Budtender is a noun that refers to a person who serves customer at what is essentially a storefront in a dispensary—either medical or recreational—selling cannabis. Their job includes answering questions, offering suggestions to customers, and handling and showcasing products.

What does budtender mean?

The phrase budtender itself is taken from “bud,” which refers to the mature cannabis flower. Bud describes the nugs that you grind up and smoke, and that’s where you find all of the THC, and the minor cannabinoids, including CBD, CBN, CBC, CBG, and THCV. Budtenders are expected to know about that—and a lot more.

Budtender Usage and Meaning


  • “I told the budtender I needed a strong indica and I came back with this stony Kush. Awesome recommendation!”
  • “Manswellta wants to be a budtender, so to get a job in any dispensary, she has to follow all of the state regulations.”
  • “What do you think a budtender would say about this strain?”

Budtender: Etymology/Origin

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary—that’s right, it’s not just in the Danktionary these days!—budtender is a portmanteau, a single word that is really a combination of two existing words. In this case, the two words are “bud,” as described above, and “bartender.”

Budtenders, like bartenders, serve customers within licensed establishments. (In this case, of course, we’re talking about dispensaries, and the product is medicine, but the label has persisted.) The word budtender dates back to around 1997, shortly after California legalized medical marijuana in 1996.

Careers and Qualifications for Budtenders

The first budtenders learned their trade from a range of cannabis experts, including cannabis farmers and growers, edible chefs, extraction technicians, and others. For that reason, in the first days of legal medical marijuana, budtenders needed no prior schooling.

As of 2020, cannabis remains illegal in the United States at the federal level, and therefore there are no certifications or licensing standards for budtenders. Most budtenders are self-educated connoisseurs of cannabis, although some are formally trained. Training institutions include: The Cannabis Training Institute, Green CulturED, and Cannabis Trainers, and each has its own curriculum with subjects like cannabis consumption, cannabis concentrates, cannabis laws, and growing cannabis.

Knowledge, Training, Experience

To be qualified to work in a dispensary and offer customers with a positive experience, budtenders need a wide range of cannabis experience and knowledge. Budtenders must demonstrate their knowledge of cannabis products for both recreational and medical use.

Even more importantly, budtenders must know each strain of cannabis they sell, based on its characteristics, taste, aroma, and effects. This allows a budtender to make more specific recommendations when customers ask about strains that the dispensary does not have, since they can refer to strains that are genuinely similar.

A budtender must also be able to understand how medical marijuana patients use certain strains for various conditions. Industry blogs, social media, and scientific research can all be resources for budtenders, who have been considered essential workers during the pandemic.

Customer Interaction

Budtenders interact with customers, share their knowledge of cannabis, and offer insight into new strains, products, and trends. To create a friendlier environment, budtenders may share some personal information, but “pushing” products is considered bad practice.


Now that the national trend is moving minimum wage—finally—toward $15 an hour, budtenders are starting to earn more. However, as of 2019, that $15 an hour was still aspirational for many, who earn $11–12 per hour.

Still, budtenders get perks. Many dispensaries give product discounts, and budtenders often get tips. In fact: not tipping your budtender is actively bad form.

Going into a dispensary today can be a little overwhelming, and many people rely on budtenders. It’s an important profession that deserves respect.

Images that illustrate the word “budtender”

what is a budtender?
Budtender definition

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