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Budtender: How to Know You’ve Found a Good One

Randy Robinson
budtenders, cannabis, medical cannabis, recreational cannabis, strains, indica, sativa, risks, benefits, dispensaries, events

There are two types of budtender jobs and when you want the best, this is what you look for. 

If we’re waging war against prohibition, then budtenders fight on the front lines. Every transaction, every gem of advice they impart to a new customer, every seed-to-sale tracking update they input into the LIMS systems pushes us closer to fully mainstreaming commercial and medical cannabis.

Budtenders do a lot for the community with little recognition for their efforts. For one, they introduce new patients and customers to a world where the product lines grow increasingly complex by the day. Second, they must remain highly knowledgeable of their industry and its regulations. And most of all, as we recently learned in Colorado, authorities can target them for their boss’s compliance violations.

But what distinguishes a great budtender from an average one? Before diving in, it would help to first define what being a budtender means.

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Two Types: Behind the Register and Behind the Bar

Technically, there are two types of budtenders right now. The first type is the kind that we see at every dispensary behind the glass cases and registers. They can sell cannabis, but they cannot serve it for on-site consumption.

The second type of budtender works private events. Unlike dispensary budtenders, event or private budtenders usually serve cannabis for on-site consumption, whether that cannabis comes through dabs, bongs, or mixed mocktail drinks.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll address features that should be present in either type of budtender.

Feature 1: They Know More Than Just “Indica” and “Sativa”

“Indica” and “sativa” are, pardon the pun, hot buzzwords at the moment. Although the two terms accurately describe two common phenotypes of cannabis (one that grows shorter and bushier and another that grows tall and thin, respectively), to pigeonhole all indicas as mind-numbing couch-lockers is grossly inaccurate, as is describing all sativas as energizing or focus enhancing.

Knowledgeable budtenders understand that how individuals react to a particular plant – commonly called “strains” or “chemovars” – depends on several complex factors. What makes it tricky is that many of these factors remain mysteries to science. Terpenes, cannabinoid interactions, consumption methods, and even the consumer’s current mental state and social setting can all influence how someone feels when taking cannabis. Some plants – even samples of the same batch – can produce wildly different effects in the same person at two separate times of the same day.

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Feature 2: They Demonstrate Impeccable Customer Service

Budtenders operate in an incredibly competitive industry. Staffing polite, courteous, and professional personnel can mean the difference between a business staying open or closing permanently. Great budtenders know this is the case.

Is your budtender listening to your requests? Are they trying to help you find the products you’re asking for? Or are they trying to steer you to the high-priced, top-shelf stuff? If you’re only interested in buds that exhibit specific scents or flavors, do they know which of their flowers meets those specifications? Or are they just repeating the words “indica” or “sativa” over and over again?

Feature 3: They Try to Establish Repertoire

For a budtender to effectively serve a guest, they must know the guest’s limits and tolerance. For example, a budtender may suggest microdosing to someone who possesses an incredibly low tolerance for THC. If you’re new to the cannabis scene, starting off with ultra-concentrated dabs and intricate oil rigs with 34 honeycomb percolators may not be the wisest route.

Does the budtender ask what you like and what you don’t like? If you don’t know, can they still reasonably recommend products to you? When they do recommend a product, did you enjoy it or would you left in a daze or, worse, anxious?

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Feature 4: They Show Concern for Your Safety, Well-Being, and Satisfaction

With some cannabis products, like shatter waxes or sauces, THC purities can reach as high as 90 percent. Considering most flower only produces 15 to 25 percent THC, you can see how concentrates can lead to unfortunate experiences for some folks.

When discussing a particular product or consumption method, is your budtender informing you of any risks or caveats? Will they warn you if a product is incredibly potent? Or do they let you know that the 1mg THC edible you’re about to purchase probably won’t get you high?

If you’re at a private consumption event, do they appear to be monitoring how much you’re taking and how you’re doing on what you’ve already taken? Have they cautioned you about cross-fading, such as mixing cannabis with alcohol? They should also be cleaning the glassware in between each individual to prevent cross-contamination of cannabis products or germs spreading.

Feature 5: They Know How to Slow Your Roll

This last feature applies more to event budtenders than retail. Basically, if you happen to consume too much, or you have an undesirable reaction, do they know how to get you grounded again?

At events, professional budtenders will usually keep some CBD on-hand, to taper the anxiety that can follow the THC high. They should also have water nearby, as dehydration often triggers THC anxiety. Some pro budtenders will also offer (non-infused) candy, as sugar can sometimes combat THC-induced anxiety.

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Feature 6: They Are Gracious About Tips

Although tipping budtenders may be controversial in the cannabis industry, it’s good practice to tip a budtender who provided excellent service. But don’t feel compelled to tip every budtender who simply bags a bottle of your weed and rings you up on the register. Most budtenders make relatively decent pay (anywhere from $11 to $13 an hour). In other words, much higher wages than those in other tip-dependent service positions like restaurant servers or delivery drivers.

In the end, every great budtender should contribute to a pleasing experience, whether it’s buying an eighth for the weekend or loading a dab at a wedding. If they brought out the smiles, and you felt like you learned something, then you’ve likely got a great budtender standing in front of you.

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Randy Robinson

As someone who wanted to know everything but couldn't decide on anything, Randy completed degrees in English, World History, and Molecular Biology. During their studies, they received an externship at the biotech firm Cannabis Science Inc., focusing on phytocannabinoids as anti-tumor and anti-cancer agents. Based in the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado, you can find Randy on Twitter, Instagram, and Medium @RanDieselJay

1 Comment
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    Terry Davis

    Found the post very informative thank you..

    March 17, 2019 at 7:20 am Reply

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