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How to get hired as a budtender in Canada

October 20, 2021

In June, Business of Cannabis estimated that the number of licensed adult-use cannabis stores across Canada has grown by approximately 126% in the last year to a massive 2,046 stores coast-to-coast.

That’s a lot of opportunity for job seekers who may want to repurpose their existing retail experience, switch industries to pursue something new, or are curious about entry-level roles in the burgeoning cannabis industry.

But before bailing on your current job, know that most budtending jobs require a basic knowledge of cannabis, and all require a certification that shows you understand cannabis basics and the laws regulating it.

A number of supplementary courses have been designed to educate on cannabis, and here’s what to expect from them.

Required certification in provinces and territories

CannSell standard certification covers cannabis basics, the federal and provincial guidelines, common compliance issues that arise, and the potential risks and harms associated with cannabis use. They also offer an expert level course in cannabis history, genetics, growing, packaging, and how cannabinoids work in the human body.

The number of students who have taken Ontario’s required course CannSell has tripled in the last year to more than 26,000, according to co-CEOs Jonathan Carley and Andy Deonarine. 

Since they acquired the course from Lift & Co. about one year ago, they said they’ve been smoothing out bugs and payment processes on the online delivery platform and updating evolving regulations.

“We aim to provide the best user experience for the education that we’re providing, and having it be up-to-date, and bridge the gap between brands and budtenders,” said Deonarine in a phone interview.

“At the end of the day, there are many other companies entering the space, or have been around for a little bit, but there’s only one that is a sole mandated training program of the AGCO.”

Modern notebook, laptop and cannabis plant in flower pot isolated on bright yellow background.
Budtenders are trained on cannabis products, regulations, and responsible consumption. (Adobe Stock)

PEI and Nova Scotia also use CanSell, but otherwise, each province has their own requirements. In Alberta, the training program for budtenders is called SellSafe, and in Saskatchewan, it’s the CannaSell SK Responsible Cannabis Sales Training program. In BC, Selling It Right is offered through Responsible Service BC.

A Smart Choices Cannabis Retail Certification is required by the The Liquor, Gaming, & Cannabis Authority of Manitoba prior to starting work. Quebec has the Société Québécoise du Cannabis training program. The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation take care of training through SkillsPass.

For those looking for budtender gigs up north, the North West Territories covers employee training internally. The Yukon offers a Be A Responsible Server- Cannabis (BARS-C) program, and Nunavut uses their own Cannabis Retail Employee Training Program.

Bonus points for educational add-ons

Beyond provincial requirements, budtenders can pursue additional education. Tabitha Fritz launched her online course LevelUp after developing in-store budtender training programs and seeing an opportunity to help staff better understand cannabis.

“You can present facts to someone and say, here are all the facts about cannabis, cannabinoids, terpenes, your endocannabinoid system and concentrates,” she explained.

“But that doesn’t necessarily mean that someone’s going to digest that and internalize that. [This course] takes the learner on a journey through cannabis, how it works with our bodies, and why it is so unique to each consumer.” 

Fritz delivering LevelUp to some budtenders in Goderich, Ontario. (Fritz)

There are many non-mandatory online courses, like educational modules by CannaReps, Cannabis Training Canada, the Cannabis Institute of Canada, and others, are available online.

Rather than investing too much in your own education pre-employment, courses could be better-suited for existing employees who want to take their skills to the next level.

Ask your employer to coordinate and invest in additional education, or investigate group rates.

Don’t forget the importance of soft skills

Krista Raymer, co-founder of retail consultants Vetrina Group, said budtender training and education will continue to evolve in the coming years. While cannabis concepts and products are one set of skills, she said soft skills should emphasize budtender training.

“One of the biggest trends that I would like to see continue to develop is that we become less about transactions and more about the opportunity to sell and share product information that is relevant to the customer,” she said.

Rather than simply recommending a product to a customer stopping by a store and making a sale, Raymer says conversations can be broader and deeper and more focused on the general needs a shopper is hoping to address rather than specific products.

“Our budtenders can elevate that experience,” she said. “There is a big gap in the industry in that space right now, and it’s because it’s really hard to execute and takes a lot of time, a lot of training. And since we’ve seen a really high turnover rate with budtenders, it’s hard to make that kind of investment.”

Talk to your local budtenders

Finally, some of the most valuable budtender education can come from hands-on product workshops with brand reps or the ability to try products for themselves, according to Alex Pollard, one of the founders of union organizers United Weed Workers.

Some stores will offer employees product discounts, but it can be expensive for budtenders, who, according to Indeed, make on average of $16.35/hour.

“Each store and brand tends to do things their own way, but stores that encourage the brand reps and territory managers to interact with budtenders and foster those relationships is really something special,” shares Pollard.

Before signing up for a course, talk to existing budtenders to find out what they wish they had known before starting out in the industry and whether or not a course was worth the money.

And remember, employers should invest in their workforce—always ask your employer to coordinate training on your behalf.

With files from Ashley Keenan.

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Kate Robertson

Kate Robertson writes about cannabis, culture and more. She is based in Toronto.

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