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By Elizabeth Barr
So you want to be a budtender? Don’t apply until you’ve considered these 7 things
Maybe you live in a state about to legalize cannabis, or you are avoiding carpel tunnel from being bound to your laptop, or maybe the pandemic gutted the tips at your bartending gig…whatever the reason, here you are scouring the internet to find out if you have what it takes to be a budtender in a weed dispensary. On behalf of the entire legal cannabis community, I beg you to do these 7 things before you jump in half-baked:
Seems obvious? What’s to learn if you smoke every day? Think you can learn on the job?
This is what separates a warm body on the sales floor from the budtender people ask for by name. I can’t stress enough that getting high regularly does not make you an expert! You need to learn everything you can about cannabinoids, cannabis extracts, how to use wax, terpenes, the endocannabinoid system, strain varieties, the grow process, and the next trends hitting the market. Our customers aren’t asking for THC percentages anymore, they want to know about CBG, THCA, what products are safe for them to consume and if Blueberry Trainwreck contains Myrcene.
As the research grows, so do consumer questions. Of course, you will receive some training on the job, but it is impossible to teach everything there is to know on the clock. Every successful budtender I’ve encountered has a wealth of knowledge they brought with them to the job and a passion for learning about cannabis.
Think you can show up in pajamas, be real af, and only sell to fellow stoners who match your vibe?
Everyone uses cannabis, and you must be ready to serve them all. You will talk to senior citizens about lube and get yelled at for recommending weak product to someone who has been smoking for 50 years. You will also spend 30 minutes reading THC percentages off prerolls for the 21-year-old who comes for a $5 joint every day. You need to know how to talk terps and numbers with the dab heads, and switch to micro dosing CBD for the person who doesn’t use THC. This is a retail job serving the general public, and because they are walking into a brick and mortar store that budgets for marketing, customers expect to be met with friendly, efficient and appropriate service. What’s great about customer service in this industry is that most of our customer’s (known endearingly as “the custees” at my store) are amazing and so happy to be in the store that they are a pleasure to serve.
Think smoking a bowl cures everything?
Maybe, but not for everyone.
Most cannabis users are medical patients, whether they have a medical card or not. People use cannabis products to manage sleep, anxiety, focus, pain relief, sexual dysfunction, appetite and just about every ailment known to woman. With everyday smokers, I often find through active listening that they are over-using THC to deal with a symptom that could be remedied with a medicinal product. With the amount of research and products hitting the market, you can help people keep recreational use, well recreational by helping them understand the vast array of tinctures, sprays, capsules, suppositories, and other products that can help with the medicinal side of things.
Also understand that many custees come to us in a state of desperation. They have tried everything else, been through horrific experiences with Western Medicine and may be terrified to try cannabis products. You need to be professional and knowledgeable to put them at ease and get them the right product without making them feel more anxious than they already are.
What is your personal brand? What environments are you comfortable in?
Just about every store is has a different owner, and with that a different look, feel and mission in the industry. Visit a few shops in different parts of town and critically think about what’s a good fit for you. You will notice a difference in pricing, product availability and customer service approach – some stores focus on getting folks in and out while others take time to shop with the custees. Some stores spent millions on turning their space into a gallery, while others opened shop in whatever building they could get permitted. There is no right or wrong here, just different flavors and you got to find yours.
This is the hardest thing to understand for many budtenders and will ultimately determine the impact you have on people’s lives. You must sell them what they want and need, not what you like. In order to do this, you must LISTEN. (Google active listening and do that, every time with everyone in your life). Read between the lines, ask clarifying questions, and for God’s sake listen to what they tell you. If someone tells you they get anxiety, and you give them a Super Silver Haze because you are confident it’s the best weed in the store, you could cause serious damage to that person’s wellbeing. It is your responsibility to listen to understand, use your product knowledge and accept that the custee is trusting you to be the expert.
Employee turnover is a huge problem in the industry, and my hunch is that it’s due to unrealistic expectations about the job. Most importantly, you need to understand that this is retail, with a splash of bartending. You will have the same conversations over and over, you will work nights and weekends listening to the same ranting customers, and you will work with negative people at times. Feedback on pay varies on a case by case basis- some can’t believe how much they get paid to sell weed, others feel they deserve more.
This is a new industry, made up of mostly start-ups and mom-and-pop shops so don’t expect the comforts and benefits of big business. Some of the biggest complaints center around lack of opportunity to grow within the company, something that unfortunately won’t be possible until these businesses see enough profit to stabilize and expand to support more leadership roles.
Along with my last point, this is the biggest reason I see people fail or become disgruntled as a budtender. They aren’t honest with themselves about why they want to work in this industry and expect a budtending job to fulfill their purpose in life while also providing them with a comprehensive package of acceptance, friends, fun, health and financial freedom.
If you are looking for a way to make tons of money while continuing to be a stoner, without having to develop any other skills, it won’t take long for you to hate your schedule, feel like you deserve a promotion, need more money and revolt against the repetitive nature of the job. If you are truly passionate about being a part of this industry, I recommend having a hobby, side project or skillset that you are developing outside of the job to satisfy your human need for growth, keep your attitude fresh, and set yourself up to take advantage of opportunities as they become available.
Just because its unlikely you will move up at one store, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of room for advancement in the industry elsewhere once you have the necessary skills. Being a budtender can be extremely rewarding and tons of fun, you just have to understand that this is a job like many others, and won’t solve all your life problems for you.
There ya have it folks, let this sink in and work with it as you are processing your next move. If you want a fun gig to sustain you while in college, working on your side business, or supplement your income, I can’t imagine a more rewarding and enjoyable place to work. If you are looking to make a career in the cannabis industry, I recommend budtending as the first step to building your resume, exploring your passions and meeting the incredibly compassionate, eccentric, holistic, and loving community of cannabis.