by Anna Ervin
I think that “I don’t know” might be some of the most unappealing words you could hear come out of a budtender’s mouth. Sure, we all have to use them at times, and hopefully we follow up with a quick “but let me find out for you,” before proceeding to dig for more details… but what happens when those details aren’t readily available to us? Or we’re fed misinformation about the products we’re being asked to sell? I’m convinced that there is no greater shame than being unable to answer a question a patient has asked about the medicine they choose.
I’ve always been naturally self-competitive, so this kind of setback has been a difficult pill for me to swallow. There have been occasions that made me want to melt into a puddle of embarrassment on the dispensary floor after a patient left without making a purchase. This has little to do with monetary loss for me. Sure, I would want the dispensary I work for to succeed, but at the end of the day the thing that gets me is knowing that I failed to make the process of shopping for medicine easy and transparent for my patients. Looking back at a time when I was just a patient, I can remember feeling pretty discouraged when the people selling me medicine weren’t able to answer my questions about where it came from, or how it was cultivated or processed. I’m now positive that they felt the same.
I think I speak for most budtenders when I say that we want our customers to leave happy, empowered, and informed. At the end of the day, we need our patients to trust us, and the source of that trust traces back to both our own responsibility to stay informed, and our relationships with the brands that stock our shelves.
Now, I’m not here to whine about the issues I see without proposing at least a few ideas for solutions. I don’t have the type of brain that allows me to recognize a problem without coming up with a million ways to solve it. At the same time, these are just ideas. The goal is simply to offer a new perspective. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of the conversation. So where do we start?
Last month the focus was how cultivators and processors could better provide the resources and tools budtenders need in order to create a solid bond with dispensaries. This month, I’m turning the tables, but that doesn’t mean that both sides of the industry won’t find a little insight here.
I’ve said this before, and I will continue to reiterate for the rest of my career, but it is a budtender’s responsibility to continuously educate themselves about industry standards, as well as the science that goes into cultivation and extraction. I know this is a daunting task for some (like me). So instead of droning on about topics I don’t fully understand (yet), today I’m offering a list of tools budtenders and dispesaries can equip themselves with in order to build a foundation of trust and transparency, furthermore empower their patients to make educated choices when shopping for medicine.
Easily Accessible Lab Results
I know this seems obvious, but hear me out. I have worked in one dispensary, so I can’t speak on how many of the others operate. However, I will say this, it is gut-wrenching how grateful my patients were that I actually had test results on a shelf behind me for literally any of the products they asked for. This shouldn’t be something patients are surprised to see, it should be something they are used to. Having lab results that are easily accessible not only provides valuable information for patients that understand those results, but it gives budtenders a tool to help them sell products they may not know as much about.
Understanding Cannabinoids and Terpenes
Buy a poster for reference, make flash cards, do whatever you need to do, but learn your cannabinoids and terpenes. Though research is sparse, and we’re only just beginning to understand the effects these components contribute, this is hands down one of the most useful tools you could utilize to help you recommend products to patients. The most important thing to remember is that the research that’s currently available is just a starting point. Cannabis affects everyone differently, so while you might begin by explaining that terpinolene can provide energy and focus for some, you would also benefit from explaining that it can invoke anxiety or even sedation in others. This level of transparency with your patients not only empowers them with useful knowledge about cannabis, but it inspires them to pay closer attention to how different components of the plant benefit their experience or overall health.
Knowing the Right Questions
Rather than getting caught off guard on the sales floor, equip yourself with the knowledge your customers may seek before the products you sell even hit the shelves. What were the cultivation methods used? Processing methods? Are the extracts full-spectrum, distillate, or some form of isolate? Were solvents used in extraction? Are the products single-sourced or did they come from a collective of licensed cannabis businesses? The list could go on. These may be a bit on the extreme end, but there’s nothing worse than being surprised by a question that indicates your customer knows what they’re talking about. Talk to your cultivators and processors. Even if you’re not entirely sure what you’re asking yet, keep asking. I promise most of the people investing their time and livelihoods into cannabis are eager to share their expertise with you– and if they’re not, you should definitely ask more questions.
Building trust with our patients begins by building a foundation of trust in our cultivators, processors, employers, and ourselves. Put yourself in a patient’s shoes (this shouldn’t be difficult for most of us). Wouldn’t you want to purchase products from someone who takes the time to educate themselves and research what they’re selling? What are your thoughts? Let me know!
The Budtender Diaries
A monthly column which aims to shed light on important topics within the cannabis industry, and invoke positive change by inspiring empathy, awareness, and independent thinking. If you are a member of this community, you have the potential to help create an industry that benefits both patients and the makers of their medicine. If you have questions, stories, or topics you’d like to add to the conversation, please submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org.