Have you ever had a budtender introduce you to one of your favorite products? Or one that didn’t understand what you were looking for? You’ve probably experienced both.
Two experienced budtenders share their perspective on the knowledge behind modern budtenders, address how budtenders can combat or contribute to cannabis use stigma, and even share some advice for those interested in working in the cannabis industry.
Not too long ago, people without a medical note to purchase cannabis had to resort to local dealers. Now, recreational dispensaries, where budtenders sell cannabis to consumers, are easily accessible to anyone 21 years of age or older. People often compare budtenders selling cannabis to pharmacists vending medication to patients. However, are budtenders being held to the same standards that pharmacists are?
The short answer is no. Ashley Feagins, an experienced budtender and co-owner of a CBD company, Highly Healthy, talks about her experiences with budtenders who lack proper product knowledge.
Feagins tells the story of a time when a budtender recommended a product with high THC levels, after she expressed interest in something to help ease her anxiety. The Highly Healthy co-owner says, “I almost feel like you have to convince [budtenders] sometimes… what you want.”
Cannabis purchasing has made quite the journey in the past few decades and, along with it, the prevalence of cannabis use has grown as well. Nonetheless, the stigma surrounding cannabis consumption still exists. In Weedmaps’ 2021: Cannabis in America report, 77% of non-cannabis users claimed to not have much knowledge of cannabis, while 21% thought of cannabis as a “gateway drug.”
Cannabis has traditionally been identified as a “gateway drug” in drug education programs, which are typically implemented in early education years. Combined with the propaganda that supported the war on drugs, it’s not surprising that myths about cannabis are still an issue the industry strives to debunk today. Having budtenders with a deep knowledge of cannabis will help to reduce stigma and set the record straight.
When a new consumer enters a dispensary for the first time, they place their trust in the hope that the person behind the counter knows what they’re talking about. The cannabis industry as a whole is also trusting budtenders to do the proper research and find factual information instead of using their “stoner knowledge,” a term used by Feagins that refers to knowing only which products have the highest THC content.
“Would you ask anyone at the pharmacy for recommendations,” asks Feagins, “or do you ask the people behind the counter about your medications? We owe it to the [cannabis] plant, industry, and patients to ensure people working with cannabis and [helping] customers pick products all be properly and thoroughly trained.”
Colorado budtender, Ben Warzel, discusses how, during training at his dispensary, they are told not to offer medical advice or dosing advice to consumers. Since medical advice is only to be given in an established patient-doctor relationship, budtenders cannot diagnose a patient or prescribe any medicine. So, what can a new cannabis consumer expect from a budtender?
According to Warzel, he can and is encouraged to recommend products based on his personal experiences and preferences. He also has to address any possible side effects of a product. The Denver budtender says that he finds himself recommending many purely CBD products to people looking to soothe their bodily pain, but not necessarily looking to get high.
How can you know that someone selling cannabis is trustworthy? According to Feagins, a budtender who is dedicated to learning and who takes advantage of training and research opportunities is bound to be successful with their customers.
Warzel tells The Emerald, “For my licensing to become a budtender, I paid for my MED (Marijuana Enforcement Division) badge for $100, got my fingerprints taken, and passed my background check. That’s how I was authorized to sell cannabis.” Warzel goes on to say that the knowledge behind cannabis goes beyond simply buying your way into the industry. A budtender who takes the time to research and fully understand the products they are selling is what makes them trustworthy and successful at their job.
Many times, budtenders learn more than just the operations of the business they work for. Some organizations offer training on the legalities and scientific background of cannabis use and distribution.
Mindy Montgomery, Chief Happiness Officer of a cannabis training site, Green CulturED, describes the site as, “ …on track to becoming the most recognized and authorized training program by government regulations.” Montgomery assures all of Green CulturED trainees are provided the proper tools to sell cannabis by offering a curriculum that covers the operations of working in a cannabis business, the effects and impairment of cannabis, cannabis safety and health concerns, detecting and preventing diversion, how to recognize cannabis abuse signs, and how to identify a valid or fake ID.
The small communities created by local dispensaries offer a great opportunity to defeat the stigma surrounding cannabis use. With the emergence of cannabis cafes and restaurants – such as The Coffee Joint cafe located in Denver, Colorado – cannabis consumption is indeed becoming normalized and accepted as part of everyday life. Even people who once believed cannabis to be more harmful than beneficial are beginning to take an interest. These first-time consumers will need a budtender that knows their product, and knows their customer.