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Introduction to Budtending: The Budtender Knowledge and Skills You Must Have

Budtenders. They’re considered the “heart and soul of cannabis retail” and “the face of a cannabis dispensary.” Budtending is an excellent starting point for any cannabis career. The job gives you the chance to dive into the legal cannabis industry without much prior experience. 

Interested in joining thousands of budtenders across the United States? You better understand the basics first!

This jam-packed guide is a crash course on cannabis retail budtending. Consider this “Budtender training 101.” If you just go through this post, you will be ahead of 80% of aspiring budtenders! We’ll cover cannabis products, strains, effects, dosage, service skills, software, and regulations. Let’s go!

Looking for a role other than budtender? Check out our guide to getting any job in cannabis!

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Budtending 101: Explaining cannabis product types

Budtenders serve as experts on all things cannabis for dispensary customers. This means you have to have a deep understanding of the cannabis plant, how marijuana is consumed, popular strains, and how all of that impacts the human mind and body. 

Let’s dive into the basics for your cannabis training. 

A Short History

The history of cannabis dates back thousands of years. It’s believed to have originated in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, and was used for a variety of purposes, including as a source of food, fiber, and medicine.

Since then, cultures across the globe have used cannabis for medicinal purposes as well as its psychoactive properties. 

In the 20th century, cannabis became the focus of a global debate over its legality. In the United States, the plant was made illegal in the 1930s as part of a broader crackdown on drug use. Despite this, the plant continued to be widely used for medicinal and recreational purposes.

Now, legalization is a rising movement. The majority of U.S. states have already legalized the plant for at least medical purposes and other countries have already fully legalized cannabis, like Canada.

There’s a lot more we could cover on the history of cannabis, but cannabis budtenders generally only need to understand the basics. 


The cannabis plant is made up of a variety of chemical compounds, called cannabinoids. There are 113 cannabinoids recognized in marijuana. 

Some of the most well-known cannabinoids include:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, responsible for the “high” associated with its use.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD). A non-psychoactive cannabinoid with a number of medicinal properties, including reducing anxiety and inflammation, and decreasing the severity of seizures in some forms of epilepsy.
  • Cannabigerol (CBG). Often referred to as the mother of all cannabinoids because other cannabinoids are derived from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), an acidic form of CBG. This cannabinoid has potential medicinal properties, including reducing anxiety and inflammation, and having antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Cannabinol (CBN). A minor cannabinoid that is produced as THC ages, and is thought to have sedative effects.
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). A minor cannabinoid with potential medicinal properties, including reducing anxiety and improving glycemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Along with cannabinoids, the marijuana plant also contains over 100 terpenes – an organic compound that is responsible for the distinctive aroma and flavor of cannabis. Some of the most common terpenes found in cannabis include:

  • Myrcene. A musky, earthy terpene that is also found in hops and is thought to have sedative and pain-relieving effects.
  • Limonene. A citrusy terpene with a bright, uplifting aroma, and potential therapeutic effects, including reducing stress and anxiety and having antibacterial and antifungal properties.
  • Pinene. A terpene with a fresh, piney aroma that reduces inflammation and improves memory and alertness.
  • Linalool. A floral, spicy terpene with a calming aroma that reduces stress and anxiety and provides pain relief.
  • Caryophyllene. A spicy, peppery terpene with potential therapeutic effects, including reducing inflammation and providing pain relief.
  • Terpinolene. A floral, herbal terpene that reduces anxiety and improves mood.

Learn more about cannabis terpenes.

Product types

Cannabis products

Budtending isn’t just recommending joints and brownies. There are a variety of types of products that consumers enjoy.

Add these to your product knowledge; the most popular cannabis product types are: 

  • Flower. Dried and cured cannabis buds, typically sold in small quantities for smoking or vaporizing.
  • Concentrates. Products made from the extracted resin of the cannabis plant, such as hash, oil, wax, and shatter. Concentrates are more potent than flower and can be used for dabbing, vaporizing, or making edibles. Click here to get our Ultimate Guide to Concentrates for free.
  • Edibles. Food products infused with cannabis, such as gummies, chocolates, and beverages. Edibles can take up to two hours to take effect and can provide a longer-lasting and often more intense experience than smoking cannabis.
  • Tinctures. Liquid extracts of cannabis that can be added to food or drinks or taken under the tongue. Tinctures are a fast-acting alternative to edibles and can be dosed more accurately.
  • Topicals. Lotions, balms, and other topical products infused with cannabis that are applied directly to the skin. Topicals are not psychoactive and are used for local pain relief and skin care.
  • Capsules. Pre-measured doses of cannabis oil or extracts in capsule form. Capsules are a convenient way to consume cannabis for those who prefer not to inhale or consume edibles.
  • Pre-rolled joints. Ready-to-smoke cannabis buds that have been rolled into paper cones. Pre-rolled joints are a convenient option for those who do not wish to roll their own cannabis.

