A Beginners Guide to Becoming a Budtender

Why be a boring old bartender these days?

As a career it’s passé. Today the cool kids are becoming budtenders in the exciting new world of medical and legal cannabis! The budtender role is often the most rewarding position in medical cannabis because they are ones building direct relationships with patients.

Patients can spend 90% or more of their time in-store interacting with just one person: the budtender. Budtender is probably the most important job inside a dispensary. The best budtenders are passionate about medical cannabis, exceptionally knowledgeable about the products, and thrive on providing great customer service. A great attitude and strong work ethic are keys for success in this sometimes-challenging position.

This guide will help you decide if your a good fit for the job and, if so, will help you quickly get started in the pursuit of your budtender dreams.

Do you possess the right qualities/qualifications for this job?

Budtending requires passion. A passion for cannabis. A passion for patient and customer service. A passion for learning, and in some cases trying, new technologies, plant strain variants, and tools and equipment. Budtending is a job where you can combine those years of experience with your love for marijuana and apply them. The most in demand skill in the field of budtending is knowledge of the plant and the many strain variants, of edibles, of the effects, of the smoking methods, and of the law surrounding possession, transport, and use. A good budtender knows a variety of strains (especially the ones available at your dispensary). A good budtender knows about concentrates and extractions. Cannabis, and the services surrounding its use and delivery to patients, is becoming a science.

Aspiring budtenders can get a certification from a variety of schools that are popping up, most notably Oaksterdam University in California.

While being certified might seem like a good idea to the aspiring budtender, most employers are more interested in solid skills and a demonstration of a commitment to marijuana, either through work or volunteer experience.

In California the majority of  budtenders started as volunteers known as caregivers. Because California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, budtenders in the state have a particular reverence for cannabis as a medicinal alternative to potentially addictive and harmful pharmaceuticals.

Volunteering is also a great way to get experience that may lead to full time employment.

Many novice budtender find their first jobs through contacts or friends. Be friendly, get out there, visit dispensaries and inhale as much as you can! If you are just breaking in, most staffing agencies are looking for experience in customer service or retail.

Hands on experience in growing marijuana or selling it is a plus. Not having a criminal record can also be a major plus.

Budtending is a new variation on an old theme and as such no particular education is required. A high-school equivalency (GED), 2-year or 4-year education is acceptable for us here at the coop. Standards here are similar to those of most staffing agencies.

What matters most is desire and constant self-education in an effort to keep up with the latest strains and industry happenings. There’s plenty of information available.

Generally a background check will be required as well. Although

Some dispensaries in Colorado and Washington are growing cannabis on site, which would be an advantage for those seeking more in-depth on the job training!

What dispensary managers are looking for are talented individuals with knowledge, passion and a gift for talking to and relating with  lots of people.

Like bartending, budtending at times requires you to listen patiently to people’s problems or wait patiently while the patient decides what they would like to buy. All day long.

This is especially true for those who work in a medical facility, a dispensary as opposed to a recreational store. In a medical facility, budtenders have to function as caregivers. When a patient arrives they will often describe what they are suffering from and ask their budtender for advice.  Although most budtenders are not medically licensed, budtenders will be expected to know what alleviates specific symptoms and what dosages and side effects may be appropriate as guidelines.

The patient/caregiver relationship in the medical cannabis (MMJ) arena is still a legal gray area. In purely recreational stores, budtenders are legally forbidden from giving medical advice, even though customers may come in and ask. In that case the budtender is obligated to inform the customer explicitly that they are not allowed to give medical advice.

Budtenders in recreational stores still have a lot to talk about and must enjoy meeting new people the same as a patient/caregiver budtender.  Many are just discovering the big wide world of cannabis and are looking for good resources for information. If you’re going to be a budtender for BUDDHII, understand that first and foremost it’s your duty to protect both cannabis consumers and the general public from misinformation!

Compensation:

What can you expect to earn as a budtender? Most budtender jobs are entry level and start, depending on the region, at $10 to $13 an hour. In Los Angeles, that salary range is competitive with fast food or entry-level warehouse jobs. It can go up to $18-25 based on experience, but there’s not a lot of room for advancement in most dispensary or retail settings.

Most budtenders do try the product, but as a matter of best practice personal use is downplayed and the focus is to treat both patient and plant with respect and reverence.

Should a budtender expect tips? This is still being decided by the community at large. Since recreational budtending jobs have restrictions it may be more difficult for those in this space to give tip-worthy advice. A medicinal budtender would have to spend a lot more time with patients and explain products and effects, but wouldn’t tip your doctor. So while most budtenders are deserving of tips, because it’s retail this isn’t always obvious. Some places do put out tip jars, and the budtender can make up to $100 a shift in tips. The smart customers out there might tip in advance.  Why? Because all grams are not created equal and an advance tip may result in a better flower-to-stem ratio.

Money earned as a budtender is just the same as money earned in any other industry. Taxes  will come out of your check.

Currently in California budtenders must have a valid Medical Marijuana Prescription. These prescriptions cost between $30 and $60 each. Prescriptions are generally good for one (1) year, but it is always best to double-check with your caregiver. In California, those with valid prescriptions can obtain a state-issued MMIC (Medical Marijuana Identification Card) until 2018, when a new set of laws goes into effect regulating the medical marijuana industry.

Like most careers, the most important part of being a budtender is staying passionate and informed. We are on the forefront of a new industry, blazing a trail towards mass adoption and acceptance. As a budtender you will be an integral part of what kind of industry we are perceived to be by the general public as well as to cannabis patients and aficionados.