How to get hired as a budtender

Published on October 5, 2022
Colorado cannabis sales have resulted in more than $1 billion in taxes for the state of Colorado
So you want to be a budtender. Here's how to make the best first impression. (Brennan Linsley/AP Photo)

Demand for personable, knowledgeable dispensary staff has never been higher. With adult-use cannabis sales projected to start in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York by the end of the year, the people of the East Coast need budtenders they can trust.

Budtenders help consumers find cannabis products for their tastes while getting comfortable with the plant itself. The best budtenders deftly show their passion for cannabis, exceptional knowledge of products, and great customer service.

A budtending job looks like many other retail gigs—building direct relationships with customers, a great attitude, and a strong work ethic are keys to success. But many aspects, namely the weed, set it apart.

Regardless of which state market you hope to enter, there are a few basic commonalities to note before sending out job applications. Here are some important things to keep in mind before applying.

Research companies before you apply

The cannabis industry has exploded in the past several years, and the number of companies to potentially work for seems daunting. At the same time, you can be picky about where you apply.

With background checks, onboarding procedures, and individual company hiring policies, landing a dispensary job can take weeks. Research the company you could be working for before putting in all that effort.

The process and requirements for a medical dispensary versus a recreational shop will vary, so figure out which market suits your skills best. If you live in a medical-only state, you will need to get your medical card as well.  

Think about values you’d like your ideal employer to embody. Most dispensaries list their mission statement on their website, including if they are minority-owned, woman-owned, veteran-led, a local start-up, etc. You can access more information about any company’s licensing, owners, or investors through your state’s cannabis control bureau or commission.

How to make a budtending career a reality

Browse the dispensary’s menu before an interview and take a visit if you can. Check the location’s menu online at Leafly—the reviews section, in particular, can help you see which products customers are calling out by name.

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Hone your customer service experience

Illinois first day of recreational adult use cannabis sales on January 1, 2020
(Taylor Glascock for Leafly)

At the end of the day, a dispensary is still a store. Some prior experience in a retail or customer service role goes a long way in landing a budtender job. Different companies have different standards for prior experience. Emphasize any previous job serving customers or selling products on your application.

As a budtender, you’ll build trust and forge bonds with repeat customers and patients. In applications, try to highlight examples where you went out of your way to fulfill a customer’s needs and wants.

What to know before you visit a dispensary for the first time

A large part of a budtender’s role is to serve the needs of the individual customer—the ability to make connections, listen to and understand dispensary customers and patients, and maintain a helpful attitude.

You don’t need a certificate

Be careful with budtender certification programs. While several existing programs offer a comprehensive curriculum, not all of them thoroughly prepare you for a job in the cannabis industry. They also aren’t necessary most of the time. 

If you’re considering enrolling in a certification program, look up previous graduates before spending money. Does the company have proof that its graduates get hired? If not, it could be a waste of money.

We at Leafly have our own budtender education course, Leafly Learn, with a comprehensive approach to the basics of cannabis science, dosage, and experiences.

How to use Leafly Learn for budtenders

Show your passion for cannabis

This one is a given—you wouldn’t be looking to land a budtender job without some affinity for cannabis and the array of products dispensaries offer.

When applying, emphasize the personal effect cannabis has had on your life—whether as a medical patient, a hobbyist cook who infuses cannabis into dishes, or smoking a bowl with your friends. This sincerity will also show your customers you take your job seriously.

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The best budtenders have rich, powerful stories about the plant that can connect with customers on a personal level, showing the positive influence of cannabis on their lifestyle.

A genuine passion and appreciation for cannabis and its uses lead to the best customer connections. Show potential employers how much you care about cannabis and want to share that enthusiasm with others.

Know your cannabis products

Legalization 2.0 edibles, topicals, extracts, concentrates, Dosist
(Jesse Milns/Leafly)

You don’t have to start out as an expert by any means; much of the job involves learning as you go. That being said, brush up on general terminology, and consumption methods, and build a solid understanding of how the plant is grown.

Become familiar with:

  • Different cannabis effects (sleepy, relaxed, energetic, focused, uplifting)
  • Cannabis types (sativa, indica, hybrid)
  • Some of the more common terpenes (myrcene, limonene, caryophyllene)
  • Concentrate consistencies and extraction methods (shatter vs. wax, butane vs. ethanol)
  • Vape oil types (distillate vs. full-spectrum)
  • Edible dosing
  • How to use accessories like pipes and vaporizers
  • Local possession and consumption laws

While personal experimentation with products is a fun way to gain first-hand knowledge, online resources are your best friend for the more technical learning. Discover thousands of strains right here on Leafly, as well as our Learn and Cannabis 101 sections.

You can also visit individual brand websites for information about specific products and production methods.

Stay adaptable in an evolving industry

Adaptability is crucial to being a successful budtender, even in more stable, long-running markets such as Colorado and California. With cannabis legislation still evolving, policies and operations in dispensaries can change often.

New laws can add or remove processes to your budtending duties, and state cannabis bureaus often make surprise visits to cannabis dispensaries to make sure all regulations and policies are being upheld correctly.

Many small cannabis companies operate under a start-up mentality, so budtenders need to be flexible and take on many different responsibilities. Entry-level employees and upper management usually work together regularly.

The US cannabis industry now supports 428,059 jobs

Stay on top of new trends and products in order to give customers the best recommendations. One of the best ways to stay up to speed is to monitor social media and industry blogs and chat with sales reps.

This also offers great opportunities for upward mobility for budtenders, so if you’re interested in advancing in the cannabis industry, don’t be shy in asking about opportunities for growth in the role during an interview.

As midterm elections approach, multiple states have cannabis legislation on the ballot. The industry will never be as small as it is now. If you’re waiting on a sign to start those applications, this is it.

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Grace Griffin
Grace Griffin
Grace Griffin is a journalist based in Massachusetts with recent work in The Boston Globe, Adolescent US, and The Austin-American Statesman. To see more work or cat photos, follow her on Twitter @GraceMGriffin.
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