Thursday December 19, 2019
By Andrew Ward
Of all the jobs in the cannabis market boom, a budtender may be one of the more familiar roles. These friendly faces behind the sales counters help medical patients and adult use consumers find the marijuana they need. Often, it is with patience and understanding that is not found in conventional sales roles. That is because most go beyond being a salesperson. Yet, despite that fact, some wonder if budtenders are being compensated fairly. To better understand the matter, we dove into the recent data to find out more.
Average Salaries for Budtenders in the U.S.
Dispensaries moving towards a $15 per hour minimum wage are helping boost the national average for American budtenders. Currently, most data suggests that pay tends to range between $12 and $13 per hour for most budtenders.
Indeed reported that the average budtender salary fell just short of $13 per hour, $12.96, with its figure based on 1,770 anonymous answers from employees, users and job advertisement data.
Some of the job listings provided by indeed did reach $15 per hour, with one position, an FXO Legend Grown Cosecha Group budtender, which was listed at $16.18 per hour. Information from Payscale listed the median national hourly average at $12.84 an hour. It noted that the lower 10 percentile of salaries can reach $10.52 while the highest paid can reach $17.20. In all, Payscale reported hourly wages ranging between $11 and $17, with bonuses between $300 and $2,035.
Over a year, it lists total salaries ranging from $22,146 to $37,340. The Payscale report went on to say being in the middle of your career helped improve salary prospects by 9%. Skills like medical terminology, customer relations and customer service were listed as factors in determining salary.
Is Budtender Salary Affected by State?
Salary.com data from November 25, 2019, reveals that the average U.S. budtender salary is $34,896. It went on to note that the range can vary between $31,060 and $38,900. It notes several factors in shaping salary. It lists education, certifications, additional skills and the number of years in the profession all as factors. Your location can also play a part. The cost of living and the local economy both play a role in shaping salary in a region.
Looking at some of the country’s most talked about cannabis markets it becomes clear that budtender salaries can and do shift by state. For example, early adopter state salaries fall close to one another but are not the same. In California, a budtender can average between $34,694 and $43,451 each year. Meanwhile, in Nevada, the range declines to $31,836 and $39,872. In the Pacific Northwest, skilled budtenders in Washington can average up to $41,545, while the same person in Oregon would likely top out around $38,744 each year.
Each of the early adopters, and many other states, see minimum average salaries staying above the $30,000 a year annual threshold. That is not the case for all, however. In states like Alabama, Mississippi and Arizona, average lower Payscale salaries can reach close or below the mark. In Mississippi’s case, the average budtender salary tends to range between $27,022 and $33,843.
The same can be said for one of America’s most intriguing medical markets in Oklahoma. While the prospect of an uncapped license market led to the boom of the state’s medical cannabis sector, salaries aren’t following suit. So far, data reports that the average salary can range between $29,196 and $36,566.
Debate on Room to Grow
Salary issues couple with concerns around career advancement for budtenders. In a 2018 Forbes article, Mike Adams asked if the budtender position was a dead end. He received mixed answers. When I was writing my book, Cannabis Jobs, I wanted to gain further clarity on the matter. Instead, I got more of the mixed bag Adams touched upon in his article the year prior. While some in the space asserted that budtenders had room to grow into store leaders and other management positions, others did note a lack of upward growth.
The jury is out at this time. Like with most subjects, this appears to be a case-by-case basis. If you are hungry to grow as a professional in the space, you certainly can do so with the right company behind you. By working hard, learning and showing some career flexibility, most dispensaries will want to promote and advance such a professional. However, those looking to merely get by may find themselves in a dead-end. Though, it may be more their creation than industry or local market limitations.
Do Budtenders Deserve More Pay?
In truth, it’s a loaded question. Those arguing for higher salaries are often justified. With a booming market, budtenders play a key role in helping patients and other customers find the right products for them. Using a combination of customer service expertise and medical market know-how, most budtenders are more than the average sales reps that some may peg them as. As such, their salary should reflect this.
Then, there’s a livable wage. While recent data suggests that America's earn an annual salary between $23,920 and $30,628, the cost of living suggests that more is needed. Factor in rising costs associated with rent, insurance and daily life expenses and the salary of a budtender might not cut it in most American markets.
On the other hand, many view budtenders strictly as customer service representatives. Whether right or wrong, this designation is likely why salary isn’t higher.
When perceived to be an ordinary sales rep, it is expected you receive a similar wage as one. Is this right? No. But it will continue to be the case unless that stigma is washed out. A more justifiable argument may be that the industry is still growing. Many companies are failing to earn an income at this point and dealing with tax burdens like 280E. With hope and changing regulations, salaries could rise for some, if and when companies see their bottom lines in the black.
That said, remember to be thankful for your budtender and their service. If you felt your trip to the dispensary was improved by their help, give them a tip for their efforts. These unsung players are often integral parts in getting us the cannabis and information that we desire.
Do you have experience working as a budtender? If so, feel free to comment your thoughts on wages and if you’d like to see them raised in the future.