INDUSTRY

How to Become a Budtender in 2021

If you want to work in cannabis, the role of budtender may be a good entry point.
If you want to work in cannabis, the role of budtender may be a good entry point.

Plant knowledge is imperative to industry success, and budtending is the best way to familiarize yourself with the plant, the science behind it, and the industry as a whole. If you’ve ever found yourself googling “how to become a budtender”, you’ve come to the right article. 

As the cannabis industry continues to expand across the country and throughout the world, more people are interested in getting involved and innovating from behind the scenes.

And while many of these people come from experienced backgrounds in industries like finance, tech, or even medicine, it’s incredibly difficult to succeed without the proper cannabis knowledge that comes from experiencing the industry on the ground.

How to Become a Budtender

Although budtending is considered one of the most entry-level positions in cannabis, it’s certainly not a role to be taken lightly. Budtenders are undeniably a major backbone of industry sales and overall success. 

As vital as they are to the industry, many budtenders are thrown into the mix with little to no training around the nuances of cannabis, which can actually be detrimental to the consumers and industry as a whole. 

A good budtender knows how to recommend the perfect product for consumer needs, has vast knowledge about cannabis and the science behind it, and knows how to convey that knowledge to better educate consumers – whether they’re brand new or seasoned. 

Cannabis dispensary customers are as diverse as they come: young, old, experienced, brand new to the plant, and everything in between. In order to provide quality service, a budtender must go above and beyond what any run-of-the-mill customer service employee is expected to do.

Qualifications will vary depending on what dispensary you want to work at, as well as which state you reside in. 

There are tons of online opportunities to earn a “budtender certification,” but tread lightly with these sorts of offers. 

While these programs can provide you with a good amount of cannabis knowledge and science behind the plant, they won’t likely prepare you for the job itself, customer interactions, or any of the ins and outs of working at an actual dispensary. 

A lot of this will be learned on the job, which definitely has its pros and cons. 

Here are some of the major pros of working as a budtender to consider before you begin the application process:

  • Budtending is a great way to turn passion into skill. Most people who get into budtending have some sort of history with the plant, and more often than not, it’s already been part of their life in a big way. 

Getting paid to do what you love is a dream come true, and if cannabis is an important part of your world, it might make sense to pursue it as a career. 

You’ll learn more about the plant you know and love, connect with like-minded people, and really begin to understand what goes on behind the scenes in the industry. 

  • Budtending can provide you with access to free/discounted weed! Well, okay, it’s not like you can just dip into the dispensary supply and help yourself. 

But, between brands trying to promote their new products and hefty employee discounts, budtenders definitely get their fair share of free and/or heavily-discounted cannabis. 

  • Budtending can open a lot of doors because of the newness and endless possibility of the legal industry. Cannabis is still a new and budding industry, and more opportunities are emerging every day. 

While most entry-level jobs offer the eventual promise of upward mobility, cannabis offers a lot more variety and flexibility. 

Dive into the industry and you may find yourself paving the way for a new position entirely, or discovering a niche that cannabis has been lacking without your guidance. 

  • Most dispensaries provide employee benefits. This may vary depending on the state you reside in and whether or not the dispensary you work at is licensed or not, but most dispensaries offer their employees some form of benefits. 

Whether that looks like a discount, training courses, 401K, health insurance, or all of the above will depend entirely on the dispensary, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind and look out for when applying. 

  • Budtenders typically get first crack at the dispensary’s new products. As budtenders are usually the ones to order, stock, and sell the products, they’re usually the first to know about new products and brands on the market.

This provides budtenders with industry trend insights – and a whole lot of great weed.

For as many pros as there are to working as a budtender, there are also a number of cons to consider before dipping your toes in – especially if you reside in an area where weed isn’t fully legal. 

Here are some of the most notable drawbacks to the budtender life to keep in mind if you’re interested in this career path:

  • A budtender’s hours can be quite grueling. Most dispensaries don’t have a very large staff, and their hours are quite demanding: open late, and only closed about 1-2 days out of the entire year.

While these extensive hours certainly benefit medical patients and adult-use consumers, many budtenders find themselves working 12-hour shifts – or even longer. This can result in severe burnout if you’re not careful.

  • Working at an unlicensed dispensary can pose a lot of risk. While cannabis is legal in many states across the U.S., it’s definitely still illegal on a federal level.

Because of this, it’s always risky to work at a dispensary, and that much more so if you work at an unlicensed one. At best, you may show up to work one day to an empty building. At worst, you can end up in handcuffs. 

  • Budtenders don’t earn a very high salary. Since this is technically an entry-level position, budtenders don’t make very much money. 

This will vary from state to state and dispensary to dispensary, but on average, budtenders earn about $16 per hour. If you’re planning on going down this career path, the salary is definitely something to consider before taking the plunge.

Being the Best Budtender You Can Be

There’s definitely a lot to think about before becoming a budtender – or getting involved in the cannabis industry in any capacity. However, it’s an ever-expanding industry with tons of room for innovation and creativity, which is a great opportunity for anyone.

If becoming a budtender really appeals to you, make sure you approach the role with the right tools. Do your research on the plant, tour some farms and labs, or even just go into your local dispensaries and talk to some of the budtenders. 

If retail and/or customer service just isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other entry-level roles you can look into, like security, finance, tech, marketing, contracting, growing, real estate, and more. 

No matter which role you want to pursue, the more you know about the plant, the history, and the cannabis community beforehand, the better equipped you’ll feel to take on the industry with confidence and gusto. 

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