Consumption methods

An essential part of budtending is not just recommending products but also teaching consumers methods of consumption. The way cannabis is consumed plays a significant role in the effect the plant’s compounds will have on the consumer. 

The most popular cannabis consumption methods are: 

  • Smoking. This is the most common method of consuming cannabis. It involves inhaling the smoke produced by burning the dried flower, concentrates, or oils.
  • Vaping. This method involves heating the cannabis oil or concentrate to produce vapor, which is then inhaled. Vaping is considered a healthier alternative to smoking as it reduces exposure to harmful byproducts.
  • Edibles. Edibles are food products that have been infused with cannabis, such as brownies, gummies, and chocolate bars.
  • Tinctures. Tinctures are liquid extracts of cannabis that are typically taken sublingually (under the tongue) or added to drinks. They offer a discreet and controlled way to consume cannabis, are commonly used as medical marijuana, and can be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Topicals. Topicals are cannabis-infused creams, lotions, and balms that are applied directly to the skin. They are used for localized relief of pain, inflammation, and other skin conditions, and do not produce the “high” associated with other consumption methods.
  • Capsules. Capsules are similar to edibles in that they are ingested, but they come in a convenient pill form and offer a precise dose of cannabis oil. They are a popular choice for those who want a discreet and controlled way to consume cannabis.

Popular strains

There are hundreds of cannabis strains out there and every dispensary will carry different ones. Good budtending is understanding that the type of strain matters to cannabis consumers, because it plays an important role in the makeup of compounds and therefore will impact the plant’s effects, taste, and smell. 

Some commonly sought-after cannabis strains include: 

  • OG Kush is a classic strain known for its powerful relaxation effects and piney, earthy aroma.
  • Sour Diesel is a sativa-dominant strain with a distinctive diesel fuel aroma and uplifting effects.
  • Blue Dream is a balanced hybrid with a sweet blueberry aroma and mild, balanced effects.
  • Girl Scout Cookies is a hybrid known for its sweet, earthy aroma and strong euphoric effects.
  • Granddaddy Purple is a relaxing indica strain with a sweet, fruity aroma and sedative effects.
  • Green Crack is a sativa-dominant strain with a tangy, sweet aroma and uplifting, energetic effects.
  • Skywalker OG is a heavy-hitting indica-dominant strain with a relaxing body high and a potent earthy aroma.
  • White Widow is a well-balanced hybrid with a potent, uplifting high and a distinctive earthy aroma.


The dosing and usage of cannabis products and product types will vary significantly from person to person. There are several factors to consider when dosing cannabis, such as: 

  • Personal tolerance: Every individual has a unique tolerance for cannabis. .
  • Purpose of use: Depending on the desired effects, the dosage will vary. If you’re looking for intense pain relief, for example, you may use a higher dose of CBD and THC.
  • Cannabis strain: Different strains of cannabis have varying levels of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids, which can impact the plant’s effects. 
  • Consumption method: As covered above, the method of consumption, such as smoking, edibles, or topical application, will impact the onset and duration of the effects.
  • Dosage: Start with a low dose and gradually increase as needed to find the right level for your personal needs and comfort. You can always consume more!

For a more detailed guide on dosing, download our free resource for dosing here!

Varying effects of cannabis

When we combine our knowledge of cannabis compounds, product types, consumption methods and dosing, we can make some general assumptions about the final effect for the consumer. 

Here are some commonly-known cannabis effect assumptions (note that these are not necessarily facts and effects vary by person):

  • CBD helps with pain. 
  • CBN can help you fall asleep. 
  • THCV may help with weight loss. 
  • Higher THC does not necessarily mean a better high. 
  • Edibles take longer to kick in but last longer. 
  • Concentrates cause a more intense high. 
  • Yes, weed can go bad.  

