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Friday December 6, 2019

By Paul Barach

420 Culture

Everyone would like to believe the best of their budtender once they’ve entered the dispensary. After all, that friendly face will be selling you the product that will hopefully turn your day from bad to better or from better to great. If you can’t trust someone with so noble a goal as that, who can you trust? However, as many cannabis customers have already experienced (unfortunately), this is not always the case. The quality of budtenders can vary widely from city to city and from shop to shop.

Different Types of Budtenders at Dispensaries

You may get that personable, fun budtender who could write a master’s thesis on heirloom strains and the importance of lesser-known cannabinoids. As they brighten your day with their sparkling conversation and sterling wit, they’ll guide you along your path to the best product to serve your needs. 

This budtender knows every product in the store and has sampled all their wares. They grow a little on the side just for the fun of it and have a sommelier’s mind for pairings. If you want the best energizing edible for going mountain biking after work on a Wednesday, they got you covered. If you’re looking for the best strain to assist you in your hobby of beekeeping on the weekend, they don’t bat an eye. If you need the best dab for alleviating post-job interview stress, it’s already in your hand before you finished your sentence. They’ve got ESP whether you need THC or CBD.

Budtender holding cannabis
The quality of budtenders can be at either end of the spectrum depending on your city and the dispensary you go to.

On the other end of the spectrum, you may also get a minimum wage retail employee whose main qualifications were writing “Hella ‘bout the herb” on their resume and being friends with their boss’ kid. They will sell you whatever it takes to get you out of their line the fastest so that they can go back to hitting their dab pen in the shop’s bathroom. Of course, there’s a lot of room in between these two sides of the spectrum, and you’re likely to experience some great and not so great budtenders in your time spent at various dispensaries.

Different Consumers Need Different Service

So, how can you tell which budtender is which? Does it really matter if all you’re looking for is a little weed? The answer can depend on your level of cannabis knowledge as well as theirs, so let’s go over what to look for in your budtender whether you’re a novice pot consumer, experienced, or a cannabis connoisseur.  

Tips for the Beginners:

If you’re curious about cannabis, or are visiting a dispensary for the first time, a major sign to look for in your budtender is how much effort they’re putting into the transaction. Don’t expect them to welcome you at the door, but once you’re at their counter they should at least show some interest in why you came to a dispensary. One of their first questions should be about what type of experience you’re looking for and what brought you in today. Don’t be afraid to say that you’re new to legal cannabis. A quality budtender should still be able to help guide you to the right product.

Budtender of the month
A quality budtender should be putting lots of effort into making sure your needs are met.

Signs that your budtender may not be on the level is if they don’t seem to be certain about any of the products in the shop. It may be their first day or week – in which case you should cut them some slack if it seems like they’re trying – but if they let out a long sigh and then grab a random item off the shelf, maybe ask for another budtender or head to another shop. On the other end of the spectrum is the know-it-all, who may make you feel stupid about asking questions about strains or product. If they’re rushing you, condescending to you, or only offering you top shelf products that seem way too strong, it’s a good idea to seek out another shop.

Many budtenders welcome first timers and beginners with open arms and will be very receptive to the needs of a novice. Most legal markets see a fair amount of cannabis tourism, so budtenders have a lot of experience dealing with newcomers and people looking to experience the thrill of visiting a dispensary. If you get paired up with a budtender who seems excited at the prospect of helping a first time or beginner customer, don’t feel afraid to ask questions!

Seasoned Cannabis Consumers:

You’ve been partaking for a while and you at least know what you like and don’t like. This isn’t your first rodeo on that bucking bronco known as recreational marijuana. At this point, you and your budtender should be on pretty equal footing, so a good sign to look for is if the budtender still knows more than you do. 

If you need a strain for pain relief during work hours and they reply that indica puts you in-da-couch before going back to their phone, you should be wary. A quality budtender should have a pretty firm grasp on the products around them, but the best dispensary experience is also up to you at this point. 

Since you already have a pretty good idea of the experience you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to get specific with your budtender.

Do you want more of a cocktail hour type of light intoxication or are you looking for an end of the day, never leave your couch type of experience? Do you like a racy, energetic uplift or a happy one? What types of edibles are your favorite and what do you wish they’d do better? Are you looking for a full-spectrum concentrates or a more pure THC shatter? Your budtender should be following along with you and any one worth their salt should be able to ask you follow up questions and grab whatever product they think is best. They should also be able to describe why it’s the right one for you and if necessary get a second opinion from a coworker.

Budtenders and Cannabis Connoisseurs:

At this level, you’re striding into the dispensary with an air of confidence. When it comes to cannabis, your attitude can best be summed up by Parks and Rec’s Ron Swanson: “I know what I’m about, son.” Maybe you simply have a deep and extensive love affair with the herb, or maybe you know how important of a medicine it can be for yourself or a loved one. If it’s a medical issue, you should be heading straight over to that side of the dispensary (or depending on the laws in your state, to a dispensary that specializes in medical cannabis). 

Cannabis connoisseurs, if they need any service, should be looking for budtenders that know their acronyms. They should be up on their THCAs through their CBNs. They should be able to rattle off sesquiterpene interactions without a bead of sweat on their brow and have a vast command of strain parentage as though it’s their own family tree.

Budtender dispensing cannabis
Don't be afraid to ask for a budtender with more experience or knowledge.

Ideally, they’ll also either have a similar situation to yourself or know someone who does. At the very least, they’ll clearly care about the importance of finding you the product you ask for, especially if it’s medical. Don’t be afraid to name the exact strain or product you liked the best or that worked the best. If they don’t have it in the shop, they should be able to name a couple more in the store like it, based on the terpenes or the desired effects.

As for a budtender you shouldn’t trust at this level, that would be anyone who knows less than you do. Don’t be afraid to ask for one that does. It’s your money and your experience.  Essentially, a good budtender may be hard to find, but they’re not rare either. If you know what to look for when going into a shop, both in terms of service and products, you’ll find that you have a much better time. On the other end, many budtenders care deeply about their jobs and enjoy service the cannabis public. If you find a good one, be sure to be friendly, polite, and tip accordingly. It’s greatly appreciated.

What has been your experience with budtenders at the dispensaries you shop at? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Paul Barach Paul Barach

Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.

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