Sure, budtenders stand at your weed store counter, but they stand for a lot more. Budtenders stand up for strains they love. They stand in the shoes of the producers who want their flower, oils, edibles, or whatever else to sell. They stand for their employer: The shop will be judged by their credibility, integrity, friendliness, dress, and demeanor.
Budtenders stand tall on the front line of liability, defending what could be prosecuted as a federal crime. If the Justice Department comes down on the industry, budtenders would be the easiest to arrest. So, next time you see a budtender standing around…it isn’t for nothing.
That budtender stands for something.
Budtenders must be savvy if they stand a chance of surviving in an industry that sometimes isn’t understood and of which some may disapprove. The average budtender working in a recreational store or medical dispensary must possess an encyclopedic breadth of knowledge about strains and genetics in order to characterize a Northern Lights crossed with that Oaxacan landrace sativa. They must speak as an authority on distillation, cultivation, organic gardening, nutrients, pesticides, molds, parasites, curing, nitrogen packaging, product marketing, hydroponics versus rockwool versus soil, sun versus halogen versus LED. They must know whether the kitchen that processed a given edible also processed peanuts.
Oh, yeah—they’d best know whether that edible is vegan. The last thing anyone wants to do is piss off a vegan.
Budtenders field questions from people with serious medical conditions, but they can’t give any sort of medical advice. They can, however, act as advocates, directing people to medical professionals in hope of helping someone in dire need. In that respect, they play a crucial role in someone’s quality of life. The burden weighs heavily, daily, and should never be taken lightly.
Your friendly neighborhood budtender sometimes also plays the role of a classic bartender—the one who knows every patron’s name. Customers want someone who knows their “go-to” strains or can provide a great recommendation suited to surviving a visit from out-of-town in-laws, breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, going to church…you name it.
The insight the average budtender possesses about products, what moves and what sits too long on the shelf, offers an invaluable resource for producers and vendors. A vendor day, when a producer shows up to hype his or her products, should be a chance to educate, hear critical feedback, and generally build a relationship. All too often there is scant interaction beyond perhaps handing out some logo shwag and hoping the budtenders will recommend their products blindly.
The disparity probably arises from an unfortunate perception. Many vendors seem to think the average budtender is not much more than the hired help, the lowest rung on the ladder of marijuana business success. However, no one plays a more critical role in connecting consumers to brands or strains.
Hopefully, standing in a budtender’s shoes for a few minutes will be the first step on the path to success.
A vendor-processor involved in Co2 extraction, processing, sales and marketing for canna-retail in Washington State, Farrell Timlake also consults on apps focusing on the marijuana social culture. His thorough knowledge of the industry encompasses the viewpoints of wholesalers, retailers, and consumers.