6 Budtenders Tell Us What It’s Really Like To Work In Cannabis

As the world continues to turn (albeit it very slowly, how is it not April 59th right now...), we come again to the unofficial National Marijuana Day — 420. This year, the holiday is void of its typical celebrants. There are no college students spread out on picnic blankets with bongs and endless snacks, no pot-themed parties across the country, and not a single person will be celebrating anywhere outside of their immediate home unit (hopefully, please stay inside).

Though there won't be any public partying this year, in some states, budtenders (people who work at cannabis stores) are considered essential workers. Perhaps not an obvious necessity, budtenders still go to work every day to provide medicinal cannabis for those who need it, and in places like California, those who just want it to get through quarantine. Ahead, we spoke with budtenders across the country about what their jobs are really like.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Victoria (Vjack) Jackson, Budtender at From The Earth in Los Angeles, CA


What is the day to day of a budtender like?
"As a budtender and advocate for cannabis, I aim to educate the consumers and share at least one more thing about cannabis they didn’t know before coming into the store. In return, I learn something as well because it helps me to understand different perspectives on how and why they use cannabis."


What is your salary (or the average salary/hourly wage at your shop)?
"On average I’d say your budtender makes $14/hr. Remember to always tip your budtender!"

How did you get into budtending/the cannabis space?
"From my experience, being raised in a Black and Latinx community, the stigmatization of cannabis negatively affected my peers. Its use was discouraged, mainly due to the unsuccessful and harmful campaign for the war on drugs. So, once I did my research, I immediately decided to advocate for cannabis and educate people."

What is the strangest/most unexpected part of your job?
"The weirdest part about my job is that I’m involved in a business that was highly illegal just a few years ago."
What's the hardest part about your job?
"As a budtender, the toughest part is seeing consumers still being denied access to medicate."
What's the best part?
"The best part about being in the industry is knowing I am a part of something bigger than myself. Budtending gives you a front-row seat to see how many people cannabis has helped. I also enjoy getting the chance to work to destigmatize cannabis."
What is it like being a woman in the cannabis space?
"As a black woman in this industry, I definitely shine a light on the cannabis industry’s inclusivity problem. It is deeper than advocating for just cannabis legalization, but advocating for social equity for people of color in the industry."

Kaylyn Smith, Senior Patient Consultant at Beyond/Hello in Philadelphia, PA


What is the day to day of a budtender like?
"The day to day life of a budtender starts by waking up to smell the flower! Haha well, in some states...Pennsylvania has very strict laws when it comes to flower. Everything is prepackaged here, so you really have to go off of lineage, terpenes, and word of mouth/personal experience with each strain. It's fun to compare favorites, talk to folks about which products are helping them most, and waiting for new stuff to come in! Other than that, it’s mostly just keeping busy taking orders, keeping things up to date on your menus, and trying to keep up with your cannabis knowledge!" 

What is your salary (or the average salary/hourly wage at your shop)?
"The starting wage at Beyond/Hello is $15. I'm paid hourly at $16 as a Senior Patient Consultant and there is room for growth!"

How did you get into budtending/the cannabis space?
"I was lucky enough to get into the cannabis industry after making a move from Maine to Pennsylvania. I was a regular cannabis user before moving and saw the position posted online. You don't have to have any kind of special experience with cannabis to get into the cannabis space, just a passion to learn about the science of the plant and wanting to help others. All it took for me to become a patient consultant was honestly sharing my prior experiences with cannabis while applying for the job!"

What is the strangest/most unexpected part of your job?
"The most unexpected part of my job is probably when you have an older patient walk in and dive straight into talking about high THC concentrates like they've been doing it since they were born."

What's the hardest part about your job?
"The hardest part about my job is definitely working through the trial and error period a lot of people find themselves in when looking for a product that works best for their pain. Sometimes it takes a few attempts and a few different products to find the best match. "

What's the best part?
"The best part of my job is definitely the opposite end of that spectrum and helping people find the product that does work best for them. To see the 180 that can take place with someone after getting the relief they've been waiting for. The stigma against cannabis is still very apparent. It’s really rewarding to see someone who comes in completely intimidated by the thought of cannabis use at first come back after a few months as a cannabis pro!"

