“Budtender” isn’t exactly the term that many of them prefer to use for themselves. Many of them consider it a tongue and cheek title. Katie, a budtender in Colorado tells us that many budtenders prefer to be called “dispensary agents.” Out of towners seeking a recreational toke smirk at the term every time they hear it according to Mia Jane who blogs about tending buds in Colorado.
Budtenders as people are as diverse as the strains they sell but the best of them all take their work seriously and the last thing that any budtender worth their sativa…or indica would ever want for the public to assume is that they get paid to slack off and smoke all day.
Some marijuana dispensaries in California won’t allow their budtenders to smoke at all. Some won’t allow their budtenders to smoke during rush hours if they are concerned with maintaining a professional image. Other Cali dispensaries will only allow their employees to medicate with edibles or smokeless concentrates and some dispensary owners in California can and will allow their budtenders to smoke while at work budtending.
Smoking on premise at a dispensary is illegal in Colorado however. So forget about the lazy budtender stoner stereotype.
Budtenders Have Big Brains
Bagging up buds may seem like a straightforward job regardless of what state the marijuana is sold in, however you can’t exactly be a dope if you want to sell “dope” legally. You have to pass a criminal background check to tend buds in Colorado. The honest fact of the matter is that many if not most of the people who are now working in the legal cannabis industry aren’t new to it. Many professional budtenders were savvy enough to run successful underground businesses while evading detection and punishment by criminal authorities while many of these same people helped decriminalize and legalize marijuana. Most budtenders are people who suffered, struggled, fought hard and continue to do so for their and our rights to legal cannabis and this is why budtenders take their jobs and more importantly their patients and customers so seriously in spite of the stereotypes.
“Kevo” a friend we contacted for an interview and who agreed to share his experiences for this post, first began illegally growing and dealing marijuana on and off again when he was seventeen years for thirteen years before he moved to Colorado where he has been working as a professional in the legal business of buds for the past year. He told us that huge corporations came into Colorado with all the money in the world looking to hire people who could grow not just one but hundreds to thousands of beautiful buds which is no straight forward task. Lots of people who were able to land jobs in the legal industry have advanced degrees in horticulture and botany and or a lot of sales and business experience according to Kevo but many successful workers in the new industry learned what they know about the plant based on their experiences from growing and dealing it illegally.
Budtenders are people who, ironically, spend most of their ten hour average long days keeping up on a variety of chores to make sure that they are successfully complying rather than breaking laws in between serving the needs of their cannabis customers. Medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado cannot open before 8am, cannot close after 12pm midnight and recreational dispensaries cannot stay open after 7pm. Budtenders ensure that the building and the set-up of the dispensary itself meet health inspection and fire safety standards. Patient identification cards have to be checked. The marijuana itself has to accounted for from seed to sale so that it can never be sold on an illegal underground market and it must be weighed and packaged safely and accurately.
Kevo explained to us in his interview that the marijuana enforcement division and the fire marshal routinely visit at random to make sure his business is in order. A row of plants a few inches too close to the electricity or heat can cause problems in terms of fines and staying open for business. Kevo explained that the legal regulation of cannabis in Colorado is still very much an experiment in progress and that cannabis compliance is updated and amended frequently. Kevo also told us that this can make the computer systems that tracks the magic trees a bit tedious to learn how to use and stay proficient with.
People would probably inadvertently do unsafe, unhealthy things if there wasn’t a reefer regulatory system according to Kevo who feels that it is a good thing overall frustrating as it can make his job at times.
Cool vs Uncool Cannabis Customers
Kevo described budtending as similar to bartending in the sense that sometimes interacting with the public and patients is often either incredibly pleasant or completely horrendous with few exceptions in between. Don’t be the kind of deadbeat cannabis customer who hangs around the shop asking for freebies, don’t take advantage of your budtender for free-therapy and above all don’t try to have a brain measuring contest with your budtender when you’re talking pot in the shop, especially if the lines are long and especially if you want your budtender to respect you as a person and develop a relationship with you in order to best serve your specific health needs.
Kevo told us that he has a particular pet peeve for customers who think they know more about pot than they really do and refuse to try a sativa-dominated hybrid because they think they need a pure sativa strain for example.
Educating the public is the primary responsibility and joy of every professional career budtender in addition to keeping the public safe. “I realize as a budtender, I am also some people’s first experience with cannabis, and take such a responsibility with great care and pride.” Mia Jane writes about how it warms her soul to share her personal pot experiences with her patrons in order to help them feel better.
Budtenders need to be able to do more than merely understand and describe the different effects of indica and sativa dominant strains of marijuana or the dazzling array of smokeless edibles, concentrates and tinctures that their patrons can use instead of smokeable cannabis flower. Katie points out how the best bud tenders study up on the latest medical science as much as they keep up with their knowledge of the legal system’s requirements. “Our patients range from epileptic babies to elderly cancer patients and everyone in between, so it’s important to constantly be continuing our education.”
Budtenders are good listeners who spend much of their days asking people how they want to feel after smoking pot in order to get a sense of what strains her patients might want to try the most. Sloane Poorman will ask questions like “how often do you smoke?” and “when was the last time you’ve smoked?” in order to get a sense of the tolerance level of her new patients.
Budtenders enjoy lots of obvious perks. Entry level budtenders in Colorado typically enjoy earning at least two dollars more than the minimum wage. Kevo told us that he, like many budtenders, loved all the different varieties of discounted marijuana they get access too. Indeed, sampling some of every strain sold in the shop is compulsory for Sloan Poorman and her colleagues. The main thing that Kevo impressed upon us how much he truly enjoyed being able to openly talk about marijuana and interact with other cannabis consumers as part of a career he loves but never could have imagined for himself since it was illegal. Kevo felt it was a privilege to be one of the first generation of workers working in a new legal weed industry.
Many marijuana budtenders apparently enjoy observing the beneficial effects that legal cannabis contributes to people’s individual lives not only on a case-by-case basis but also in terms of the greater good that legal cannabis creates for society. Budtenders are aware that they are catalyzing social changes. Proud as she is of her state, Mia bemoans the increases in commuting time, housing rates and some of the unfamiliar attitudes of the hords of transplanted people pursuing their rights to use pot without persecution in her native state of Colorado. Mia hopes for the legalization of marijuana across the nation because she loves the reefer revolution that she has helped create in Colorado through understanding, compassion and education but also because she wants all of the “greenrushers” to enjoy legalized cannabis in their own states so that greenrushers will return to their states so that population levels, along with Mia’s rent and daily commuting time can grow back down to their “normal” levels in Colorado.