Survey Finds Dispensary Staff Are Well Trained for Sales but Not for Medical Advice

Budtenders are sincere but mostly lack either the education or practical training necessary to help patients make informed choices.
Survey Finds Dispensary Staff Are Well Trained for Sales but Not for Medical Advice
Image credit: Heath Korvola | Getty Images
Guest Writer
CEO of CBDandCannabisInfo.com
3 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Medical cannabis is a rapidly growing market in recent years, as patients increasingly turn to this alternative therapy for management of multiple underlying chronic medical conditions.

In California, more than 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries, cooperatives and delivery services are in place. Though the government heavily regulates marijuana, we really don't know very much about the training of the budmasters behind the counter.

That is, until now. Researchers queried 55 budmasters using an online survey. Now, recognizing the huge number of dispensaries across the country and the number of employees in each dispensary, it's obvious that 55 is representative of a small  population of the dispensary staff.

Related: Dear Cannabis Entrepreneurs: Enjoy Ruling Your Small Pond While You Can

Nevertheless, it gives us a good start. Ninetyfour percent of staff responded they provided guidance or advice to patients. Between 74 percent and 88 percent reported providing advice on specific hybrids and cannabinoid ratios, in addition to side effects and treatment specific to the patient’s symptoms.

All of them reported being either very satisfied or highly satisfied with their jobs, so it doesn't appear that there was a good reason for them to lie to skew the the survey. Their ages ranged from 22 to 63 years with a median age of 31.9. Most (86 percent) were Caucasian, with 55 percent female and 60 percent with a college education or higher. Nearly all -- 84 percent -- work full-time in the dispensary for an average wage of $15 per hour, though pay ranged from $8 to $25 per hour. Length of their employment ranged from one month to seven years with a median of one year.

Related: Marketers Are Overcoming Unique Challenges to Build Campaigns for the Nascent Cannabis Industry

A little over half of the budmasters reported receiving any formal training at the time of their initial employment. About a third received training in customer service while a fourth were trained in business and the business model but medical training was provided to only 20 percent and scientific training to just 10 percent.

Dispensary staff reported making recommendations to their customers based on their particular condition or ailment, the experience of other patients, things they had read on websites, or their own experience. Unfortunately, 20 percent of the time recommendations were based on what product needed to be moved from inventory, while 47 percent of the time recommendations were made based on a new variety or breed that had recently been introduced.

Unfortunately, dispensary staff recommendations for cannabinoid concentrations for particular patients symptoms were also frequently incongruent with existing empirical evidence. For example, workers who recommended CBD for appetite or high THC concentrations for depression could actually worsen a patient's underlying medical condition. Dispensary staff are more likely to be providing cannabis advice than even trained medical staff. Although each state has created its own legislation regarding the cultivation and distribution of cannabis component the individuals, there's currently little or no guidance or oversight of associated patient care.

Related: 4 Effective Ways to Build a Standout Cannabis Brand

The combination of a  lack of training and client expectations for support at the counter make it imperative that clinically based  provider education programs are completed before anybody is standing at the dispensary counter, either the budmaster or the patient. Good advice increases the likelihood of a good first exposure, and repeat business after that promising initial successful experience. Clinical training of staff is a key component of a successful business plan for your dispensary.

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