If you’re looking for work as a budtender, you’ve probably run up against some serious competition. If you have been pounding the pavement without any legitimate experience or credentials, you’re probably running into some dead ends. In the early days of legalized medical marijuana, nearly anyone with the right connections could snap up one of the coveted positions without any prior training. Everyone was learning about strains by speaking with growers, formulators and self-taught cannabis gurus. Even so called marijuana “experts” never had any proper schooling simply because marijuana was illegal, even for medical purposes, and the subject was not offered by any legitimate academic institution.
Times have changed. Now that marijuana is recognized by esteemed authorities like the National Institute of Health, CDC and even, to a certain extent, the FDA, for its legitimate role in curing disease, the public demand for knowledgeable dealers who are qualified to advise customers about medicinal treatment options is at an all-time high.
Similar to the way customers ask trained holistic supplement sales professionals at stores like Whole Foods to help them decide which unregulated homeopathic remedies are best to treat their health conditions, budtenders are being asked questions about which strain and doses are best to treat conditions ranging from cancer to anxiety. If liability weren’t of paramount concern for dispensary owners, the well-being of their customers certainly is.
With more and more states adopting new legalization measures, we can expect a significant rise in the number of retail dispensaries that will need qualified budtenders to interface with curious newcomers, seasoned users and everyone in between.
What qualifies a budtender?
If you are serious about becoming a budtender, you’ll need more than a passion for pot or self-taught expertise as a cannabis connoisseur to compete with other applicants. Listing decades of sales experience as a black-market street vendor on your resume is likely a sure-fired way to ensure you don’t even get an interview.
If you have little to no experience or knowledge, you could apply for a support staff position like cashier or bookkeeper and learn what you can by watching budtenders at work. Whether or not you’re among the fortunate few to learn the new trade on the job, your chances of ever landing a budtending job will greatly improve with some verifiable training or credentials from a reputable business pro, teacher or academy.
Fortunately, a number of new courses are available now, with more emerging in the near future — some in classrooms and others online. There are a few that impressed us. But there are also a number that claim to provide the right training, but have less than favorable track record when it comes to their certification graduates getting real-life jobs.
In a recent series of articles offering advice to marijuana industry jobseekers, Trevor Smith, a marijuana business veteran with years of experience running a state-licensed seed-to-sale cannabis operation warned, “Be careful with ‘budtender certification’ companies, at least for now. While a number of existing programs do offer a comprhensive curriculum, some of them don’t thoroughly prepare you for a job in the cannabis industry.”
A national certification standard will eventually emerge, but until that happens, he said, “If you’re considering enrolling in a certification program, look at the results the previous graduates have had before spending money on a certification. Does the company have proof their graduates get hired? If not, what are you actually paying for that you can’t already learn from doing your own research at a fraction of the cost?”
In addition to getting some formal training, Smith also suggests conducting some independent research. Visiting dispensaries and talking to managers about what they look for in hiring new employees, reading some best-selling industry books by reputable authors like Jorge Cervantes, Ed Rosenthal, and Seymour Buds and learning all you can about compounds, extractions and edibles — including the differences between CBD and THC medicinals — are just a few homework assignments he recommends before going on a job interview.
Setting High Standards for the Cannabis Industry
Legitimizing the business of cannabis is a priority for business owners who want long term success. Ultimately, nationwide legalization depends upon public acceptance and that depends upon removing the stigma and stereotypes associated with marijuana. Since budtenders are front and center in dealing with the public, they have a responsibility to present themselves as both professional and knowledgeable. To keep the legalization movement strong, marijuana business owners are setting high standards for their staff. Short of experience, independent studies and formalized training is the best way for job applicants to show effort to meet those high standards.