What is it like being a minority in the cannabis space?
"I identify as non-binary trans and use they/them and I find working in a cannabis space as a trans person to be really rewarding! I think cannabis, in general, makes people more prone to be able to talk to one another and it induces some deep thinking in a lot of us. I'm lucky enough to be working in a store right in the gayborhood of Philadelphia, so there's definitely a vibe of understanding. People are still working on getting pronouns right all the time but Beyond/Hello offers pronouns stickers to make it a bit easier for folks to be gendered correctly and that helps a lot."

Is there anything else you'd like to share?
"If you are passionate about cannabis, I would definitely recommend applying to work at a dispensary if you ever have the opportunity. I had always dreamed of working with cannabis and it has been an amazing experience. Through this job, I've had the opportunity to meet folks who are truly dedicated to the wellbeing of others."

Kristine Cajucom, Budtender and Sales Lead at Harborside in San Jose, CA


What is the day to day of a budtender like?
"The day to day for a budtender would be servicing our community and building relationships with our customers so that they feel a sense of comfort when coming into our shop. We build strong relationships with individuals so they can trust our recommendations. The day to day for a budtender is ultimately giving genuinely great service, “genuine” being the keyword."

What is your salary (or the average salary/hourly wage at your company)? 
"I am personally an hourly employee, and the average wage for regular budtenders at my shop is $18/hour."
How did you get into budtending/the cannabis space?
"Cannabis has always been something I have been interested in, from the sweet and pungent aromas of each strain to the thousands and thousands of different strains being crossed with different genetics out there to try. My interest in cannabis has only evolved as the industry itself has evolved. I first got introduced to the industry by one of my best friends who was working at a dispensary. At first, it was just a job to help me get through college expenses, but soon enough became a full-time job and I've been in the industry since then."
What is the strangest/most unexpected part of your job?
"I think with part of having a good understanding of who I am dealing with in terms of customers, I just have to know how to approach each individual. There are no right or wrong questions that can be asked, therefore I feel like the only odd part of my job would be customers assuming we (budtenders) are some kind of doctor and demanding to see our credentials. Again, top recommendations are all we can suggest, but in no way shape or form are we doctors prescribing medications. But I would say that would be the strangest part of the job."

What's the hardest part about your job?
"The hardest part about my job would be trying to please everyone. Once cannabis became recreational, San Jose Harborside got rid of some programs that customers would rely on. As times and regulations are changing, it makes it difficult for some customers to understand how things work when they are so used to being able to get their discount cannabis. Having to be the person to explain to them why they can no longer receive certain products at a great discount is such a bummer."
What's the best part?
"The best part about my job is knowing that we are servicing a community that is also my home. Knowing that we are an honest, hardworking business doing our best to give our community what they need is something that I take great pride in. I also think one of the best things about being a budtender is building relationships with customers. Harborside San Jose is like a family and to me, family is everything. What's better than working with reliable, confident individuals that you consider like family and serving great people? It makes work a great place to be!"

What is it like being a woman in the cannabis space?
"Working in the cannabis industry, as a woman and also being lesbian, is great. I truly do not have any complaints about being a woman in the cannabis world. This is one job where I have not felt discriminated against. I have yet to have any encounters where a customer said anything about me being a woman and not being able to understand something."

Do you have any great customer stories? If so, can you share?
"I have built a relationship with an older gentleman who would come in and give me little smoking gifts that he would make just to make sure I had all that I needed to have a successful smoke session – his words, not mine. One time he made me a care package full of essential tools that would help my day to day smoke sessions and I thought that was super sweet of him to do. To this day he keeps me updated with his health status and all; he definitely became someone I would look forward to seeing whenever he would come in. And that within itself is one of the biggest reasons why I love being in this industry."

