On my jaunt around Denver’s cannabis shops this summer I met Kat, a budtender at AMCH (Alternative Medicine on Capital Hill). As a first-timer to Denver’s recreational shops I was super awkward and full of questions. Kat was the pro who answered my million questions and welcomed me as I drooled over AMCH’s delicious offerings.

After I left I couldn’t stop thinking about her job. She gets to meet people from all over the world and educate them on cannabis use. She’s basically an ambassador to stoney fun. So I asked Kat to tell us more about her unique job. Here’s what it’s like to be a budtender in a bustling recreational cannabis shop.

Tell us about your job as a budtender. 

A budtender, or herbista, as I prefer, is a well-educated marijuana enthusiast who recommends different cannabis strains, whether it be medical or recreational, to suit the patient or customer’s needs. Most budtenders are required to have a lot of knowledge about the growing, curing and smoking process of cannabis.

Budtenders not only have to have in-depth knowledge about cannabis, but they are also human-relation experts. A lot of people have not consumed cannabis in several years, or not at all, so you need to find them the best strains to fit their needs. My job is about taking those extra steps by asking the extra questions to fulfill the customer’s needs.

How did you get into this job and what skills do you need to do it well?

I have been budtending for about three years now. I started at a different shop. I used to work at Best Buy and decided one day I was over working there and left on the spot one day. As I was driving home my phone rang. It was a family friend who owned a dispensary and needed help. I excitedly took the job.

Once I got my foot in the door I fell in love and have been happily expanding my cannabis knowledge and experiences ever since! Now with the legalization of weed it has expanded into a whole new market and industry. My advice for people who are looking for a job budtending is have experience in customer service. You need to have the basic knowledge about cannabis, but more importantly, you need to genuinely care about people.

What’s an average day like for you?

An average day for me starts at about 9:30 a.m., I come in and set up the recreational side of our facility. We open up at 10 a.m., and there are almost always people waiting to get in, excited to buy cannabis! I spend the next nine hours interacting with great people who are excited about marijuana.

What kind of people do you meet in your day?

All types of people come in to the dispensary! Local people who live in the neighborhood or people as far as China, Australia, Africa and all over the world. It’s pretty incredible to be honest. We have a map of the world where we have people pin where they are from.

Just the other day I had a several guys from France come in. They barely spoke a word of English, but somehow cannabis brought us all together. I meet people of all different ages, including moms, businessmen, typical ’60s hippies, grandparents and of course the 21- to 30-year-olds. Cannabis has always, at least to me, been a social thing. People enjoy sharing their cannabis and toking up with other people around them. With the legalization it became more apparent there isn’t one type of person who consumes cannabis.

What do customers always want to know? 

The most common question is what is the difference between sativa and indica. The best most helpful tip I always tell people is Indica, “in-da-couch,” as in it will more than likely couch-lock you. Sativas, on average, are the euphoric, uplifting, giggly, cerebal high.

Otherwise questions can vary depending on the customers needs. Local people who live in Colorado usually ask fewer questions then visiting out-of-town customers. It has made me aware of how the taboo on cannabis has died in the last six months in Colorado. Visiting customers are still very hesitant, because in the state they came from they could be prosecuted for less then a gram.

Do you have any tips to prevent them from consuming too much?

My main thing is to go low and slow. Cannabis has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Dry, smokable herb is extremely potent. We have strains that test as high as 29 percent THC, and that’s nothing to shake your finger at. If you haven’t smoked in several years you don’t want to go straight to the highest-tested, most potent strain. You wont have a good time because it will be too intense, too fast. You wouldn’t crack open a bottle of vodka and chug the whole thing, would you? So treat cannabis the same way. Take “one shot at a time,” puff by puff with cannabis.

How do you explain edible dosage to someone who’d like to try edibles for the first time?

With edibles the same thing applies. Most edibles we sell are 10 times stronger than the recommended dose. Low and slow and patience! When you eat cannabis, your liver processes it. So your tolerance for smoking cannabis has nothing to do with your tolerance for eating. Never eat the entire edible without knowing how much active THC is inside.

Also know that it can take up to two hours for some people to feel the effects. A lot of people make the mistake of consuming more because they think they aren’t feeling the effects and it becomes too intense. Your edible experience is influenced by everything from what you’ve eaten prior, your mood and what the edible has been made with. If you eat a THC brownie with a glass of milk instead of water you will feel stronger effects because the milk has a high fat content and THC is fat soluble. So be aware of your body chemistry and treat it like medicine. Be smart about what you choose to put into your body!

Have you sampled the products you sell? If so, what are you favorite edibles that your store carries?

I have tried almost everything that we sell at our dispensary. My personal favorite edible that we carry are the IncrEdible Chocolate bar line. They are extremely tasty and very easy to control your dose with! They come in a variety of fun flavors like Cookies and Cream, Strawberry Crunch, Peaches and Cream, and Mile High Mint.

How do your family and friends respond when you tell them your job as a budtender?

Most of my family who knows supports it and doesn’t mind. My sister is the only one I would say who is a little ashamed. Sometimes it is a bit awkward when people ask me what I do for work, but I just shrug it off and stand by what I believe.

People react in mostly two ways: They either think it’s the coolest job ever, or they think it’s bad and I should grow up. It is just a bummer that there is such a negative stigma around cannabis still. When I have met my boyfriend’s older family members I often have to lie about what I do because they would be outraged. Some people, sadly, still believe the whole “reefer madness” and look down upon me and what I do.

Do you hope to pursue other cannabis jobs in your career? 

Yes! I eventually would love to own my own edible company. My two passions in life are cannabis and baking, and being able to combine the two would make my dreams come true. As for now, I am more then happy with my job, and when I am ready I will hopefully start my own edible business.

Do you have any advice for other women who would like to be budtenders?

My advice to other woman who want to budtend would be to be yourself. I think unfortunately more often then not women are portrayed in a very sexual manner when cannabis is involved. You don’t have to sell yourself out to be involved in this industry. Be knowledgeable, respect yourself, respect others and care about the people you are helping!

You can find Kat at AMCH in Denver. Interested in working in the cannabis industry? Check out How to Get a Job in Cannabis

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