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How to Get Hired to Work in the Legal Cannabis Industry Part 2: Getting Hired as a Budtender

May 5, 2015

This series was written by Trevor Smith, a marijuana industry veteran with years of experience running a state-licensed seed-to-sale cannabis operation. Having recognized a growing need to attract great talent to the cannabis industry, Trevor has developed position-specific approaches to help those who are interested in employment opportunities within the rapidly-growing cannabis industry. These articles are designed to offer guidance for those who are looking for work in the medical cannabis industry but are unsure of how to get started. Part 1 covered general interviewing advice. Part 2 focuses on specific tactics for getting hired to work as a budtender.


So You Want to Be a Budtender

Cannabis budtender

Patients can spend 90% or more of their time in-store interacting with just one person: the budtender, which is why this position is probably the most important one inside a dispensary. The best budtenders are passionate about cannabis, exceptionally knowledgeable about the products, and thrive on providing great customer service.

The budtender role is often the most rewarding position in medical cannabis because they are ones building direct relationships with patients. A great attitude and strong work ethic are keys for success in this sometimes-challenging position.

If you’re interested in becoming a budtender, the following steps should help improve your chances of getting hired by a dispensary:

Step 1: Know the Products

Jars of cannabis buds

No matter your role within the industry, you should have a solid understanding of how cannabis is grown because everything starts with the plant. As we covered in Part 1, pick up some best-selling industry books by reputable authors like Jorge Cervantes, Ed Rosenthal, and Seymour Buds to serve as a starting point. If you’re serious about getting hired to work in medical cannabis, invest the time and money in both yourself and your career.

As a budtender especially, you need a strong understanding of cannabis products, specifically the following points:

  • How was every product on your shelf created? (Where was it grown, how was it extracted, etc.)
  • How can you tell the quality of the products?
  • What are your competitors’ prices for similar products?

Before you even express interest in an interview, be familiar with all of the products on the dispensary’s menu, especially its top-selling products. The fastest way to learn what the #1 sellers are is to simply ask the dispensary’s current budtenders, or research the location’s menu online at sites like Leafly — the Reviews section in particular can be helpful to see what other patients are calling out by name.

One of my favorite Interview questions for budtenders is “What are the genetics on this strain?” Be prepared to describe which characteristics (taste, smell, look, medical effects) come from which parent. Brush up on popular strains that the dispensary might not be carrying at that time to show that you’re aware of which strains are widely known.

For example, I always ask about GSC (f.k.a Girl Scout Cookies), even if the dispensary doesn’t carry it, because it’s a strain patients will definitely ask about. Your research would show GSC parent OG Kush provides the earthy scent and body relaxation (indica), while parent Durban Poison provides the sweet taste and cerebral high (sativa). Both parents are known for their pain easement and euphoric effects. Signs of great-quality GSC include deep purple leaves and colorful orange hairs.

During the interview, show off your knowledge of the dispensary’s #1 sellers as a way to differentiate yourself from the other candidates. Find ways to talk about your knowledge of the location’s top-selling products during every interview you schedule.

Step 2: Stay on Top of New Trends

Lemon Drop cannabis concentrate shatter

As a patient, it’s impossible to have confidence or trust in a budtender who clearly knows less about cannabis or the medical marijuana industry than you do. The best way to stay on top of new cannabis trends is by monitoring social media and reading industry blogs. Browse sites like Instagram to see who is posting cannabis products or education and follow the biggest influencers. Search the Internet for blogs that highlight and promote cannabis knowledge, especially for growing trends like concentrates, extractions, and infused products.

Your research should cover things like:

  • What are some differences between BHO and CO2 extraction?
  • What is dewaxed shatter?
  • Why is a 33% THC “test result” probably a lie?

Learn about the newest trends as soon as possible so you are always in a position to educate a patient on new ingestion methods and to clear up any misconceptions he or she may have.

Other important topics to be familiar with:

  • Who are the big industry names in California and Colorado?
  • What strains are winning the major cannabis competitions?
  • What kind of results are the latest medical research studies showing?

Step 3: Become a Great Short Storyteller

Cannabis budtender making recommendations

The best budtenders I’ve seen have rich, powerful stories that help patients connect with them on a personal level. These stories are never longer than a few sentences, are tailored specifically for the patient, and are focused on how the product(s) being discussed have recently had a positive influence on their lifestyle. People don’t connect with other people; they connect with their stories.

Here are some examples (Note: Don’t just copy/paste the examples I provide below – your own personal touch is important!):

“This sativa was one of the best I’ve had in a while! After just a few hits I had so much energy, I ended up cleaning my entire kitchen. My wife was shocked when she got home… major brownie points!”

“You might want to check out this indica. My back pain was killing me on Monday night, so I tried this strain and 30 minutes later I was sleeping like a baby!”

Only recommend products that are appropriate to the patient based on the best information available. The fastest way for a dispensary to lose credibility is for budtenders to give out bad information or to ‘push products’. Word gets out fast if you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t ‘fake it ‘til you make it’… know your craft before you even start!

Step 4: Be Careful When Choosing Budtender Certification Programs For Now

Certificate

As part of your research on the 2-3 dispensaries you would most want to work with, learn the backgrounds and qualifications their current budtenders have. Where did they get their product knowledge? What resources do they recommend to their patients? Ask the store manager what they look for when hiring budtenders.