Get the Training You Need
The following are a few training institutions we recommend:
Green CulturED Online Cannabis Education
Green CulturED has developed an online Budtender Certification course that can provide you with the skill-set and knowledge as it relates to the various strains of medical marijuana, dosing limitations, chemistry, compounds, growing and laws governing sales, social media promotion and advertising and managing inventory and sales. The 19-part course includes:
- 19 Course Videos (4:38:57 Time) with access to supplemental video materials
- Discussion Forum – Ask Questions, Get Answers
- Photo Glossary of strains and a Medical Marijuana Photo Dictionary
- 19 eBooks (117 Pages Total)
- Handouts including talking points, customer conversation tips, strain abbreviations and factual tables
- 19 Learning Outcome Assessments
- Certificate of Completion
The total cost of the Budtender Certification is $119, which makes it one of the most affordable comprehensive online programs on the market. Green CulturED also offers Master Grower certification courses for indoor, green house and hydroponic techniques.
Cannabis Training Institute (CTI)
Cannabis Training Institute offers online training for budtending under a different name, Dispensary Technician Certification. This course provides dispensary staff with operational, medicinal and customer relations knowledge built on industry best practices, with a focus on professionalism and community relations. In the 13-part course, students can also expect to learn about:
- Dispensary Technician Responsibilities
- Medical Cannabis Types
- Medical Conditions/Treatment Options
- Policies and Procedures (Operations, Inventory, and Sales)
- Patient Care and Education (Safety, Medicating, Tolerance)
Students who complete the course receive a CTI Dispensary Technician certificate. The cost of the program is $299.
Cannabis Trainers’ Sell-SMaRT™
Founded in 2014, Cannabis Trainers offers interactive, engaging training programs that promote the safe, responsible, and professional sale of cannabis products. Led by Maureen McNamara—a speaker, facilitator, and trainer with more than 20 years of experience training thousands of professionals around the world—Cannabis Trainers’ Sell-SMaRT™ course was the first Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division-approved Responsible Vendor Program for marijuana sales.
What impressed us the most about Cannabis Trainers is that they have customized training with feedback from and collaboration with industry professionals, enforcement divisions, attorneys, insurance agents and the health department to ensure the information you receive promotes the safe production and responsible consumption of cannabis.
Designed for students that already have knowledge about cannabis products, the Sell-SMaRT™ program strives to ensure a “Responsible ~ Aware ~ Knowledgeable” process of safe cannabis production and sales. The intensive day-long workshop prepares budtenders, cannabis consultants, owners, managers and all front line store staff to effectively and safely handle complex situations in a dispensary operation. The course covers:
- Section I ~ The Legal Information
- Section II ~ Safety & Security
- Section III ~ Checking ID’s
- Section IV ~ Handling Tricky Situations
- Section V ~ Consumer Safety & Education
While Cannabis Trainers currently offers its Responsible Vendor programs only in Denver, Colorado, it plans to expand to additional states as legalization occurs. Upcoming class dates are 6/14 – Denver- 12:30-5:30pm and 7/19 – Denver- 12:30-5:30pm and the cost is affordable: $149 or $97 for National Cannabis Association Members. Cannabis Trainers also offer a workshop on safe practices of producing quality edibles.
Trichome Institute Budtender Training
While the Trichome Institute Budtender Training courses are currently offline to revamp their online learning portal, its principals will be featured panelists on responsible vendor training in NCIA’s upcoming Cannabis Business Summit. Trichome’s Budtender Training was designed to instruct dispensary staff on key business issues, such as legal, scientific, and medical applications of cannabis. The course will also include how to identify strains, understand the different cannabis products, provide good customer service, and conduct the establishment’s business in a safe and legal manner.
The online course includes the Budtender Training textbook that uses certified medical science to inform budtenders on tough topics such as time-to-effect for different forms of THC. This training will help the budtender explain what the published findings say. This text or training does not, however, attempt to instruct employees how to give medical or legal advice. The Trichome course provides students with the following syllabus:
- Consumer Tolerance
- Cannabis Flower – Smoke and Vapor
- Hash and differentiating concentrates such as dabbing, wax, crumble, shatter, etc.
- Sublingual, Transdermal and Topical alternatives to applying medicine
- Product Weight and Conversions including the metric/american mash-up, the Colorado cannabis weight standard and potency
- Customer Service best practices, including the use of slang
In the past, Trichome’s Budtender Training courses were $199, but upcoming course pricing is not currently available online.