How to Tell if Your Budtender Is Good: Tips From High-Level Pot Shop Workers

The following article first appeared in The Hemp Connoisseur. Follow them on Facebook  here.


Buying legal marijuana can be equally exciting and daunting. Walking into a dispensary to be faced with a counter full of high-quality bud can be overwhelming, if in the best possible way. To help guide you through the process, most businesses employ skilled marijuana technicians known throughout the industry as budtenders.

But how can you tell if your budtenders really know their stuff? We reached out to a couple of experts in the field for their takes on what exactly makes a great budtender.

“Number one, you have to remember that you are a caregiver,” says Sarah Clements of Karmaceuticals in Denver, Colorado. “My job is to take care of [patients].”

Last year, Clements took home the award for Best Budtender at the Cannabis Business Awards, an honor that might be due to her emphasis on a more compassionate approach to budtending than some. For Clements, a good budtender takes the time to get to know her customers and what their needs are as well as the products on the shelf.

Another crucial aspect of this is listening to returning customers, she says. By taking time to listen to first-hand testimonials, a budtender can better understand what he or she is doling out, allowing for a better experience and happier customers. Good budtenders will listen to their customers and learn how best to treat others, she says, and as patients share their successes, a budtender becomes better equipped to make recommendations for others.

But for Clements, an excellent budtender is only as strong as the staff that supports her. To be truly outstanding, a budtender needs to be primed on what patients are looking for and what their history is before they even step up to the sales counter. This means quality growers producing the best product possible and a person at the front desk who is slightly more involved than just verifying ID’s.

“It doesn’t start with the budtender,” says Clements. “We’re kind of the end point.”

For Nichole West, the importance of caring in a budtender is matched by the importance of product knowledge and an awareness of the law. As an instructor of Clover Leaf University’s Budtender Certification program, she says an excellent budtender should have knowledge that goes beyond the simple indica versus sativa recommendations. Certain things can be taught, she says, but a good budtender should be primed out of the gate on the basics.

Budtenders need to know what effects will be achieved through different methods of ingestion, and understand the practical aspects of compliance. This includes health and safety regulations for the storage of edibles (perishables refrigerated to 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less) and proper bud handling technique (never touch the product with bare hands). Violations of these basic health practices can not only indicate a poor budtender, but can lead to serious health concerns for consumers. Equally important is making patients aware of the recommended 10mg dosage for edibles, says West.

“A lot of people are trying it for the first time, you just want to be aware of that,” she says. Someone new to marijuana walking out of the shop with an idea of dosage based on a veteran user’s tolerance can be courting disaster. So if you’re new to edibles, stick to the 10mg mark. Take it from West.

“The state recommends 10 milligrams, there’s no gray area there,” she says.

Both ladies agree that knowing the product on the shelves inside and out is crucial, but that an understanding of the individual patient is just as important. This can be the distinction between a good budtender and an excellent one, and can be an extremely difficult task given the diverse nature of marijuana purchasers.

A good budtender is more than a sales person. So watch out if the person behind the counter seems to be stubbornly pushing you toward a certain product. This might be a sign that the dispensary is trying to clear inventory rather than accommodate customer needs, warns West.

Identifying a quality budtender can be tricky. Sometimes a pretty face and a friendly attitude can mask an underlying ignorance of the product being sold and a sales-first mentality.

Being informed before you step foot into a dispensary is probably the best way to guard against being taken advantage of. Knowing what types of strains you like, what kind of cannabinoid content you’re looking for, and knowing your own tolerance can go a long way. Picking up THC Magazine is a good place to start, says West.

“The only way to really know if you have a good budtender on your hands is to have a little bit of knowledge yourself,” she says.

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