Cannabis Career Guide: Budtender

One of the most common questions I get asked is, “How do I break into the cannabis industry?” Whether you are new to cannabis or a long-time user everyone wants to make sure they are not missing out on this green rush. Some careers paths will be an easy transition. Regulatory positions may require additional licensing or certification. However, for the most part the cannabis industry–despite its infancy– will need lawyers, accounts, marketers and customer service agents. All you need is grit, know-how and a spruced up resume aimed at the industry. Experience is key. With the industry still growing, hiring people who can understand and conform to the regulation of the industry will have no issue finding work in this green mine. In such a spirit, The Kush Chronicle is committing to a series of posts to help you, the reader, get a leg up in the cannabis game.

What is a Budtender?

budtender

A Budtender is a staff member who works in a dispensary. A typical day for a Budtender would include opening the dispensary, taking inventory, making strain suggestions, handling products and setting up demos. Like its namesake–bartender– a Budtender serves customers within a licensed establishment. Originally, Budtenders gained first hand knowledge of products by working with farmers, cultivators, extraction technicians, edible chefs and cannabis experts. As of 2017, there are still no schooling or licenses necessarily required to be a Budtender. The lack of national licensing standards is due to cannabis still being federally illegal. However, for the motivated, self-reliant types, there are plenty of ways to educate yourself.

Budtender Faux Pas: What Not to Do

As the face of the dispensary, Budtenders are a valuable first line for customer service. Whether medical or recreational, consumers are looking for guidance on the best products to try. The first impression is what matters most. Ever hear the expression, “Never judge a book by its cover”? Well, that is ridiculous. The cover is the first thing I–and I’m willing to bet most people–read first. As the regulations loosen one thing dispensaries will face are clients with out of state licenses. When a new customer visits your dispensary, a Budtender can make or break that first impression. An otherwise fine dispensary can become incredibly unpleasant. And in this digital age, reviews are everything. Here are some red flags to avoid from Budtenders.

  1. Impatient and rude: No client whether medical or recreational wants to feel stupid or rushed when looking for their product. It’s true that as a Budtender you will have to repeat a lot of the same information. But it is equally important to treat each customer interaction as a new opportunity. The strains may be similar but everyone has their own backstory, so figuring out a customer’s familiarity with cannabis is a must.
  2. No tact when dealing with medical customers. It’s great you love pot and the adventures you have been on. Who doesn’t remember their first bowl of stale Applejacks after smoking a fat joint? I know I do. (Still the best bowl of cereal I have ever had, by the way). However, differentiating adult-use from medicine is important for both the general consumer experience and the patient. Medical patients who are already in a vulnerable state may become put off by the lack of tact from a budtender.
  3. Inconsiderate of basic hygiene. Get rid of the stoner hippie mentality. It is a new age and nothing is more off-putting to clients that a lack of basic hygiene. Cannabis is medicine and should be handle appropriately. It’s a terrible sight to see dirty hands handle beautiful nuglets.
  4. Lack of product knowledge. The most cringeworthy issue for any sales job. Budtenders do have to learn a lot. If you are new and learning new things, be honest with the customer. Budtenders need to stay up-to-date no cannabis developments and technology. Business owner’s need to invest in a thorough training program.

Cannabis Training Programs:

  • The Highly Educated
    • Form: Online education
    • Name: Cannabis 101, Budtender Education
    • Description: The Highly Educated offers intuitive to follow classes you can review from your home. Developed by a group of like-minded and former budtenders, The Highly Educated aims at offering the most substantial classes possible to a large portion of the population. They offer payment plans for those who may not have the means to afford some of the more expensive online educational courses. Whether you are starting your own business or looking to get into one, this start up would be an excellent place to start.
    • Cost: $600, $500 respectively
    • Location: Online
  • Cannabis Training University
    • Form: Online certification
    • Name: Master of Cannabis Certification
    • Description: The training program covers all the essential skills that someone will need to enter the cannabis industry. These topics include growers, cooking, career, medical, trimming, business, laws, and budtenders.
    • Cost: $249 
    • Location: Online
  • Northern Michigan University
    • Form: Undergraduate degree
    • Name:  Medicinal Plant Chemistry
    • Description: Due to the growing popularity of medicinal plants, Northern Michigan University understood that there would be a need for individuals that are trained in  “plant production, analysis, and distribution.” Thus, they created a 4-year undergraduate degree to aid students who will be entering the field.
    • Cost: $5,592 per semester
    • Locations: Marquette, Michigan
  • Oaksterdam University:
    • Form: On-campus courses, online courses, and certifications 
    • Name: Horticulture and Business 
    • Description: Oaksterdam University is the first cannabis academic institution. They offer classes taught by “the most recognized professionals, attorneys, academics, activists, cultivators and entrepreneurs” in the cannabis industry. Their mission is to provide students with the knowledge and experience, through hands-on learning, to lead a successful career. 
    • Cost: The cost differs based on the class taken – they range from $400 to $1895.
    • Location: Oskland, California
  • THC University:
    • Form: Online certification
    • Name: There are seven different programs offered; Budtender Basics Certification, Marijuana 101 Certification, Grow Basics Certification, Horticulture Specialist Certification, Cannabis Business Certification, Colorado Safety and Regulations Certification, and Washington Safety and Regulations Certification. 
    • Description: The goal of THC University “is to teach the world about cannabis in the most effective way possible.”
    • Cost: THC University offers tree different price packages: $50 /month, $135/quarter, or $240/ 6 months. 
    • Location: Online
  • The Grow School:
    • Form: Online courses
    • Name: Public Grow Classes and Self-Paced GROW 101
    • Description: Each class taught by The Grow School is meant to provide their students with everything they will need to flourish when growing cannabis. The topics covered include proper equipment, room selection, safety requirement, cannabis reproduction, harvesting and trimming, the cannabis grow theory, and much more!  
    • Cost: $99 for a membership
    • Location: Online
  • Trichome Institute:
    • Form: Online classes
    • Name: Cannabis Products & Sales Training and Professional Interpening
    • Description: Trichome Institute provides classes for people in the cannabis field to ensure that they have the knowledge “needed to be safe and successful in this volatile market.” They confirm that the material being provided is backed up by the industry leaders, such as “researchers, leading physicians in medical cannabis, and prominent attorneys.”
    • Cost: $199.00 from $249.00 for 1 student. The price drops as the number of students increases. 
    • Location: Online