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Working at a Dispensary: What’s it Like?


If you’re considering a job at a cannabis dispensary, you probably have a bunch of questions about what really happens behind the scenes. What goes on in day-to-day operations? Is it better than a traditional retail job? How’s the pay? Is it as fun as it sounds?


From real-life experiences to sources across the U.S., we’ve compiled this post to help prospective cannabis employees understand what it’s actually like to work at a dispensary.


What’s different about working at a cannabis dispensary?


There’s a lot that’s different between working at dispensaries and working a traditional retail job – but there’s also plenty of similarities.


Some differences include: 

  • Opportunity to touch, smell, sell, and even consume cannabis at work
  • Typically a more laid back environment (depending on store)
  • Compliance mandates
  • Customer education is more in-depth and can directly benefit their health
  • Lots of new jobs available


Some similarities include: 

  • Customer service
  • Cash handling
  • General business/management structure
  • Using a POS system


It’s important to note that different types of dispensaries will have very different work environments. Larger multi-state operators may have a more corporate feeling, while smaller, independent dispensaries can be more laid back. 


Perks of working at a dispensary


All across the cannabis industry, many employee’s favorite part about working in a dispensary is the free samples/goodie bags from vendors. To be an effective budtender, you have to be able to recommend products. To best recommend something, you have to try it first!


Some other perks of working at a dispensary include:


  • Unique work environment: The atmosphere in a dispensary is unique and very cannabis-focused. It’s also generally less “corporate” than a traditional job. 
  • Helping others: You get to essentially prescribe medicine to people. Cannabis plants and their associated cannabinoids (CBD/THC) and terpenes have a long list of therapeutic/wellness benefits that can help anyone from medical marijuana patients to adult-use shoppers. 
  • Job satisfaction: Many employees in the cannabis industry find job satisfaction in knowing they are contributing to the responsible and legal distribution of recreational/medical cannabis products.
  • Learning experience: Dispensary work can be a valuable learning experience, teaching customer service, regulatory compliance, and product knowledge that can be transferable to other industries.


What are the hours for working as a dispensary?


Regular retail hours for many dispensaries are from around 9 AM to 9 PM, Monday through Sunday. These hours may vary slightly depending on the specific dispensary’s policies and local regulations.


Employees often work in shifts of 8 or so hours at a dispensary, with required breaks throughout. Like many jobs, such as restaurant servers, dispensary employees often have to work shifts on the weekends because these are busy times for dispensaries. 


There can also be seasonal variation in job hours. Holidays like 4/20 or Christmas attract much more foot traffic to dispensaries and they may require additional support – and offer incentives like bonuses for the help. 


What kind of jobs are there at dispensaries?


Different stores may have different job descriptions and titles, but here’s a general list of common dispensary team members:


  • Budtender/Dispensary Associate/Dispensary Agent
  • Delivery driver
  • Receptionist/Front Desk Worker
  • Inventory Manager
  • Security Guard
  • Dispensary Manager
  • Sales/Marketing


Is dispensary pay competitive? 


Dispensary employee salaries vary considerably by state and cannabis business, but here are some general numbers from Vangst:


  • VP of Retail: $140,000 – $200,000 per year
  • Director of Retail: $100,000 – $130,000 per year
  • Dispensary General Manager/Store Manager: $65,000 – $100,000 per year
  • Assistant Dispensary Manager: $50,000 – $70,000 per year
  • Budtender/Sales Associate: Approximately $17 to $28 per hour, with average tips of around $7 per hour


Compared to traditional roles like bartenders, budtenders tend to make around 45% more. Other roles like GM or Director of Retail are about the same or more than their traditional retail counterparts. 


Do dispensaries offer benefits?


Many dispensaries offer full-time employee benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and employee discounts, which can vary depending on the company. 

Vangst found 82% of companies who were surveyed for their 2022 Salary Guide reported offering health care benefits to their employees. In comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that 74% of workers in the United States have access to healthcare benefits.


Can you build a cannabis career at a dispensary?


It’s very common to hear a VP of Retail or General Manager at a dispensary say they started out as a budtender or similar entry-level role. That’s particularly unique to the cannabis industry and it makes sense for many of the industry’s retailers because dispensary owners tend to promote employees they can trust.


If you’re willing to put in the effort and stay with the same dispensary, there’s a good chance you can work your way up to higher pay and responsibilities. 


What are the requirements for working at a dispensary?


While some state laws or cannabis retailers require things like background checks, there are still places where even a felon can get a job in cannabis. You can check with your state or retailer to find out more about legal requirements to work in cannabis.


Other common requirements for a cannabis job at a marijuana dispensary include some form of cannabis training or retail experience as well as being over either 18 or 21 years of age.


Need dispensary training?  



THC University’s Budtender Certification Course provides cannabis training that will teach you to become an effective budtender. The course is done entirely online and can be completed at your own pace.  


Upon completion of the training course, your chance to land a dispensary job will skyrocket. 


Get the cannabis knowledge you need, for a fraction of the price anywhere else! Sign up for the Budtender Training Course here.