With widening legalization, the emerging cannabis market will be putting its best foot forward, and that foot is likely to be attached to a budtender – the first point of contact for patients and now, more retail customers.
The job also is viewed as an entry-level position by many curious employment seekers.
Good budtenders (like feet and buds) must be groomed and manicured. MG Retailer asked some L.A. area dispensaries about the expanding role of the budtender and how that will look going forward.
According to Pep “Blackbeard” Tintari, owner of Proposition D-compliant, Pre-ICO Green Light Discount Pharmacy in Sylmar, CA, plenty of people are looking to break into the business and wannabe budtenders are getting competitive. In fact, he’s sailing in an “ocean” full of them.
“I want to say [potential budtenders] are very hard to find, but they’re not. I know that sounds shitty, but hear me out – lots of people want the job and are very enthusiastic about the opportunity. Almost everyone that interviews is crazy knowledgeable and eager nowadays,” Tintari said.
“It’s really a very cool thing. People really want the job and are genuinely excited for the experience. Don’t get me wrong – there are some horrible budtenders, but there is an ocean full of candidates that are waiting to replace them.”
Well-trained staff that works together smoothly is still hard to achieve, Tintari acknowledged from his decade-plus experience at Green Light.
“All that being said – I obviously feel very lucky with our staff and would find most of them hard to replace at this point. I know that is talking out of both sides of my mouth, but both answers are true,” Tintari said.
MedMen dispensary in West Hollywood, CA, was featured on election night by local L.A. news broadcasts covering Proposition 64. With merchandising that’s been compared to an Apple Store – digital menus presented on counter-mounted tablets and minimalist décor – the store takes a slightly different approach to its hiring methods.
“MedMen looks for candidates with core competencies such as personal excellence, professionalism and the ability to connect with people. Knowledge of cannabis is not necessary. We believe if the core competencies are there, we can build the knowledge base. We look for people who are genuinely passionate about cannabis and the future of this industry,” said MedMen Communications Director Daniel Yi.
“There’s a misconception that ‘budtending’ is easy, laid-back work,” Yi added. “It’s a very fast-paced position that requires real critical-thinking and customer service skills. We look for people who are driven to constantly learn. Budtenders are a big part of the future of this company.”
Tintari concurred with the real work aspects, “There are some chores – lol. You have to keep your cases clean, your work area clean, inventory and cashing out your drawers at the end of the night. I think they feel like it will all be fun and games but there are the real world aspects of every job that have to be handled.
Potential hires come from everywhere: Friends of friends, Craigslist, ZipRecruiter, industry employment boards, direct online contact and submitted resumes.
“I love recommendations from people I know – but not necessarily other budtenders,” Tintari explained. “I like a person I hire to have a clean slate of knowledge and not any preconceived notions of how the shop already works. If they are recommendations from friends, they don’t really know how my place works – which I like because they won’t have any ideas or inherited bad habits. Craigslist usually is very effective for me – so I like it.”
While Tintari prefers employees that can learn and adapt to his store’s style and customer community, he also believes that experience with product is a definite advantage. “Friendly, with a superior knowledge of flower and products. I like my budtenders to be into the trends of our industry. I like it when they tell me what the new device is or the cool new wraps are. You can usually tell if they are hip and friendly through the course of a couple of interviews. Trust and loyalty are great qualities, but very hard to identify in early interviews.”
“Be friendly and a people person,” Tintari added. “A genuine smile goes a long way in our industry as long as you know what you’re talking about. Don’t come to your interview high – lol.”
Yi also encouraged potential applicants to study up, though MedMen (and most dispensaries) will train a great applicant. “If you’re serious about working in the cannabis industry, educate yourself as much as possible before you start applying for jobs.”
That’s what dispensaries want – but what are customers looking for?
“Customers are looking for knowledgeable, personable budtenders with whom they can build a trusted relationship. The job of a budtender is not to make choices for customers, but to help them make their own choices,” Yi suggested.
In the future, Tintari sees the role of the budtender being somewhat similar to its predecessor, the bartender or cocktail server, as well as requiring a pharmacist’s skills to cater to medical patients – all that, wrapped up in a very consumer-friendly, service-oriented package.
“In a patients’ case – I’m very concerned with what you can afford, what will help you the best,” Tintari said. “As a recreational user our main concern is providing you the best possible opportunity to have an amazing experience.”
“Up sale – up sale – up sale! ‘Would you like something to drink with your meal? Appetizer? Side salad? Could I offer you some dessert?’” he laughed. “I think all of that, I want to happen… We will just be another service industry soon. I would model ourselves after the successes that came before us. Customer service will be a must. Good product is nice but the feeling they get when they come in is paramount. Usually the budtender is the core interaction and in a recreational world – when sales are the key – the role will become even more crucial.”
PASSION OR CAREER? WE ASKED TOP BUDTENDERS WHY THEY DO IT
“Both! I love what I do, and I want to grow with ShowGrow and the industry. I love making sure the patients are helped with whatever they come in for and introducing them to everything we have.” -Bri Finell, ShowGrow
“The cannabis industry is exactly where I wanted to be once I left my old job and, fortunately, I found myself employed with one of the most reputable and fastest growing companies in the nation. It was a big leap, but at this point I’m not only passionate about what I do but I’m also very grateful just to be a part of it all.” -Cameron Mason, Good Chemistry
“A passion. I truly believe that cannabis can change the world. It has its hand in many industries and has the potential to change them for the better. For example, this plant can inspire local, regenerative agriculture and affordable healthcare and wellness.” -Emma Chasen, Farma