Stacia Woodleaf, PharmaD, Cannabis Pharmacist at Curaleaf in New York


What is the day to day of a budtender like?
"I am not your "typical" budtender in that I am a licensed pharmacist. There are five states that currently require pharmacists to lead medical dispensaries and we call ourselves cannabis pharmacists. I spend the majority of my time in the dispensary with patients — providing consultations, product recommendations, and answering their many questions as to how medical cannabis works and how they can best utilize it for their needs. It makes patients comfortable to know they are speaking with someone with an advanced clinical degree who can evaluate their complex disease states and medication lists. When I am not in patient consultations, I am usually on the phone with practitioners, counting inventory, or helping at the registers or on the phones to make sure our patients are getting the best possible care and service. I also spend time training our dispensary associates to make sure they have the most up-to-date clinical information regarding medical cannabis and ensure they have the resources they need to help our patients."

How did you get into budtending/the cannabis space?
"I have always been interested in the use of cannabis as medicine. I remember in pharmacy school, one of the first electives I signed up for was a Chemical Dependency course that discussed the risks and benefits of illicit substances, and it opened my eyes to the potential of cannabis as medicine. A former colleague of mine was working for Curaleaf in New York and he reached out to me about an opening for a pharmacist he thought I would be great for. This created a really unique opportunity for me to use my clinical expertise to be involved in the cannabis industry in a meaningful way and to help grow and develop the program in New York. I am forever thankful to him for opening that door for me."

What is the strangest/most unexpected part of your job?
"The most unexpected part of the job for me is the way our patients create such a sense of community when they are in the dispensaries. We have a large patient population over the age of 50, and many of them have no experience with cannabis at all. I am amazed at how many times I will see a younger, more cannabis-experienced patient sitting on a bench, chatting away with an older patient, helping to explain the different products and how they work, telling them what to avoid and what they might like to try. I have seen patients who were incredibly nervous and even embarrassed to be in the dispensary welcomed by regular patients who recognize their trepidation and want to make them feel welcome. It's truly such an unexpected bonus to see these relationships build every day, and I am proud of the Curaleaf community we are creating."

 What's the hardest part about your job?
​"The stigma surrounding medical cannabis, and cannabis in general, is still incredibly challenging to navigate. As a healthcare professional, I often get judgment and negativity from both my peers in the medical community as well as in my personal life when discussing what I do for a living. I am proud of what I am doing every day to help people, but it can definitely be very hard to accept that the pervasive ignorance surrounding cannabis causes people to judge me unfairly at times."

 What's the best part?
"First and foremost, I love helping people feel better, but the next-best part for me is when I can have a conversation with a doctor or other healthcare professional and open their eyes to the role medical cannabis can play for their patients. It is an amazing feeling to use my education to change minds, and know that getting one practitioner to open their minds has the potential to positively impact hundreds of patients."

What is it like being a woman in the cannabis space?
"I love seeing how many women are dominating in the cannabis space, and I am proud to be one of them! Pharmacy has long been a woman-dominated field and I would love to see that trend in the cannabis space as well, especially as more states pass legislation and more companies hire their leadership. I also have a background in Women's Health/Fertility, so I have a personal passion for the way women can utilize cannabis to help with symptoms that are often overlooked or under-treated in traditional medicine.  "

Do you have any great customer stories?
"I will never forget my first week training in the dispensaries when a patient approached, walking slowly using a cane. When she entered the location, she started smiling ear to ear and the dispensary staff erupted into applause. I was amazed to find out that this patient had been in a wheelchair on her first visit...The staff felt personally invested in her success, and it was incredibly heartwarming to be present for such a powerful moment."

Sabrina Tafoya, Store Manager at Seed & Smith in Denver, CO


What is the day to day of a budtender like?
The day-to-day as a store manager differs every day. The focus is to make sure we educate and provide excellent customer service to our patients. My role is to make sure the dispensary is running well, and we are getting customers what they need, along with typical day-to-day duties, from making sure employees are taken care of to ensuring the money count is correct. I also am the purchasing manager for third-party products to make sure we carry the best products for customers. I also oversee the staff to ensure we follow rules and regulations throughout the day.

