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The budtender at your favorite dispensary may seem like a simple cashier, but there’s much more to the job. 

As Business Insider wrote, budtenders “have an intimate knowledge of the products sold and can make recommendations based on customer preferences - whether they prefer smoking or vaping, for example, or whether they want to get high while partying or binge-watching TV.”

A post on WayofLeaf described how “contrary to the ‘lazy stoner’ stereotype, a budtender is a talkative, personable, helpful, and hardworking individual.”

But while the budtender role is an excellent way to enter the legal marijuana industry, pre-employment training and education are often lacking. 

According to a 2016 report in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, only 55% of medical and non-medical dispensary staff said they received formal training, and only 20% had any medical or scientific training. 

This is where in-depth cannabis education can make a significant difference.  

Cannabis Education to Better Serve Medical Cannabis Patients 

In the 2016 Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research report, the researchers said some budtenders “are recommending cannabis that has either not been shown effective for, or could exacerbate a patient's condition. Findings underscore the importance of consistent, evidence-based training for dispensary staff who provide specific recommendations for patient medical conditions.”

The situation is complicated because cannabis remains federally illegal and thus is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. There is also still no standardized dosing for marijuana products. 

Politico wrote in 2019 that legal cannabis is “a messy landscape of spotty patient-physician communication, inaccurate medical records and unknowns about health benefits even as medical marijuana becomes widely accepted by the public.”

Part of the problem is that while budtenders typically know a lot about cannabis, they are not trained health care professionals. They are generally not well-versed in the potential drug interactions or side effects of cannabis products. This is why some states require medical dispensaries to keep a certified pharmacist or physician on-site at all times. 

In-depth cannabis education can teach budtenders about the potential health issues to consider when speaking to customers at the dispensary. This can help them better serve customers, but it could also potentially protect them from liability. 

Cannabis Education for Compliance Awareness

For budtenders, many of the daily requirements of the job are written in the cannabis compliance regulations of their state. 

These include such day-to-day requirements as checking that customers have a valid ID proving they are over 21. Purchasing limits are also a significant part of daily life at the dispensary. 

But compliance demands go much more profound and are often much less noticeable than the need to check ID. 

These include guidelines for cannabis waste disposal, employee hygiene, and how to use cleaning products and security cameras.

Cannabis education can teach bartenders the intricacies of compliance and help make these requirements a central part of their daily operations. 

Better, More Educated Product Recommendations  

With so many options at the dispensary, decision fatigue can be a real issue for consumers. 

This is where budtenders can make a big difference for cannabis consumers. Well-informed bartenders can provide personalized product recommendations based on a much more informed, holistic understanding of cannabis. 

Take, for instance, terpenes. Used to make essential oils, terpenes are the naturally occurring chemical compounds responsible for the aroma and flavors of plants. 

There are hundreds of terpenes in cannabis, and they provide a number of sensory effects. For instance, limonene, a terpene found in citrus fruits, is commonly credited for producing the citrus flavor of specific marijuana strains. 

But terpenes like limonene can also produce psychoactive effects, including easing anxiety and depression. 

Cannabis products are still often judged mainly on the amount of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the “high” of marijuana). In recent years though, there has been a renaissance of sorts. 

More cannabis professionals and consumers now see the importance of terpenes in the user experience and how they work in combination with cannabinoids, which is often called “the Entourage Effect.” 

More informed budtenders will instruct consumers to consider the terpenes and cannabinoid profile when making a purchase, and not just the THC level.  

This includes the ability to read Certificates of Authenticity (COAs) correctly. These are certified, third-party lab results that show the presence of contaminants like mold, microbial and heavy metals. They also list the full potency and cannabinoid and terpene profile of the test sample. 

A more educated approach to marijuana retail looks far beyond anecdotal recommendations. It puts the customer’s desires and intentions first, producing more personalized customer service and satisfied customers. 

Cannabis education for responsible use

The growing sophistication of cannabinoids and terpenes is part of an increased focus on “responsible cannabis use.”

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) defines several principles of responsible use. These include that it should be for adults only and that people should avoid abuse and always consider set and setting

Responsible use considers all types of user intent and how marijuana can be a valuable part of daily life - even if you don’t get high.

The Rootwurks Learning Experience Platform (LXP) provides a number of budtender-targeted courses that can promote responsible use and a better understanding of the wide range of components in the cannabis plant.

Cannabis education to reduce budtender turnover 

Working as a budtender is arguably the easiest way to get a foot in the door of the cannabis industry. But that may also be something of a revolving door. According to a 2020 Headset report, 58% of entry-level cannabis employees stay in their jobs for less than two months. 

Various factors can impact employee turnover, ranging from salary to scheduling to benefits. But investing in budtender education is also a cost-effective way to reduce employee turnover potentially. 

Online courses like those provided by the Rootwurks LXP can instill a greater understanding of the cannabis plant and marijuana products and budtenders' safety and compliance responsibilities. Such courses can increase employee proficiency, and people who are good at their jobs tend to want to stick around longer. 

Comprehensive education and training can also help employees feel more personally invested in their company’s success. They may also be more likely to want to climb the company ladder on their way to a career in cannabis.

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Ben Hartman, Content Manager

Ben Hartman is a cannabis writing and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in journalism and digital content creation. Ben was formerly the senior writer and research and analysis lead for The Cannigma.

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From best practices at the dispensary counter to cannabis grow safety tips and the ins and outs of cannabis terpenes, there is a world of knowledge to be gained form our free educational content. To see our guides, eBooks, webinars, reports, expert interviews, and video tutorials, check out the Rootwurks library of free resources.

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