How to make a budtending career a reality

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Leafly answers some of your top questions about how to become a budtender


As the cannabis industry continues to grow in the United States, budtending is one of the most straightforward ways to get into the business and build a career. Loving weed is a great foundation for becoming a budtender, but what else goes into getting the job?

A budtender is an employee at a cannabis store who is responsible for helping customers. The job description for a budtender may contain responsibilities like:

  • Helping medical patients or customers find the right products
  • Understanding the newest products to emerge in your local market
  • Making sure the dispensary stays clean and tidy

Depending on what state you are in, you may be responsible for honoring the privacy of a patient’s health information, helping customers understand purchasing limits on flower or concentrates, or just being that one person who knows what it’s like to actually try a new product.

But, there’s plenty more to know about how to become a budtender or getting a job at a dispensary.


Does weed have to be legal in my state for me to be a budtender?

OG Kush in a medical prescription bag

Cannabis has to be medically or recreationally legal in your state to budtend at a legal dispensary. If your state only has medical dispensaries, you should be prepared to discuss cannabis from a strictly medicinal perspective with all clientele.

Do I need budtender certification?

Certifications are nice to have but usually aren’t mandatory.

What’s most important is that you understand the market you work in and how you can best serve the people coming in the door. You don’t need a certification to talk about terpenes, but you do need to be able to speak confidently about what’s in the products available.

We spoke with Ace Rowe, a Product Specialist at Swade in the medically legal state of Missouri, about the three most important things to know about working in a dispensary.

“Product knowledge, being able to chat with all sorts of people, and enthusiasm for asking questions – both for continued training and to learn the most about the client,” she says.

Ace has had the budtending mindset for much longer than her job has been legal in the state. Like many people across the country, she set her eyes on the prize and jumped into the industry as soon as everything aligned.

“I’ve been in sales since 2010, so I learned that if I’m going to be fulfilled at work, I have to be passionate about the product. For me, it was passion for the plant and passion for helping match people’s needs and wants to find meaningful solutions. I dreamt I was working in a dispensary, applied, and went to a job fair.”

She knows that working in a med state comes with more complex interactions with clients, which can’t be taught in a certification course.

“In recreational [markets,] people want to flash their ID, pick the highest THC or the largest quantity of edibles, whatever is the best deal. In medical, we look into dosage, terpenes, ingredients, all factors. I’m able to provide more holistic options.

For instance: instead of medicating at night to sleep soundly, smoking a lot of heavy, strong indica in the evening or taking a large-dose edible, what about a low-dose edible or maybe some CBD throughout the day or in the morning to address baseline tension so you don’t need so much at night?”

There’s no certification needed to become a budtender, but Ace’s very real advice is to focus on the three E’s: elevating knowledge (about cannabis), empathizing with customers, and keeping education at the forefront.

Do I need budtender training?

Budtender training is helpful, but not required to enter into the industry.

Budtenders should always be hungry to learn more and provide a good dispensary experience. Ace enjoys the ongoing education provided by her employer and learns a lot while she is on the job.

Related

How to get hired as a budtender

You can begin your own personal budtender training by figuring out your budtending style and learning how to communicate your knowledge about weed to the people who need it. Budtenders are there to help with a range of issues from health needs to the need to chill.

Be prepared for these situations: how to address customers professionally under state law and how to build relationships with patients or customers that will keep them coming back.

How can I stand out as a budtender applicant?

Stack of books with laptop on wooden table

Resources like Leafly’s Cannabis 101 and Learn sections provide plenty of free information to start growing your comfort with the plant and learning how to talk the talk. Learning about the endocannabinoid system, different kinds of cannabinoids, or different ways to consume weed are never bad starting points. And don’t forget about all the good people on YouTube and Reddit who are willing to share their knowledge for free.

If you do have money to invest, there are options through cannabis colleges like Oaksterdam University or the recently launched Harrington Institute at Cleveland School of Cannabis, which focuses on providing equitable access to the industry.

Offerings like these provide a concentrated, methodical learning experience that will form a foundation for a career that can grow beyond budtending.

How much do budtenders make?

A new 2021 look at budtending jobs says wages vary by location, starting between $13-16, and rising to $18-20 per hour.

Do I need to go to college to become a budtender?

Budtending is often an entry-level position that can lead to more opportunities depending on what you want to do. While there are many programs offered by accredited universities to help people learn more about the cannabis plant and the industry, these programs are not always the most accessible.

Fees and other systemic obstacles can prevent people from beginning a career in weed, but those same people may possess a lot of knowledge about the plant and how their communities consume it.

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How to turn a degree into a cannabis career

That being said, if you’re going to a traditional two- or four-year college with the desire to work in weed, there are a few different avenues you can take.

Biomedical and biological sciences will help you with a foundational understanding of the plant and the body. Agriculture classes can help you learn about growing weed at scale.

If you’re interested in cannabis entrepreneurship or building your own cannabis brand, you can dive deeper into business, economics, or marketing classes. And there’s no cannabis product manufacturing without the engineers who get us there.

Is budtending a promising career?

Cannabis isn’t just a promising industry, it’s an essential business in the United States. Depending on your goals and location, budtending can lead to a long career or just be a job you do to pay the bills. It’s a great entry point into the cannabis industry and provides you the means to learn a lot about weed.

Most importantly, budtending is about helping people access and discover cannabis, establishing knowledge of the plant, and helping people find what works for them, whether medically or recreationally.

Janessa Bailey's Bio Image

Janessa Bailey

Janessa was born and raised in the Midwest, and serves as Leafly’s current culture editor. She has a background in content, activism, and African-American Studies.

Janessa is the creator of Lumen and Seeds of Change.

View Janessa Bailey’s articles



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