Budtender, cannabarista, weed sommelier, whatever you call the guy or gal behind the counter, you need their help when shopping at a medical marijuana dispensary or cannabis store.
Good budtenders do more than serve and package your goods. Considering the price of cannabis products and some risk in consumption, you want to develop a relationship with your provider who can explain product, direct you to best choices, and advise you on use that is uniquely specific to your needs and wants-what may work for one person doesn’t necessarily mean it will work the same for you.
WHAT YOUR BUDTENDER DOES FOR YOU:
A great deal of the expected bonanza or boom in the cannabis economy depends on the moving of purchasing from the black market and making it available to the legalized market without any hassle or hangups. If that’s to happen, providers must enhance the shopping experience and make it worth your while to want to delve into this new and upcoming market without problems or stigmata.
Customers willing to pay the higher prices and business providers wanting to make legalization work, they both want to step back from the stoner stigma. Budtenders are fast becoming the new face of this marketing effort.
You can expect at least five characteristics from a budtender:
- IMAGE: Budtenders are the face and voice of medical and recreational dispensaries and cannabis shops. They set the standard of professionalism and customer service. That image requires good grooming, personality, warmth, and factual knowledge. You have the right to expect them to be good listeners and congenial conversationalists, as well as know what they are talking about, not just from personal experience but actual facts.
- EXPERT: Customers need expert information on product and informed advice on use. While some of that knowledge comes from experience with the products, the best budtenders can demonstrate proof of formal training and individual studies and cite research information verbatim or help you look it up.
- RESPONSIBLE: Regulations require formal lessons and certifications on compliance issues like checking for identification, maintaining location safety and security and protection consumer interests. Remember, we at the dispensaries are bound by the same Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that all medical facilities are bound by. Our information that we take from you upon visiting our dispensary is kept private and can only be given out if subpoenaed by a court of law.
- INVENTORY: Customers have a variety of interests, and budtenders must have a grasp on inventory including vaping, edibles, concentrates, lotions,tinctures, and more. They must know the brands and how they differ. They must know and understand the weight standards, potency, and preferred usage. And, of course, they must have extensive knowledge of cannabis strains, seeds, and flower (buds).
- LICENSED: Colorado, and now Oregon license their budtenders- this is a state law requirement for every employee that works in the cannabis industry. They need an MED Occupational License as a Support Employee (Colorado) or a Marijuana Workers Permit (Oregon). They complete paperwork, take the test, and appear before the Marijuana Enforcement Division to be photographed, fingerprinted, and pay a fee of $75.00-$100.00. (Fees are higher for more responsible positions.) And, it’s likely that other states will follow or modify the Colorado or Oregon model.
WHAT YOU DO FOR YOU BUDTENDER
Budtenders are not highly paid (most working for minimum wage or just above) although competition for the best talent will increase the compensation range.
Their work begins before the business opens. They labor at removing all the product from the vaults and setting it up in display (just as they must, by law, put all product up in locked vaults or safes at the close of each night). They handle repeated customer relations, some of them difficult. And, they manage point-of-sale systems and process the revenue. They are required to make sure all the product weights and measurements match all the sale invoices at the end of each shift. They are also responsible for making sure that each customer doesn’t exceed their state set limit on usable marijuana product (medical card holders have different set guidelines vs. recreational marijuana customers) and be accountable for making sure each customer leaves the store knowing their responsibilities and duties before consuming products containing marijuana. But, they have customer expectations, too:
- RESPECT: They appreciate your attention and respect. Trained and licensed, they are always willing to learn, but they expect you to value their product history and advice. They don’t see themselves as slackers, stoners, scaley, or shady and just trying to up sell you a higher priced product to make a quota (budtender’s do not work on commission) or to make more money for the store, so they don’t want to be treated that way.
- CONSUMPTION NEEDS: You can help your budtender serve you better by providing key information. You will save time and aggravation on both your budtender and yourself when you start with what you are looking for, from smoking and edibles to beverages to lotions/salves and tinctures. If you are forthcoming, your budtender is also prepared to advise on discrete consumption methods like suppositories, topicals, transdermals, and sublinguals (taken under the tongue). Or, you can begin with a repertoire of questions on consumption.
- EXPERIENCE: It’s in your interest and the budtender’s to share your experience. You’ll find them patient and understanding if you fill them in on your experiences with different forms of consumption, different strains, and the respective psychoactive effects. You help the budtender if you explain the pain relief you had and the relief you want or need, the tastes you had and the ones you prefer, the length and quality of the high you experienced and the one you want.
- RELATIONSHIP: Medical or recreational marijuana use brings you back to the business regularly even though it is not addictive. In most situations, you deal with a budtender one-on-one, and that presents and opportunity for building a strong relationship. Customers who are open to relationship-building will come to trust their budtender on advice on product and usage. Remember, all businesses want repeat customer base but only for the right reasons-word of mouth is the best form of advertisement when you are serviced right!
- TIPS: Leaving a tip for your budtender will strengthen a relationship, but tipping is up to the customer. Tipping is not yet common in medical/recreational marijuana dispensaries. They have generally been clinical in atmosphere and people don’t usually tend to tip their medical providers. But, buyers will tip retail budtenders a percentage of their purchase price based on their overall shopping experience or a standard of $5.00 minimum.
BUDDY UP WITH YOUR BUDTENDER
Building and sustaining a relationship with your local budtender will improve your experience with cannabis and marijuana infused products. If you know what you want with no questions asked, after establishing yourself with your local budtender’s , you can hit and run your local retail cannabis shop. But, if the experience is new to you and you need help on what to buy or have questions, it behooves you to do your homework and familiarize yourself with your questions and the terminology so that you can present them to your budtender and get all the facts and proper answers. The internet is an amazing encyclopedia of knowledge on everything there is to know about cannabis and marijuana containing products. When you do decide you need help on what to buy and why in a marketplace with more diversified and prime product, you need professional help you can trust. Remember, there is never a wrong question to ask and no one will ever look down upon you or tell you that is a dumb question. Your medical provider wouldn’t laugh at you so why would a professional budtender do so-medicine is medicine!
With all that being said, just remember just because it contains marijuana or cannabis does not necessarily mean that the product will get you a high. All of your topicals/salves or transdermal patches and most of your strictly CBD tinctures will not give you a psychoactive high, whereas smoking THC or ingesting THC will give you a psychoactive high sensation. Everyone of our budtenders here at Papa’s has taken and passed our OLCC Marijuana Workers Permit test and we are constantly updating our employees with the new rules and regulations that come out each day and require them to arm themselves with the knowledge of new up and coming strains and ways to ingest them for the maximum effect for whatever purposes our customers need, so that we aren’t just “pushing” product on clients for the wrong reasons. We pride our staff on the fact that we do not try to just sell you anything and everything, but take the time to get to know you and your unique needs and guide you towards a product that will benefit you and your specific needs. A side note to first time buyers and users: We strongly recommend that you keep a journal or notebook that you record what you bought, how you used it, how much you ingested, what time of day, and so forth, so that each time you go into a dispensary, anywhere, you have prior knowledge of what may or may not have worked for you, whether you liked how it made you feel, if it made you sick, etc…–this will help your budtender lead you into an informative decision on your next purchase. Trial and error is a big part of learning-just like your doctor’s office visits!!