There is much more that you’ll need to understand about cannabis and its effects to be skilled at budtending, but if you use the basic knowledge from the previous sections, you can provide helpful cannabis education and recommendations to dispensary customers. Look into further cannabis certification programs to learn more. 

Budtending 101: Working in cannabis retail 

Working in cannabis retail as a budtenderYou’ll be walking into a new world when you enter a dispensary. It’s not like any other retail setting, but there are some similarities if you’ve worked in retail previously. 

Cannabis budtenders need to have great customer service, they must understand all the technology and software within the retail store, and they definitely need to know all of the important cannabis compliance regulations for their state. 

Customer service 

Customer service is the most common selling point at any dispensary across the country. Excellent budtending adds to the customer experience and is the reason many shoppers return to the same store. Customer service will be an important focus for any cannabis retailer during the hiring and training process. 

You can get a head start on your customer service skills by understanding these key capabilities: 

  • Active listening. Every time you engage with a customer, listen with complete attention and intent to understand what they say, what their needs are, and what kind of products they’re looking for. 
  • Remembering repeat customers. Everyone wants to feel special. You can make customers feel special by remembering them from last time. Many point of sale systems will have this information available, including their previous purchases, so use this to your advantage. 
  • Offering personal experience. In a dispensary setting, many customers will ask for your recommendation. So when you consume cannabis products, be sure to think about how you can describe the effects to customers. What does it taste, smell, and feel like? 
  • Upselling. This tactic essentially means you’re offering the customer a better, more expensive alternative to the product they’re originally interested in. This has to be done carefully to avoid upsetting the shopper, but if done correctly, it builds trust and understanding between budtender and customer. 
  • Cross selling. Cross selling involves offering additional, related products to customers. This might mean offering a lighter or rolling papers to customers when they buy an ounce of flower. It’s an important skill to know in any retail setting. 

Dispensary software that helps budtending

Retail environments in any industry require specific software for daily workflows. In cannabis, software is still new and can be harder to use and glitch out on occasion. It’s part of being in a new industry. 

Some common cannabis dispensary software that budtenders use includes: 

  • Point of sale (POS systems)
  • Payments
  • CRM and loyalty
  • Ecommerce
  • Hardware, including scanners, tablets, computers, debit terminals, receipt printers, scales, and ID scanners

There isn’t a lot you can do right now to prepare for the software you’ll use in a dispensary. Just be ready to learn and show up with a positive attitude. 

Cannabis laws and regulations: An essential part of budtending

Cannabis is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world. Dispensaries risk massive fines and even complete shutdown of their cannabis business if they do not follow every single rule and regulation at all times. 

Budtending means dealing with cash, inventory, and compliance requirements every day. If they mess up, they can potentially cost their employer their business.

Here are some common regulatory responsibilities for budtending:

  • Inventory management. While many dispensaries have dedicated inventory managers, budtenders will still be required to understand important inventory requirements, such as properly reporting to the state track and trace system or moving products between rooms. 
  • Cash handling. You’ll see a LOT of cash as a budtender. Opening and closing your register, counting cash, and staying accountable will be part of your day-to-day. 
  • Product disposal/wasting. Many states require dispensaries to destroy unusable cannabis. This may mean burying it, drenching it in some kind of chemical, or mixing it with other substances. 
  • Security. This is a priority at an marijuana shop and involves securing areas, 
  • Customer interactions. Many states have rules against customers using phones in dispensaries, touching cannabis flower, consuming on the property, or purchasing more than a certain amount of weed per day. It will be your job to enforce these rules. 

To prepare for a budtender job, you should do some learning on your own related to cannabis regulations and compliance

What to expect on your first day as a budtender

After you land your budtending job, you might feel some butterflies as you approach your first day in cannabis retail. It’s nothing to be nervous about, though. You’ll be prepared!

Expect to start your first day during a less busy shift so you have a chance to learn the basics before working a rush. You’ll walk in, meet the team you’re working with, and take a tour of the store. 

Then you will probably start your dispensary training for onboarding. 

Onboarding training will include learning store policies, gauging your cannabis knowledge, understanding the store’s standard operating procedures (SOPs), and any being introduced to dispensary training materials. 

Many dispensaries are short staffed, so you may dive in and start selling on your first day, or you’ll be eased into the cannabis sales and transacting process throughout your onboarding. 

Good luck!

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