For me, one of the biggest perks of working in the cannabis industry, are the opportunities I get to educate others about the power of cannabis as a health supplement. When I get through to someone, I can see the switch get flipped and the little light bulb come on above their heads. I read the expression in their face when it finally dawns on them, “we’ve been looking at cannabis all wrong for decades.”
This… this is the moment I live for.
When I worked as a cannabis adviser for Lucy Sky Cannabis Boutique in Denver, I got the opportunity to do this on a daily basis. Working with the public, in a retail environment, I saw all kinds - from the cannabis connoisseur there for medical necessity to the cannabis tourist who was only there for the novelty, but either way, I had an opportunity to educate.
My Captive Audience
Last April, my husband and I invited 20 of our closest friends to Colorado to renew our vows and our commitment to one another after a bumpy year. During the trip, we hired a limo bus to pick us up at our ranch in the mountains and drive us to Denver for a “first-class” dispensary run. This is a 2-hour drive, which meant, I had a captive audience. (Except for a couple of them who were still feeling the effects of the “Wrecked Ribs” we served on 4/20.)
During this trip, I spoke to my captive audience about everything from cannabis law, what to expect when they got to the dispensary, cannabis prohibition and history, and even touched on the basics of the endocannabinoid system and how it works. The best feedback I could’ve possibly asked for came six months later, when one of our guests pulled me aside to tell me about how I had really helped change her mind about cannabis and she couldn’t stop talking about it when she got back home. I saw the belief and the excitement in her eyes. I knew I had impacted her.
As a cannabis adviser, these are the moments I love. And if you’re a budtender in the industry, and you aren’t as passionate about educating yourself and your clients, you are missing out on the future of cannabis.
Growing Market = Growing Demand
The cannabis market is changing. As cannabis starts to merge into the health and wellness category, slowly losing the stereotypical images and stigmas, women and seniors are becoming a growing demographic. This shift in clientele is putting new demands on the cannabis industry. However, this creates a very problematic environment,
1) Budtenders are put between a rock and hard place. While they are being pressured to sell by upper management, pressed for time with a half-dozen others waiting next in line, the last thing they want to do is spend 45 minutes talking cannabinoid science with someone who isn’t sure what they want. They have a job to do… sell, and educate… but selling always comes first. In fact, the whole education part frequently gets overlooked.
2) Discussing medical issues in a public environment may be uncomfortable. Nobody wants to discuss their menstrual cramp pain in a shop while standing next to God knows who while they shop for party favors. Sometimes, privacy is an integral part of learning and understanding.
3) Turn-over is problematic. Budtenders in a retail environment come and go. Let’s face it, they are making minimum wage in a competitive industry which is dominated by a very young demographic. Clients rarely have the opportunity to build a relationship before they move on to another job.
4) Cannabis education is lacking, even in the industry. It is rare to find a budtender thoroughly educated in cannabis science, because few training programs at dispensaries go beyond compliance training. While vendors may touch on the science of their particular products during sales training sessions, the overall goal of the training is to teach you how to sell it, not the science behind it. A good budtender is hard to find.
As the market continues to increase, the cannabis industry is going to have to shift its approach to meet the demand of this new demographic. People are curious and seeking real, qualified answers.
Holistic Care Partnership
Just as certain types of treatments require a combination of expertise, I believe the professional cannabis adviser should be part of the discussion in healthcare. Physicians may be able to understand how the plant can help… but without understanding the effects of cannabis personally, physicians are unable to really guide their patients on how to use it. Cannabis and cannabinoids are not a “one-dose fits all” solution. You cannot just prescribe 10mg of this or that… there is a process to discovering how cannabinoids will help and which cannabinoids do the job. This is where the cannabis adviser can work alongside patients to help them learn, ask questions, and experiment in a safe, comfortable environment such as their own home.
Cannabis consumers and patients are starting to demand more from their dispensary than what has been typical. While a good budtender is critical to this industry, maybe the time has come to give budtenders their space to sell and hand the educating over to cannabis advisers who have the time and the ability to build those relationships to work toward a healthy and responsible cannabis health solution.