Written by Patrick Bennett and originally featured on Leafly.com 04/11/16
Walking into a dispensary and ordering legal cannabis for the first time is both a wonderful and surreal experience. Customers find themselves immersed in a whole new world of strain varieties, extracts, edibles, topicals, and a myriad of other innovative products. In most cases, helping them along while they make their selections are budtenders, staff trained to help their customers find the products that will best suit their needs.
Unfortunately, not all budtenders are created equal. In fact, their competency and helpfulness can vary drastically depending on a number of variables. Helpful budtenders will typically ask more questions than they answer, allowing them to individualize the way in which they recommend products to their customers. An adept budtender will not only know the specification of every product they sell, but can recommend those products on an individual basis by asking questions and culling products until they deduct enough to initiate a selection.
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On the other hand, there are budtenders who may not be helpful at all, or who seem helpful but are actually operating with ulterior motives to move certain products along on their shelves. It can be incredibly difficult to spot the difference between a helpful budtender and one trying to push inventory. At times, these budtenders may offer advice based on personal experiences or sales trends (e.g., “I tried this last night and loved it!” or “You better get this strain fast! It’s going to sell out soon!”), inferring that certain products may possibly be more desirable than others. Where these anecdotes can be helpful, they aren’t always accurate and can be downright misleading at times.
Given that there is currently no standardized talent selection or training process for budtenders, competency will vary by business, location, and individual staff. For a novice consumer, this can troublesome. If you’re unsure of the help you may receive at a particular dispensary, it’s best to do a bit of research first. Resources such as our Dispensary Locator are a great tool to help you narrow down the options. Once you get there, you are bound to have questions, and may still find yourself in front of a budtender who expects you to already know what you want.
Below is a list of five factors to consider before approaching your budtender. These questions are no different than what an experienced cannabis consultant would ask you from behind the counter, though being armed with this information beforehand can vastly improve the effectiveness of your dialogue in finding the right products for you.
1. How Would You Like to Consume Your Cannabis?
Cannabis can be consumed in a myriad of different ways, from smoking flowers to bathing in an infused soak. There are edibles, beverages, tinctures, capsules, breath mints, and beyond. It’s best to research which way you would like to consume cannabis, or arm yourself with a few questions about various consumption methods so that your budtender can help guide you along. This helps you because it allows you to research which dispensaries carry the products you need. Keep in mind that some products will only have limited availability and may not be carried at your local dispensary.
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2. Are You Seeking Cannabis as Medicine?
The way in which you decide to use cannabis, as well as the type of cannabis you use, will be contingent on the experience you seek to gain from it. Somebody who is looking to gain relief from pain may benefit more from an infused transdermal product than if they were to simply smoke flowers, whereas somebody looking to manage anxiety may find much more relief in a CBD-rich tincture than taking a dab of high THC resin. If you seek to use cannabis as medicine, consider consulting with a physician educated in medical marijuana (not all physicians meet this requirement). Your budtender and your doctor are different entities, even in medical markets. It’s important to take both opinions into account to understand what type of relief you need so that you can properly connect the dots when the time comes to choose which product you want.
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3. How Psychoactive of an Experience are You Seeking?
Cannabis can affect your mental and physical state in vastly different ways depending on the product type, dosage, and consumption method. These variables change even more when considering your tolerance. Understanding tolerance is paramount when discussing dosage with your budtender. Certain products may be non-intoxicating, such as those containing high amounts of CBD. Other products may be uplifting and cerebral while some are meant for relaxation and sedation. Letting your budtender know what experience you are seeking will help them guide you towards a product that will meet your exact needs.
4. How Long Do You Wish to Feel the Effects?
This goes hand in hand with the third question when determining dosage and consumption method. Dabbing tends to provide a quick and intense experience when compared to edibles. Edibles take time to kick in but can have effects that last for hours, even days. Planning out how you intend to use cannabis is important and will help in determining both the products and consumption methods you discuss with your budtender.
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5. How Discreet Must Your Cannabis Consumption Be?
Using cannabis discreetly can be a matter of courtesy. Cannabis smoke and vapor may bother some people. It’s important to be considerate to others in all situations, but it’s vital to understand how your cannabis use is going to affect those around you. If you’re planning to be in the presence of others who choose not to consume cannabis, bring this to the attention of your budtender so that they can guide you towards products that can be used anywhere. Edibles, vape pens, topicals, sublinguals, transdermals, capsules, and even suppositories are examples of discreet products.
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You may not always be lucky enough to broker cannabis with an experienced consultant, but these five factors should all be at the forefront of your mind before speaking with your budtender so you can arm them with the best tools possible to do their job, which is to help you find the exact product you need for the exact experience you want.