Be careful with ‘budtender certification’ companies, at least for now. While a number of existing programs do offer a comprehensive curriculum, some of them don’t thoroughly prepare you for a job in the cannabis industry. Eventually, a true national certification standard will emerge, but until that happens, if you’re considering enrolling in a certification program, look at the results the previous graduates have had before spending money on a certification. Does the company have proof their graduates get hired? If not, what are you actually paying for that you can’t already learn from doing your own research at a fraction of the cost?

Step 5: Not Ready to Budtend? Try Working as a Cashier First

Cannabis dispensary cashier

Becoming a cashier is a great way to ‘break in’ to the Industry at some of the larger, more established dispensaries. Cashiers work alongside budtenders and get to listen first-hand to the education and customer service being provided to patients. This is the ‘minor leagues’ for budtenders, so make sure you perform like a rockstar – that way, when the next budtender position opens up, there won’t be any doubt who gets the promotion.

Your research as a budtender doesn’t stop here – find out as much as you can about concepts like ‘how to safely dab’ and ‘dealing with difficult customers’. During the interview, highlight any past sales experience you may have while weaving in your extensive knowledge of cannabis as frequently as possible. With enough prep, determination, and positivity, you could land a budtender position quicker than you think!

Stay tuned for Part 3 of “How to Get Hired to Work in the Legal Cannabis Industry,” where I’ll help you aspiring green thumbs out there focus on how to get hired to work in the legal cannabis industry as a grower.


Are you a cannabis business looking to hire and you need some help marketing your company? Leafly can help give your business the boost it needs!

Learn how Leafly can grow your cannabis business

Images courtesy of Ganja GoddessGreenside Recreational, Seymour Wellness Society, and the PDA Lounge

3 part series

  • Mary Klein

    Nice article. The leading budtending certification program, which includes many of Ed Rosenthal’s books, plus 100 videos, and another 70 ebooks, is at http://www.cannabistraininguniversity.com/enroll

  • Guitar Saurus

    If you budtend, get ready to put up with folks like this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wvh2ZoaFA80

    • Jerry Kinion

      This is funny because it’s so true across every area of retail.

    • ◌⃝◌◌◌⃝⃝⃝⃝ᴯᶥᵊᵙᵭᵄ

      lol… gotta say the younger they are behind the counter the more aggravating it is..

  • Matt Mattson

    If you are looking to become a budtender or better yet, a store manager, be sure to check out this episode of A Day in the Life on YouTube. In the episode you will learn things like what experience you need to become a budtender, how to move into a mangement role, staying up to date with new products, how to deal with difficult customers, etc.
    https://youtu.be/87AQc0rkxs8

    • Storm & Thor Havens

      Your videos and the information are amazing. I am looking at getting into this field of work and adding you to my research is definitely the right thing to do. I love to read but am a visual learner at heart and quickly liked/subscribed to your series. I am a Veteran trying to jump start my life in the civilian world and knowing there are jobs out there for those suffering from PTSD or other ailments and can help others is high on goals. Thank you so much Mr. Mattson and Mrs. Liedman for the information, hope to see you all soon in my journey to work, learn, and inspire/be inspired in this industry.

  • Storm & Thor Havens

    So glad I found your site and this series Mr. Smith, I have been lost on how to revamp my life after serving our country and I believe I have found my path again. I love helping people and through the years could not find the right footing since every job seemed to have wanted you to have had tons of degrees from birth or you had to look the part to rock the job…this is not to say this industry does not want professionals, I truly understand how serious this business is and am following your guidelines above and beyond for that. I am just very glad to have another chance in life after so many years of pain.

  • Mark Skinner

    All “budtenders” should have complete and detailed knowledge regarding the growing of good MaryJane…..in other words they need experience at actually growing a crop. There is NO SUBSTITUTE for hands on experience.

  • tazmeah

    It doesn’t say you need a card to work at a dispensary. Do you need a card to work at a dispensary?

    • FCN

      yes you do.You need to apply for a card which is issued by the state of Colorado (if that’s where you are) It costs about $150. It involves a background check among a few other things. Keeps the riff raff from getting behind the counter.

  • Krista Chinakat Mitchell

    I have been trying to get information on how to get into the business even as just customer service person. but my computer knowledge is writing with a pen and paper – my learning experience is pen – paper and learning on the job. I have tried posting stuff to WordPress.com . But if you have ever seen the show (grace and frankie) thats me. why is this hard??I just want information. how to even to talk someone . I live in New Jersey and all this sounds so easy but seems to be impossible..

  • Joshua Rose

    If you are looking to be a budtender, Have minimal experience.
    Just be punctual, patient, and friendly and put yourself out there.
    With several years experience managing dispensaries, I find my self repeatedly told I am overqualified when trying to get into budtending… Just go apply you, the less you know the better now a days, I completely Disagree with this standard and hope shops start to push to hire qualified friendly cannoisseur’s.
    “yah that one is the best” its all sales. you get it or you dont.
    Just be fun, and focus on each individual person, learn things about them and make their day, learn what they want to learn about cannabis and help them. return costumers/friends are created that way.