What is your salary (or the average salary/hourly wage at your shop)?
I am an hourly employee making $18.38 an hour. Seed & Smith is all about helping employees grow and learn more within the company.

How did you get into budtending/the cannabis space?
"I have always loved marijuana and the potential it holds for helping people in a lot of different ways. I am passionate about this industry because of the way cannabis has helped me as medicine, and I believe it can help a lot of people."

What is the strangest/most unexpected part of your job?
"The strangest, most unexpected part of my job would have to be how far the marijuana movement has progressed. Now that it is legal in most states, to think that some people can go to jail for possessing something I work with every day is very odd. Especially coming from Colorado, we’re used to the new normal."

What's the hardest part about your job?
"The hardest part of my job would have to be dealing with employees! They all differ which can be very difficult some days. Managing a team always comes with its own set of challenges."

What's the best part?
"The best part of my job would definitely have to be the perks — when you can suggest something that worked for you to a customer and help them is when I know I do my job properly."

What is it like being a woman in the cannabis space?
Being a woman in the cannabis space differs at every company you join. My experience has not always been the best — a lot of male owners can be sexist. I think there is so much potential for women in this industry, from technology to education. Working for Seed & Smith has changed my outlook on being a woman in the industry, especially as a store manager. They have supported employees and provide the opportunity to grow based on hard work and knowledge, not on gender.

Casey Gilbert, Member Consultant at SPARC in San Francisco, CA


What is the day to day of a budtender like?
"It can truly run the gamut! From consulting with customers about cannabis products to learning about new strains, maintaining a clean and orderly environment to dispense the cannabis, as well as developing one’s overall knowledge regarding the plant, the job offers a ton of variety. In my opinion, the budtender or member consultant acts as a liaison between the plant and its healing potential. We are working with people with a wide range of knowledge when it comes to cannabis."

How did you get into budtending/the cannabis space?
"I entered the industry as a member consultant over six years ago after graduating from UCSB with a degree in Psychology/Feminist Studies. At the time SPARC was operating as a non-profit. This was a perfect fit for me. Over the years as I transitioned from budtending into management. I was able to become involved in many additional aspects of such a unique industry that I know I will be a part of for the rest of my life!"

What is the strangest/most unexpected part of your job?
"I think the most unexpected part of the job is simply how challenging it can be at times, which might come as a surprise to people who might think it is an easy job. I believe most people’s ideas about working in a cannabis dispensary would be quickly challenged if they knew the amount of hard work, knowledge, and adaptability it requires for someone to thrive. Since working in cannabis, one of my goals has been to push back on society’s stereotype of what it means to be a cannabis professional or enthusiast and I think as the industry matures the professionals working in it will be more legitimized as exactly what we are, professionals."

What's the hardest part about your job?
"Without a doubt, the hardest part of my job is having to destroy usable cannabis due to new regulations. According to California state law, any returns or smell jars, for example, must be destroyed. Although I know these rules were put in place for consumer safety and are important, there is just something about having to destroy usable cannabis that is simply heartbreaking."
What's the best part?
"I would have to say that the sense of fulfillment that I get from helping others."

What is it like being a minority in the cannabis space?
"Honestly, it has been great! Being that SPARC is gay-owned, the company culture has always been extremely accepting and supportive. I think that being a gay man in the cannabis industry can be at times challenging since I believe overall cannabis culture can sometimes be seen as one that is not entirely inclusive. After working in the industry for so many years I have found that there are not only a ton of hardworking passionate LGBTQ cannabis professionals but people from every single background that are drawn to the industry simply because of their love for the plant. That common love of cannabis has made the industry one th at I find is much more accepting than one would believe looking at overall cannabis culture as a whole."


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6 Budtenders Tell Us What It’s Really Like To Work In Cannabis 6 Budtenders Tell Us What It’s Really Like To Work In Cannabis Reviewed by streakoggi on April 20, 2020 Rating: 5

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