Budtenders are the face of the cannabis industry. Some people might assume that pot shops are very small businesses. However, most shops have a full roster of business professionals that help administrate the store. Like many companies, “entry-level” employees have a much different work culture than people in management roles. Cannabis is a compassionate industry, though. There are many events hosted by producers, processors, stores, and affiliates to make budtenders feel included. However, the division between the budtenders and their bosses inevitably comes along.
The parties are advertised as a social opportunity. Who really benefits from that? The side effect of these budtender parties, arguably, the main intent, is the connections made between industry players. People who already have clout and connections. Budtenders, whose jobs are more set-in-stone, get less benefit. Being in proximity to these conversations isn’t creating opportunity for the people the parties are meant for. The industry is asking budtenders to have two jobs to be impressive enough to make moves. One, budtending, to prove you actually count as a stoner. Two, extracurricular, to show that you’re ambitious and having job experience that is required by higher positions.
Budtenders are treated like customers. The parties that are held for budtenders are populated by booths with dozens of companies promoting their products. This sounds like a sound business decision, and it might still make sense on paper. The tone it sets is not a success. Budtenders are being advertised to. Budtenders don’t spend company money on these advertised products, they spend minimum wage. Encouraging budtenders to buy your products feels like an Industry Participation Tax. With these aggressive ads, the industry takes back from their largest population.
On top of that, my money goes back into the industry all the time for my medical cannabis needs. Upper level professionals are given free weed at these parties, but they aren’t the people who would really benefit from it. Most stores give employees the opportunity to get sample product. The parties are a different world. I’ve been to many budtender parties that don’t have any free weed. I’ve also been to exclusive parties that have ounces of free weed. Higher level positions are given free weed all the time at these events, in hopes of creating valuable relationships of mutual respect. But that sign of mutual respect isn’t extended to everyone. This is very apparent to budtenders, who have a shockingly low level of engagement for an industry with so much to offer.
The budtenders that raise through the ranks already have job experience, usually outside of the industry. I don’t think the industry allows people to only have budtending experience and rise through the ranks. With legalized cannabis, there are many workers who haven’t had jobs before working in cannabis. That doesn’t allow for growth professionally. They have to seek outside opportunities to progress in their career. There is no ‘growing into’ a company man.
Stores sticking to minimum wage is also a problem. Minimum wage is a great way to say “if were legal, I would pay you even less”. Minimum wage doesn’t cover a life in many of the booming-cannabis-industry areas like Seattle and Boulder. How long can these workers last in the industry without livable wages? Without upward mobility and available positions, they go elsewhere. To other industries, where being a budtender might be a demerit on their resume.
There is a lot of clout to be had for people in the cannabis industry. Cannabis is a glamourous subject. When someone is deemed an “influencer”, they get access to EVERYTHING the industry has to provide. Farm tours, parties, smoke buses, and things I probably am unaware of. They get more access to the industry than budtenders. Where is the initiative to let budtenders enjoy the industry?
I believe that many of the problems experienced by budtenders can be fixed through proper planning. I’ve seen glimmers of wonderful and imaginative event planning in Seattle, but nothing that has been able to solve the problem of lack of mobility for budtenders. Making sure the tone of a party is appropriate is a total necessity. Parties shouldn’t be ‘thank you for your service’, it should consider them active participants in the industry! Right now there are “Budtender Parties”, but the real party is for the industry players.
That isn’t to say budtenders can’t make valuable relationships during these parties. What really matters in a industry-wide sense is what these parties DO do the industry. When event planners set a goal to make opportunity for budtenders, it is in everyone’s best interest to make those opportunities come to fruition.