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Sunday April 10, 2022

By Paul Barach

A young man holding up a joint in one hand and a nugget in the other Education

What is a budtender? Depending on your age, life experience, and where you live, you may never have met one. That’s why much of the US population may have questions about this job category that basically sprung into existence a decade ago. What does a budtender do? Why do you need a budtender? Why can’t you just walk into a dispensary and pick out your weed or edible yourself like in a liquor store?

If you’re new to marijuana or in need of very specific effects, knowing what a budtender does and how they can best help you when you enter their shop will make your dispensary visit that much more successful with whatever effects you’re hoping to achieve.

That’s why PotGuide is here to answer the question “What is a budtender?”

What is a Budtender?

Let’s start with an example. Say you order a drink from your favorite bartender. It could be a scotch neat, a beer, a glass of wine, a cosmo, or a rusty nail. Whatever they serve up, what you’re getting is essentially the same: alcohol. It’ll help loosen you up for a first date, pump you up for a night out with friends, or help you unwind some workday stress.

Now, imagine walking into that same bar and ordering a beer that could alleviate joint pain from chronic arthritis, a cocktail that could sharpen your focus for your favorite fighting game, or a glass of wine that could help you break through some writer’s block for your historical fantasy novel, George Washington: Frankenstein Puncher.

Two hands facing palms up with an edible, cannabis nugget, and a joint inside.
When you go to a dispensary, your budtender will be able to help you select the best products specific to your lifestyle. photo credit

A bartender couldn’t really help you with that. No matter what proportions you mix alcohol in, it’s just not that versatile of a drug when it comes to effects.

A budtender, on the other hand, could. A well-informed budtender has a much better chance of guiding you towards a marijuana product in their dispensary that may provide whatever experience or effects you’re hoping to have.

Whether you’re looking for relief from a medical issue or to enhance an experience, there’s usually a weed strain, edible, concentrate, or other product in the pot shop that can help you get there. A budtender helps you find which one. A budtender can also help you if you’re new to marijuana and don’t really know what you’re looking for yet.

What is a Budtender’s Job?

So is a budtender just a weed bartender? Not exactly. Generally, a budtender has their feet in both retail and customer service. Part of a budtender’s job is stocking and labeling cannabis products on the shelves and in the display cases, as well as keeping the shop clean. They also may help weigh out and package weed depending on how the product arrives from the grower.

Image of a women with dark hair kneeling to clean shelf space
Tasks like cleaning the retail space are also on the budtenders list of responsibilities. photo credit

At their register, budtenders pick out products for customers, check IDs, and ring up purchases. They also need to make sure that they don’t break any of the very stringent laws surrounding recreational and medical marijuana, which could close down the shop or have them lose their credentials.

On the customer service end, a budtender will greet a wide range of dispensary customers, from newcomers to the ultra-experienced, and help each of them find the marijuana product that will likely give them the effect they’re looking for. This is especially true for medical marijuana budtenders.

What Can A Budtender Do For You?

Everyone coming into a dispensary has a reason to be there. Helping customers zero in on just the right weed strain, edible, concentrate, tincture, topical or other product to give them the specific effect and outcome they’re hoping for is where a good budtender earns their pay (and their tips).

For example, if a customer wants a happy kind of high that still leaves them chill and clear-headed in the evening, a good budtender would recommend a Blue Cheese weed strain and not Blue Dream.

Women with brown hair, red scarf, and orange shirt holding up a long cannabis nugget for a customer to look at
A great budtender can recommend strains for sleep or strains for hiking based on their cannabinoid, terpene, and potency profiles. photo credit

A good budtender also knows which edible is best for daytime pain relief vs nighttime pain relief, or which concentrate is the most potent and tastiest at your price range. Budtenders are also invaluable in helping anyone new to marijuana in suggesting strains and products to try, as well as dosage and how to consume.

How to Become a Budtender

Nearly every budtender starts as someone with either retail or customer service experience on their resume, a love of weed, and a base level of competence. Because a dispensary can be shut down or go out of business by the state’s marijuana enforcement board for violating sales laws, managers can be very picky in who they hire.

Much like being a bartender, budtender certifications vary from state to state. In some states like Colorado, you’re required to attend an information session, register with the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, and get a badge that you wear at all times during work. In other states, you’re simply hired as long as you seem friendly and competent, while many marijuana markets fall somewhere in between.

The Wrap Up

So, what is a budtender? While they’re not just weed bartenders, it can help marijuana newcomers to think of them that way. But instead of pouring different liquids, a budtender can help you find different flower, topicals, edibles, or concentrate to find that perfect high and seek out that perfect effect you’ve been looking for.

Have you been a budtender below? Let us know what you like or don’t like about this cannabis position in the comments!


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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