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Budtender handling cannabis at a dispensary in Colorado in 2018

A budtender is a title of a staff member who works within a dispensary or store where medical or recreational cannabis is sold.[1] Their job is to offer suggestions to customers, answer questions, handle products and showcase products being sold.[2]


According to Merriam-Webster,[3] budtender is a portmanteau that combines the word bartender and bud. Like a bartender, budtenders serve customers within a licensed establishment while the word bud is referring to the dried flower tops of Cannabis used for consumption.[4] It dates back to at least 1997, shortly after cannabis was legalized in California for medical use.[3]


The first budtenders gained knowledge through Cannabis farmers, extraction technicians, edible chefs and other cannabis experts.[2] In the early days of legalized medical cannabis no prior schooling was needed to work as a budtender.[5] As of 2017, no license or certification is needed to be a budtender.[5] Because Cannabis is still illegal on a national level, no national licensing standards have been implemented in the United States.[5]


Experience and knowledge

Budtender behind a counter with various cannabis strains, 2018

Budtenders have to be qualified to work in a dispensary and must have a wide range of cannabis knowledge. In order to provide customers with a positive experience at a dispensary, budtenders need to demonstrate their knowledge of strains, cannabis products and medical use.[6] They need to know the characteristics of each strain of cannabis they sell, based on their taste, smell and effects.[7] If a customer were to ask about a specific strain that the dispensary does not have, a budtender should be able to recommend a similar strain with their broad understanding of cannabis in terms of the attributes of the customer’s original request. A budtender should also be able to adhere to the necessity for a medical marijuana user. Their ability to understand the medical circumstances of certain strains is critical and essential for the safety of the customer. Budtenders may stay aware of cannabis trends by checking social media and industry blogs.[7]

Customer service

Since budtenders work one-on-one with customers, it is essential that they provide a welcoming environment for them. A budtender's job is to provide and share their knowledge of cannabis[8] with a customer, have the ability to teach those who have never tried cannabis before and to provide insight to new trends or strains. Budtenders also sometimes share stories[7] in order to market to a customer and also to create a friendlier environment. These stories are meant to provide apprehension of what a customer might feel or do when they use a certain type of cannabis. However, budtenders are not recommended to push their products by telling fake stories and experiences in order to get a customer to buy something;[7] this is considered bad customer service within the industry. Finally, budtenders are also highly recommended to express a sense of passion for their product in order to spark interest from a customer.[7]

Legality in the United States

In the United States, there are 24 states that have legalized recreational marijuana, and another 38 states that have made medical marijuana legal as of 2023.[9] Budtenders in these states are held to state legislation, and must comply with state law.


Oregon, one of the 15 recreational marijuana states, is regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), and require all budtenders to be at least 21 years or older to obtain a license and/or permit.[10] Whether it be production or processing purposes, any budtender who actively handles marijuana, must have a permit to secure or sell marijuana items.[10] Having these permits is necessary under Oregon law, however; permits are only valid for five years from the date issued by the OLCC. All permits under the commission grant an employee access to any licensed marijuana business in the state.[10] Being a fairly regulated business, all budtenders are required by state law to have their worker permits readily available at any time while working, in case of immediate inspection by OLCC regulatory staff or enforcement officer.[10] It is advised to keep the permit on one's self when working, for this immediate reason. If a budtender who possesses a legal permit were to be convicted by the state for misdemeanor or felony, they have 10 days to submit a written notification to the Commission.[10] No permit is transferable; the permit to sell recreational marijuana belongs to the permittee.[10] The only applicable license type that allows the sale of marijuana items to a consumer is the retail license. Every retailer must verify the age of every customer, for any and all purchases, and can only sell between the hours of 7am-10pm.[10] A budtender cannot offer free samples to customers, give free marijuana items, or provide any form of discount if the sale is inline with the sale of other items. Retailers may only receive marijuana products from the OLCC licensed producers, processors, and wholesalers.[10]

Legality in Canada

Canada in 2018 became the second nation in the world to legalize recreational marijuana. Thusly, budtending has become a popular career choice for many cannabis enthusiasts, young and old,(albeit, the industry has been known to have a high turnover rate.[11] ). Budtender's in Canada on average make $16.00/hr and as of 2024 in the majority of provinces the job outlook for future budtending opportunities was low. [12] The federal government including agencies like Health Canada have set regulations for certain things such as edible products being capped at 10/mg THC a package. But as for budtending regulations and licensing they are for the most part left up to the individual provinces.


Alberta, is regulated by Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission(AGLC), and requires all budtenders to be 18 years of age or older and receive a Qualified Cannabis Worker (QCW) qualification from the province to work as a budtender.[13] To receive a QCW an applicant must submit a criminal record check and have proven to take the SellSafe qualification course, consisting of knowledge required to work in the field.


  1. ^ Dictionaries, Oxford (2014-11-11). "How Will Legalization Affect the Language Around Marijuana?". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Archived from the original on 2018-05-17. Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  2. ^ a b "The definitive cannabis lexicon: Marijuana terms from A-Z". The Cannabist. 2014-06-13. Archived from the original on 2018-05-17. Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  3. ^ a b "As Marijuana Goes Mainstream, So Does Its Slang". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on April 4, 2018. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  4. ^ "Erowid Cannabis Vault: Basics". www.erowid.org. Archived from the original on 2018-05-19. Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  5. ^ a b c "Do you need a license or certificate to be a budtender (weed salesperson)?". The Cannabist. 2017-07-19. Archived from the original on 2018-04-29. Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  6. ^ "Budtender Spotlight: 5 Favorites From Dockside's Austin Tucker | Leafly". Leafly. 2017-04-26. Archived from the original on 2018-05-17. Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  7. ^ a b c d e "How to Get Hired to Work in the Legal Cannabis Industry Part 2: Getting Hired as a Budtender | Leafly". Leafly. 2015-05-05. Archived from the original on 2018-05-17. Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  8. ^ "4 Bad Budtender Habits that Consumers Notice (and Hate) | Leafly". Leafly. 2015-08-13. Archived from the original on 2018-05-18. Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  9. ^ "Here's where you can legally smoke marijuana in 2018". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 2018-05-22. Retrieved 2018-05-22.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h "Recreational Marijuana Worker Permit Education" (PDF). www.oregon.gov. May 21, 2018. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 17, 2018. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  11. ^ "One third of budtenders hired in the last year already left their job: Study". 15 July 2022.
  12. ^ "Budtender - Cannabis in Canada | Labour Market Facts and Figures - Job Bank".
  13. ^ "Requirements for retail staff | AGLC".

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