Budtender Schools Educate, Motivate

Budtending classes help boost profits, lower employee turnover, and improve customer loyalty.

hipster college 797804821 web MGmagazine 1
hipster college 797804821 web MGmagazine 1

Budtenders provide the first impression of a dispensary. They are a conduit of information and education and, like bartenders, they affect the bottom line. They are the outward face of your brand. One bad experience with a budtender can sour a customer for life.

Along with experience and passion, education can help ensure budtenders meet high standards. Studies and customer feedback have shown a majority of patients and consumers take budtender recommendations very seriously. The good news is there are a number of budtender schools that can help sharpen and refine skills.


Evan Erickson, chief training officer for Green CultureED, a seven-year-old cannabis e-solutions company, explained why it may be beneficial to send budtending staff back to school.

What are the educational and business advantages of taking budtending classes?

Evan Erickson: Budtending courses are a powerful tool for attracting new customers, increasing positive community relationships, and ensuring the safe operation of a dispensary. They cover all the bases. Dispensaries play a variety of roles for the customer but, above all, they must play the role of an educator when it comes to dosing, laws, and product knowledge.

The most important areas are boosting profitability, knowing compliance issues, reducing costs, and lowering employee turnover. The dispensary must play the role of a responsible community member, both in the local community and within the cannabis community. With all the varied and stringent regulations, this can be a difficult task. The key to handling all these roles with the greatest ease and efficiency is education.

What about sales techniques?

When it comes to sales, the value of being part of a team that consistently gives the same informed message is incalculable. Far too often the information relayed by staff is anecdotal, at best. Learning how to tailor your service is very important. Some dispensaries default to basic explanations that work for some customers but leave others seeking more information. Classes teach you not to treat all your visitors the same—because they’re not. Some may just want any strain that is available, while others may expect a product that can deliver specific effects or flavors. The best budtenders leave first-time consumers and veterans feeling the same way: happy, heard, and taken care of.

Can courses help in breaking bad habits?

Yes. Budtenders constantly repeat effects and characteristics of products, so it’s easy to forget each customer is a unique and fresh interaction. All customers have distinctive histories with cannabis, so figuring out their level of familiarity is the first step.  Learning how to avoid repetitious callouts like, “Indica couch-locks you” or “sativa is more energetic” is important.

Also, differentiating medical from adult-use is important for both the patient and consumer experience. Studies have shown medical patients dislike budtenders who treat their medicine as “weed,” whereas adult-use consumers tend to be overwhelmed by advanced explanations. Remember: Customers vary and are there for different reasons.

Do skillsets differ between medical and adult-use budtenders?

For adult-use budtenders, the most important traits are customer service skills and a friendly demeanor. They are going to be dealing with a lot of people who have varying cannabis experience, so knowing how to assist different customers with unique demographics and needs is crucial.

Medical marijuana budtenders need the aforementioned skills and heavy cannabis knowledge. Ideally, they should have an interest or background in the medical field. Most states with a functional medical marijuana program in place require some kind of training or certification for physicians, but budtenders are rarely required to undergo similar training.  —Rob Hill

A Crash Course in Budtender Schools

THC University
THC U offers a basic certification program designed for new staff. Grow Basics Certification, taught by world-renowned horticulturist Jorge Cervantes, is an introductory course for those who want to start a small retail grow. Courses offered monthly, quarterly, every six months, and annually. Tuition: $50 to $420.

Herbal Risings
Herbal Risings offers two online budtending classes: Budtending 101 covers the basics, while Scientific Budtender comprises six sessions covering therapeutic medicinal benefits, equipment and uses, flower classifications, compliance, and medical versus recreational. Online classes are $99; small-group classes on campus run $299.

Oaksterdam University
One of the first cannabis schools in the nation, Oaksterdam University offers comprehensive educational programs for almost every career interest, including horticulture, budtending, legal, cooking, economics, dispensary business solutions, civics, and grow management. Tuition ranges from $595 to $1,295; scholarships available.

Cannabis University Inc. of Colorado
Cannabis University offers all-day classes the second Saturday of each month and specialized classes one Monday evening per month. The curriculum includes federal marijuana laws, growing basics, customer service, inventory management, and preparing edibles and tinctures. Tuition: $100 to $250 per class.

Med Grow Cannabis College
Med Grow’s courses are heavy on education and advocacy for caregivers and budtenders. Students study legal issues and compliance, quality medicine, basic horticulture, cannabis history, customer service, and how to make edibles, drinks, tinctures, and hash. Classes are taught by Med Grow’s team of doctors. Tuition: $475.