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She Was a Caterer. Now She's a Budtender.

What does a budtender do, and how do you become one?

Budtender. It's a clever term but what are their job responsibilities exactly? And what skills do you need to be successful? To find out, we caught up with Mallory Drew, a top-selling budtender for Lightshade, a high-end marijuana dispensary with eight locations in Colorado.

Heath Korvola | Getty Images

Explain what a budtender does

It is a Budtender’s job to guide their customers and/or patients through consultations. We facilitate discussions about their needs, their experience with cannabis, their difficulties, and their lives. Then we help the customer find the right products for them.

How did you get into the profession?

I worked in restaurants and in catering for a long time. Although customer service isn’t always fun, the customer interactions were always my favorite part of work. When I moved to Colorado from New Jersey three years ago, I was looking to do something new while still being able to work closely with customers every day. Dispensaries are a wonderful place to meet new people and show them new things, and it is very cool that I get to enjoy doing this every day.

Related: Marijuana Workers Now Outnumber Bakers and Other Common Careers

What skills do you need to be a good budtender?

You need to always be willing and excited to learn new things because there are constant developments in the industry, new procedures to follow, and innovative new products to read up on. It is also invaluable to have a supportive staff and management team, which I am very grateful to possess. I get to learn new things from the people I work with every day, which is about as much as you could hope for in any workplace. And of course, as is true with any customer service position, patience is everything. Having patience and trying to have fun with your customers will always make everybody’s day a little nicer.

What is the biggest challenge you face as a budtender and how do you overcome it?

Budtenders have a lot of responsibility, not only to their jobs, but also to their customers, their communities, and to the reputation of the industry as a whole. It can be a challenge to help customers have fun responsibly and lawfully, especially when we see so many cannabis consumers from outside of Colorado who visit from states that may or may not have legalized. It 's very important to ask the right questions during a customer consultation to determine their level of experience with cannabis products, as well as their understanding of the laws, both in and out of state. My hope is always that after a transaction, I have given them all the information they need to become responsible and proactive members of the cannabis community. Making an effort to take these kinds of customer service interactions and develop them into teachable moments makes us all stronger, as an industry and as a community of consumers. As long as I keep all of those things in mind and take pride while wearing my badge, the responsibility doesn’t feel so heavy.

How would you suggest pursuing a career as a budtender?

I started at Lightshade last year in a front desk position with no prior industry experience. Starting at the front desk is an excellent way to become introduced to this business because you are seated at the intersection of customers, coworkers, and policy. I learned as much as I could in my six months at the front desk, paying close attention to my peers and the product vendors so that once I became a budtender, I felt really prepared. Becoming a budtender was not only getting a job, but also becoming part of a community, and that family is always there to help you out.