of Green Thumb Industries (GTI), a national producer and retailer.
  • Pennsylvania legalized the use of medical cannabis for the treatment of 17 medical conditions in 2016, and has since expanded coverage to 23 conditions total.
  • Gottschall has first-hand experience with the benefits of medical cannabis, having seen the difference it makes to her mother who suffers from an auto-immune disease.
  • Although she says she gets dirty looks when people ask what she does for work, Gottschall says she's proud to combat the undeserved stigma around cannabis and work in an industry that helps people.
  • This is what her job is like, as told to freelance writer Alex Katsomitros.

When I joined Green Thumb in June 2019, I knew virtually nothing about cannabis. Previously I'd worked for Sam's Club for 15 years, 12 of which as a supervisor in the meat section. I wanted to move on, and a former colleague told me about GTI. The long-term career prospects attracted me, and I liked the idea of doing work that can really help people.

Cannabis is a unique industry to work in as it's still new and has a bad reputation in some circles, so there is an unwanted and undeserved stigma. I see it as part of my job to "bridge" that stigma, because I've seen how medical cannabis can help people. To me it's very personal, because my mum has an auto-immune disease. I watch her suffer every day, so being able to help her get a medical marijuana card and show her what products to choose is very meaningful for me.
Advertisement

At the plant, I oversee the trimming process that gets the flower 'customer ready.'

There is a lengthy process of the plants growing, getting harvested, and then broken down into manageable pieces. Next, my team's process starts with the trimming stages.

In the morning, I set up the trimming rooms and oversee the various stages of mechanical trimming. This has nothing to do with pruning, which is all done on the grow side. When the flower comes to me, it is still in a very raw state. The machines remove between 40% and 70% of excess leaves and stems thus aiding in the efficiency of the manual trim process.

Then the difficult part starts: trimming all of the excess parts by hand. As production lead in the trim area, I make sure the necessary raw flower quantity is distributed in the production rooms, that trimmers stay on task, and that the machines run smoothly. I am a stickler for quality - what we produce is someone's medication, so we take the production process very seriously.
TOP VIDEOS FOR YOU
Advertisement

I also do a bit of clerical work, because everything is regulated and we have to be extremely careful about what goes out in and out of the rooms. Precise paperwork is kept on every strain during every stage of our process. For my part, I keep track of material that moves in and out of the trim rooms. I also keep track of what stage the material is in: Is it ready to machine trim, is it ready to hand trim, is it ready to batch?

None of these processes take place on the same day, so often material is moved in and out of a vault numerous times and it's important that every time it does, it's recorded. Read more: Kevin O'Leary of 'Shark Tank': Why I'm betting big on psychedelics, and how investors should be thinking about this opportunity
Advertisement

I work Monday through Friday and most of my shifts are from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

I'm a 36-year-old cannabis trimmer in Pennsylvania who gets strange looks when people find out what I do. I wish more people knew how much quality control goes into production.
Gottschall takes precise weight measurements of all the cannabis material her team works with.Megan Gottschall

I come in and get each room set up with the flower we will need to process. I troubleshoot problems to make sure the processes run efficiently, and make sure the trimmers are working at the level of quality that our "Rythm" (sic) brand represents. As the flower is done processing, I return it to the vault and retrieve more product to run.

I also manage the paperwork, work on extra projects, write reviews, and plan meeting that come with being the production lead of the trim process.
Advertisement

These days I am doing less and less trimming myself compared to when I started. When you join a cannabis producer, you usually get moved around. I started out as packaging and processing specialist, which involved a lot of trimming and packaging flower. Occasionally, I still sit down and trim - it's nice to keep a connection with the people you lead. It's hard to guide people towards a direction when you don't know the direction yourself.

To be a good trimmer, you need to have patience, dexterity, and mental acuity.

It's not a laborious task, but it takes mental stamina to sit at the trimming table all day. The secret of good trimming is to get it off your hands as fast as possible. Everyone at the facility wears gloves whenever flower or finished products are being handled. They don't apply pressure when holding the buds, so no damage is done.

We used to listen to music as a group, but different people have different tastes, so now everyone listens to whatever they like with headphones. Some like music, others prefer podcasts. Personally, I listen to Florence and the Machine albums over and over again.
Advertisement
Technology is at the heart of the industry. There is only so far a machine can go, eventually you have to finish the job by hand to have quality product.

Read more: Cannabis insiders and advocates say more needs to be done to make the industry more inclusive for business owners and employees. Here's what they suggest.

Training is one of the tricky things about this industry, because it's still new and everyone is learning.

I had a week-long training at our facility in Danville, PA, which we informally called "Danville University," where I shadowed a veteran trimmer to learn what they do, and how to properly use your hands to trim and care for the plants.
Advertisement

If I had to give one piece of advice to someone who wants to get into the industry, it would be to do their research first and figure out why they want to choose that path. Many people dislike this industry, so it could cause tension with friends or family. I often get sideways looks when I mention my job. But if you go home at the end of the day and you feel a sense of pride, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.

I am continually learning about cannabis at my job. Different cannabis strains affect people in different ways, depending on their THC levels and terpenes; I would love to explore the science behind it. It's astonishing when you walk into the plant room and you think "Wow, this really exists." My personal view is that all uses of cannabis should be legalized. It's hard to get your medical card in Pennsylvania as there are only certain things it covers. I have an auto-immune disease myself, but it's not an approved illness to qualify for cannabis, so I can't get a card for it. I believe there's no reason why recreational use shouldn't be legal; it's less harmful than alcohol and hard drugs.
Advertisement

At GTI, I feel like I can be who I am.

I'm a 36-year-old cannabis trimmer in Pennsylvania who gets strange looks when people find out what I do. I wish more people knew how much quality control goes into production.
Gottschall with her wife.Megan Gottschall

In my previous job at Sam's Club, I didn't have very many fellow women colleagues in similar senior positions in my department, and I often felt out of place at meetings and conferences.

At GTI, I feel more accepted than I have ever been in my life. I'm gay, I have a wife, and at the plant I've never felt that I have to hide any part of who I am. It's a breath of fresh air.
Advertisement

The pandemic hasn't affected my job that much. We're considered an essential business because we produce medicine, so we've stayed open throughout the shutdowns. We clean regularly, and make sure that social distancing is respected in common areas. I'm grateful to have this sense of security, knowing that I have a job to go to, in a time where almost everything else feels uncertain.

I felt that college wasn't right for me, so I dropped out and jumped straight to work. My job does not define me, but it reflects who I am. When I go home I feel not just pride, but a sense of purpose too. It's a bit of a cliché, but I like that famous quote from Gandhi that says you should be the change you want to see in the world.

{{}}