Budtender Expertise: A Higher Standard for Cannabis


How much does your budtender really know?

The market is changing faster than ever before. Cannabis has a larger variety of strains, it’s infused into everything, and it’s substantially stronger. Whatever knowledge the previous generations gained from smoking grass in the 60’s is almost obsolete now; but try telling them that.

With what little amount of scientific study has been done on the chemical properties of cannabis, it’s no wonder consumers don’t have access to sufficient information. Other than trying to decode medical journals, most people don’t have the patience, access, or understanding to that kind of research.

If a large percentage of the American consumer base is unsure of what’s actually in their cannabis, dispensary employees selling it should at least know a thing or two about their product. High Times puts it into perspective for us, “According to a review of federal employment figures from Marijuana Business Daily, there are as many as 235,000 people employed in the American marijuana industry—which means there are more budtenders, cultivation-house workers, delivery drivers and other cannabis industry professionals than there are dental hygienists.”

As a medical marijuana patient, my regular exploration of local dispensaries often leaves me with the same frustrating question; how much do Budtenders really know? Does that expand any further than which strain gets you “super stoned?”

As I approach the counter, the budtender should first ask my preference of strain (Indica, Sativa, Hybrid); or any medical relief I’m looking for. That should begin to narrow down my ideal category of flower. Often, I’m pushed directly towards the Private or Exclusive Reserves, as if I’m going to fall for 48% THC stamped on golden labels.

The Cannabist reports that, “Levels of the chemical that produces a high — known as THC — used to average 3 to 4 percent. But now — because of improved breeding, growing, harvesting, packaging and shipping techniques — it’s rare to find THC content below 20 percent.”

The numbers behind THC potency are usually bumped up to impress customers; without government regulations, whose to say whether the numbers came from a lab or were simply fabricated? Educated consumers who do their homework can at least spot when something’s off; anything labeled above 35% THC is a load of bull.

While I’ve encountered my fair share of impressive store fronts and helpful employees, there remains another common hindrance; every dispensary has a different way of organizing their flower. I find myself dreaming of a standard system of categorizing strains. Consumers could know what works for them before even stepping foot inside.

Fortunately, with an expanding retail market comes employment training to support it. A new program, “Cannabis, Accreditation, Regulation and Education (CARE), plans to offer three-day workshops and online courses for people working in dispensaries (sometimes called budtenders), medical marijuana doctors and other industry professionals on how to best treat various medical conditions using cannabis.”

LA Weekly reported, “This type of program is something that’s “very much needed,” says CARE chief medical officer Ira Price, the medical doctor who is designing CARE’s curriculum. Price, an assistant clinical professor at McMaster University, says there are many cannabis professionals who don’t have the proper training to help patients figure out what products to use.”

Whether it’s for medical or recreational use, consumers should be purchasing the right product for themselves; and while the industry still has a foot in the dark ages, the owners and employees of dispensaries are at the forefront of making the necessary transition.

We’ve made a lot of progress since the days of plastic baggies on poorly lit street corners. Now consumers need to hold businesses accountable for professional and accurate transactions. California must continue to establish a higher standard for the cannabis industry.