The serious work of a budtender (Sponsored)
Selling legal marijuana in Colorado carries a lot of responsibility
November 29, 2017
Brought to you by Organix in Breckenridge
If you think a job in cannabis sales and customer service is an exercise in perpetual weed-smoking, it's time to switch to a sativa and focus your mind.
Have you ever had a job where the management or ownership told you to come to work impaired? Yeah, neither have budtenders. Colorado's four-year-old legal recreational industry is serious business, and marijuana store owners and employees are responsible for so much that it's unlikely you'll encounter an employee who's high.
"The industry is under such scrutiny and it's new," says James Orth, a manager and budtender at Organix in Breckenridge. "I came from 16 years managing bars. Although alcohol is regulated, it's about 1/100 as regulated as marijuana."
Orth and the rest of the employees at Organix get all kinds of questions from visitors to Summit County who don't know much about Colorado's marijuana laws, which means they need to make sure their legal knowledge is always up to date.
Here are some of the experiences and responsibilities a budtender has at work that prove a job in this industry is a serious enterprise.
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Marijuana enforcement rules
The state's Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) is constantly changing and revising rules, and it falls on marijuana businesses to keep their employees educated. The latest release of rules and regulations was more than 400 pages between both medical and recreational.
"There are new twists and turns, things we need to do, new stickers we need to put on packages — things like that," he says. "It seems like almost monthly there's new thing we need to do to stay legal and compliant. It can be stressful at times."
Training and education
Once managers and owners get through the hundreds of pages of rules, they're responsible for training all staff members. One day people started showing up for medical purchases showing their registration ID cards on their phones, when previously they had to show a laminated paper card. The store had to call the MED to make sure the new form of ID could be accepted. Orth says it's important the staff knows to ask a manager or even call the MED if anything is in doubt, which is perhaps one of the most important pieces of training they receive.
Answering customers' questions
Knowledge is key in the legal marijuana industry, especially when visitors come in and don't know much about the products they're buying. People are curious about all of the options, from vape pens to hashes to edibles and everything in between.
Edibles can deliver a much more intense high, for example, so Orth says they often tell beginners or those who haven't used marijuana in many years to rethink using edibles right away.
Other customers seek specific advice and budtenders have to be careful about what they say, Orth says. Some customers on the recreational side want to know which products will make them feel better if they're sick.
"We're not doctors or pharmacists, we're cannabis enthusiasts and we try to help people find a product that will work for them and they'll like," Orth says. "We often share stories about what other customers have experienced with certain products, but we have to be careful about what we say."
The No. 1 question budtenders at Organix hear on the job is from visitors who want to know how they can get Colorado cannabis products out of the state.
"All we can legally tell you is that it's federally illegal and it's illegal to cross state lines," Orth says.
The most common misperception about budtenders is that they're stoned all the time. Orth says customers don't see the stressful part of the job, such as remaining compliant with the MED and dealing with customers who ask questions about how they can break the law. Budtenders have to stay sharp, Orth says.
"Any little screw up can get us fined thousands," he says. "They assume we're sitting around smoking weed all day, but it's the exact opposite."
Orth says there are a lot of rewarding aspects of the job. Budtenders help first-time marijuana customers feel comfortable and let them know there are no stupid questions to ask. Because Organix sends back one customer per budtender at a time, they're able to provide very personal customer service, he says. But perhaps the most rewarding part of the job is when they hear of people who have switched from addictive opiates and found healing through marijuana.
"When I hear things like that — that's what makes me so passionate about the industry," Orth says.
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