From the other side of the fence: What it’s like to work as a budtender
Cannabis.net had the pleasure of chatting with a cannabis cultivation expert who spent some time working as a budtender in California. Let’s call him CMang – in our interview, he provides insightful information on what it’s like working for the cannabis industry as a budtender, how he’s seen first-hand how the plant has healed patients, and shares useful tips for aspiring budtenders as well as patient etiquette when visiting a dispensary whether for medical or recreational purposes.
Read up and learn!
During the period (2007-2011) when I was deeply involved in the cannabis industry, California was only allowing medical marijuana dispensaries operate at the time. However, this was not flat out state wide.
It was up to each city to pass laws into effect that would allow the dispensaries to operate. Unfortunately both of the dispensaries that I was involved with are no longer operating. The first club that I was growing, budtending, and helping run was called Orange County Patients Collective. This particular club was located in Santa Ana, California. At this time Santa Ana was one of the most progressive cities in Orange County. It had by far the most dispensaries operating the entire county.
The dispensary that I opened up after leaving OCPC was called Right To Cannabis (R2C). I had picked Newport Beach for the city to operate in. This is ultimately what ended up causing the business to have to close. Newport Beach had been opposing the spread of dispensaries for the most part within the city at this time. The reason I chose this city in spite of the difficulties was that it was a much better environment safety-wise compared to Santa Ana. This was largely due to Newport Beach having a wealthier and more affluent population. Whereas Santa Ana was more middle / lower class.
While working at the OCPC there had been robbery and break-in attempts. During my time in Newport Beach, I never encountered these problems. There were only two other brick and mortar dispensaries operating within Newport Beach at the time of setting up R2C. There was plenty of "delivery only" dispensaries operating. These delivery-only businesses were much harder for the city to deal with due the the fact there was no stated address for the law enforcement to visit and harass the businesses.
There was no law which directly addressed tipping. While we did have a tip jar on the counter in OCPC, I never really paid much attention to it. Occasionally, people would "donate" to the jar. However, because in California it was required to be a non-profit.
I always viewed the tip jar as not having any place in the business. For Right 2 Cannabis, I chose to completely forgo the tip jar all together. Tipping was not common practice for most of our members anyways. The most important thing to remember for the patients was to give the appropriate suggestions and advice on strains, and to understand their sense of the level of tolerance and ask about their prior experience with marijuana.
The absolutely worst thing for a budtender to do would be not ask these questions to a patient that wants to use marijuana for treatment for a legitimate disease or ailment. Usually these patients would be people that had absolutely no experience or maybe once or twice during their life. If you were not careful in fully discussing the potency level or the type of strain, you could easily be handing someone a traumatic experience that would cause the individual to never try it as a medicinal alternative ever again.
Coming back to what I said about legitimate ailments and diseases, there was probably a 50/50 divide among patients that were purely recreational users that had only obtained the medical card for a more reliable and legal way of obtaining the substance. The other half of the patients were people who were not willing to result to taking pharmaceutical drugs. I was able to hear many stories from patients to as why this was the case. It ranged from first had experiencing the harmful side effects, watching loved ones deal with them or simply not wanting to become addicted.
Helping these particular patients was the most rewarding part of budtending. To watch the first-time these patients with serious ailments come into the shop….See the uncertainty and their timid way of asking questions and advice. Talking about their horrible experiences with pharmaceuticals and then to have them come back their next visit singing a completely different tune in regards to what the marijuana was able to do for them. I watched cancer and lupus patients put weight back on after losing it so much during the course of their battles with the disease. Patients with a range of mental disorders be able to achieve a level of normalcy. Chronic and Acute pain suffers beat their addiction with pain killers by using marijuana as an alternative.
This is ultimately why I started teaching my cultivation skills through free classes to any of the members of the collective. It was hard watching some of these patients struggling to afford something that was making such a huge improvement in their lives.
The biggest grief I had during my time was the patients that wanted to man handle the medicine when they came in. They would know their range of what they were able to afford. They would pull out buds from top shelf strains then follow to: squeeze, mash, and break apart the particular nug.
Not only was this unsanitary but it was against our policy. However, you would have to remind the same patients time and time again when they visited not to do so. We had patients that would try to barter for our inventory. There were also growers that would come in to just talk about how everything was sub par compared to what they produced. Just real pompous individuals. It was always very easy to tell these apart from the actual patients. They had a completely different aura about them. Not all growers were like this but it was definitely a niche stereotype.
Ask before you do while in the budroom. Each dispensaries policies can drastically vary from one another. Whether it not okay or not for you to handle the jars yourself, the way in which your allowed to inspect the buds, how you might be able to mix and match your selection. It's always better to ask the budtender before assuming anything. This will make for a much pleasant experience for you and the staff of the dispensary. Usually the staff will be very informative about the expected results of each strain that is offered. So be very clear about the type of effect you would like to achieve.
Any budtender worth their salt will let you know if its a new strain your looking at and they not as familiar with it as some of the others. They will make you familiar with what they are and try to help you with making your selection as much as possible.
Also concentrates and edibles are no laughing matter. Follow the suggested dosage or you can end up seriously regretting it.
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