As construction of Marigold’s new location nears completion, General Manager Doug MacKenzie tells us about the path he took to arrive at his dream job.
Balanced on a tiny stool in Marigold’s bustling Phoenix stockroom, Doug Mackenzie finally has a moment to breathe. Between the explosion in foot traffic after Arizona legalized recreational cannabis and the dispensary’s impending move to a much larger, custom-built new location, he hasn’t had much time to sit down. But despite his role as Marigold’s General Manager becoming more and more demanding each day, Doug appears incomprehensibly calm- and infectiously cheerful. His effortless grin only widens as he answers question after question from the constant rotation of Marigold’s cannabis consultants (a term which he vastly prefers to the traditional ‘budtender,’ as he feels “we hold ourselves to a little bit of a higher standard”).
If you were to come upon Doug Mackenzie in a college classroom, you might not be sure if he was a student or the professor. Sporting a Marigold-branded polo and lanyard with his shoulder-length red hair in a tight ponytail, he looks both notably young and decidedly ageless. “Don’t get my head too big now,” he requests with a nervous chuckle. There’s no risk of that happening, but Doug doesn’t want the focus to be on himself- it’s all about the medicine.
“We hold ourselves to a little bit of a higher standard than a traditional budtender.”
Doug’s introduction to cannabis wasn’t as a seed-ridden joint hastily rolled in a parking lot, or a coughing fit brought on by a too-long pull through an improvised pipe- it was as a medicine. Medicine that left a deep impression on him as a fifth-grader, when his family was struck by two tragedies in the same year.
“My brother-in-law had a severe stroke… the same year that my grandmother, her Alzheimer’s kind of took hold of her,” recalls Doug. “Both of them started using medical cannabis, and [even though] my family was a little against cannabis, they never hid it from me. And just the positive impact that I saw it have in both of their lives, it sold me from the get-go, and that was before I was smoking or anything- obviously way too young back then. But just the fact that this had such great medical value for such a wide range of people, it had me hooked immediately.”
Genuine awe and enthusiasm play across Doug’s face as he recounts this childhood realization. He pauses for a moment, deciding how much to relive. “It gave my grandma… I mean, she wasn’t using it long unfortunately. It was her last three weeks around that she got to use it…”
For the first time, Doug’s omnipresent smile falters slightly. “She went from miserable to… to just all smiles, all giggles, couldn’t wait to see the family, loved having everybody over.” His smile returns in full force, even as his eyes begin to well up. “It completely gave her a quality of life… it made her- man, I’m getting all teary-eyed- it made her leave in a much happier place.”
After the stroke, Doug’s brother-in-law began using medicinal cannabis to help ease the physical and mental toll of intense physical therapy. After seeing cannabis help his grandmother make the most of every day, Doug watched as it helped his brother-in-law make it through the day- and heal. “We were told by the doctors that he was never going to walk again- and that Christmas, he walked into our house. The impact that cannabis can have… it’s sold me from day one.”
“It completely gave her a quality of life… it made her leave in a much happier place.”
Doug wouldn’t try cannabis himself for a few more years, when his brother offered him his first hit at a concert. “I liked it… it just didn’t really grab me. I had more respect for it as a medical product at that time. Then, about a year later… I was like, “Oh, this is awesome for not medical too.” Still, he wouldn’t become a regular cannabis user until he discovered the medicinal value that the plant offered for his own life. “I was on a couple of different prescriptions for my behavior in school and to calm me down, and it just put me in a really, really depressed place. Then I started using cannabis as more of a friendly thing, and then I realized, ‘Wait, I don’t need my meds. I can smoke and… I pay attention. I start doing stuff.’ And I became way more productive, which is so opposite of what the stigma is. I became way more productive when I started smoking.”
As cannabis became an essential part of his life, Doug soon realized he had found his calling- and wasted no time getting to where he knew he had to be. He skipped school on his eighteenth birthday to get his medical cannabis card and started applying for jobs in the industry the day he turned 21. Starting as a dispensary budtender, he was promoted to shift lead within six months, soon parlaying management experience from his second job at a coffee shop into a part-time assistant manager position at what was then Herb’N Dispensary. When Herb’N became Mission in 2019, he went full time. Finally, in 2020, both Doug and the shop he loved would reach their ultimate form as Marigold took shape and Doug was promoted to General Manager.
“Since day one, I haven’t looked back… it still does not feel like a job.”
Less than a year into overseeing operations at Marigold, Doug was faced with a major challenge- albeit a welcome one. Less than three months after Arizona legalized recreational cannabis in November 2020, the state began allowing recreational sales to begin. Dispensaries across the state were scrambling to get their doors open to the influx of new customers. After Marigold began serving recreational consumers on February 1, Doug now sees more than twice as many people come through the shop daily, still greeting each and every one with a smile. And as Marigold’s community grows larger, he takes special care to make sure there’s always an ample amount and variety of product reserved exclusively for medical cannabis patients- a responsibility instilled in him at a young age.
Doug is now truly living his dream, but he isn’t sitting back to enjoy it. Far from complacent, he’s constantly working towards making Marigold an even better place for the community he holds dear. He’s expanded pre-ordering services, recently launched home delivery, and is constantly combing the market to source the highest-tier cannabis products available in Arizona. Recently, he’s busier than ever overseeing Marigold’s forthcoming move to a larger, custom-built location. He’s thrilled to be expanding into a space that will allow him to connect with far more patients and enthusiasts than he already does.
“Since day one, I haven’t looked back. I’m stoked. I come to work every single day loving every bit of it. It really to me still does not feel like a job… it’s just such a good feeling to be able to help people [both on the medical and] the recreational side, to just get better qualities of life through this medicine.”