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How to Become a Budtender

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Ever since the first medical-marijuana dispensary opened its doors in California in the ’90s, stoners everywhere have dreamed of working in the cannabis industry. The main opportunity is in budtending, the marijuana equivalent of the bartender or barista. Wanting to learn more about it, we talked to cannabusiness experts and compiled a quick list of steps to attaining your dream job.

1. Know Where to Look

A plethora of online services can help you locate cannabis jobs in adult-use or medical states. One of the more popular services is 420careers.com, where you can search for openings in the marijuana industry in your state. Other online options include THCjobs.com, WeedHire.com and ganjapreneur.com, as well as online listing services like WeedMaps, Leafly and Where’s Weed.

These sites are excellent resources for making a master list of all the stores in your area. Reading their online reviews can give you a better idea of which ones may be better than others. You can also walk directly into a store and ask if they’re hiring budtenders.

2. Take a Class

budtender fight club logoSign up for local training courses like Jason Sturtsman’s Budtender Fight Club in Las Vegas. This four-hour seminar is for people who are interested in getting involved in the marijuana industry, but don’t have enough experience to jump right in. Sturtsman gives attendees a basic outline and an industry insider’s tips on topics including cultivation, terpene profiles, lab testing and local laws. His goal is to educate dispensary workers on the science of marijuana and set best practices for the industry.

“Everyone has a different endocannabinoid system, so everyone has a different response to cannabis products,” he stressed at one of his seminars. “As a part of trying to get into the cannabis industry, you should really get into the science and the testing aspects of it. Make sure you educate patients about the different terpenes and cannabinoids. Get away from geeking out to patients about the lineage of the strain. Focus on the medicinal effects they’re going to feel.”

3. Be Professional

Just because it’s the cannabis industry doesn’t mean you should act any less professional when applying for a job. Store managers are looking for qualified and knowledgeable applicants. During the interview, don’t
talk about how much weed you smoke or how your plants at home are doing. Instead, mention your professional experience and how good you are with customers. That’s what will set you apart.

4. Beyond Buds

An exterior view of Sahara Wellness. The facility is the the first all-female-owned medical marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas.

An exterior view of Sahara Wellness in Las Vegas

At Sahara Wellness in Las Vegas (420 W. Sahara Ave.), budtenders need to know more than just the 18 strains available, says Brenda Gunsallus, a former tennis pro and missionary who was one of the four women who founded the dispensary in 2016.

Today’s dispensaries are chock full of cannabis products like oils, waxes, edibles, tinctures, creams and patches. “We stock a lot of edibles,” Gunsallus explains. “Many of our patients have never smoked, so we try and find a lot of products where they can get their medicine and don’t have to inhale.”

Budtender Mila Endo is an example of the new type of dispensary worker, one who’s knowledgeable about the plant’s medical and scientific aspects. She discovered cannabis after seeking treatment for epilepsy, and is now studying to become a doctor. “I never took any sort of budtender training,” she explains. “I actually started by reading through articles and deciphering abstracts from literature. I trained myself through that.”

5. Care About the Patients

budtender las vegas chris thompson brenda gunsallus budtending

Brenda Gunsallus, owner of Sahara Wellness

“If you don’t care about people, this isn’t the industry for you,” Gunsallus tells prospective budtenders. “We probably put our budtenders through more than anybody. I can teach people about cannabis, I can teach them about business. But really, you can’t teach people to care about people. And I know within the first 10 to 15 minutes if a potential hire really cares about people.”

That caring personality can mean everything to patrons with serious medical conditions. “The elderly come in, and they’re so proud because their tremors have slowed down,” she adds. “That’s what’s especially exciting being a part of this industry—finding products that really help the patients.”

But working in a dispensary is not all rainbows and sunshine. “This is hard, Gunsallus notes. “We work 12 to 14 hours a day. But I can sleep at night knowing I’m helping people. You know, a lot of people come in here because they have no hope. The doctor says, ‘You have four or five months to live.’ It really wrenches at your heart, because you want to help people so bad.”

6. Pick the Right Location

Ultimately, you need to choose the store that’s right for you. If you’re most interested in helping people with their medical problems, are compassionate and caring, and are willing to learn about terpene profiles and diagnoses, then a medical dispensary with patient-focused care is probably best for you.

However, if you’re more interested in strain genetics and stoner culture, are good with sales and pushing products to consumers, and are looking for a more chill work environment, then an adult-use store in a state like Colorado may be a better fit.

Despite how cool it sounds, budtending is still a retail job. If retail is not your strong suit, there are plenty of other jobs in the cannabis industry, such as cultivation, extraction, production, operations, marketing, human resources, event promotion, social media and more. According to Marijuana Business Daily, the industry now employs between 1000,000 and 150,000 full-time and part-time workers.

Opportunities are certainly available in adult-use and medical states, so don’t hesitate to put yourself out there. It’s likely that there’s a job for you in the fast-growing cannabis industry. Now go out and find it.

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