Most bartenders acquire a bit of knowledge before they get behind the stick. Chances are they know how to mix a drink and can identify the difference between a Chardonnay and a Zinfandel before they start their shifts.
The same, unbelievably but sadly very true, cannot be said for all marijuana dispensary workers.
According to a survey of 55 cannabis dispensary employees conducted by an addiction specialist at Palo Alto University in California, more than half did not receive any training before recommending products and strains to medical marijuana patients, LiveScience.com first reported.
As in any kind of training at all, whatsoever. At the same time, 94 percent of these dispensary workers reported dispensing advice on what strains to use when—meaning at least some of these poor saps were absolutely winging it.
The result researchers found: budtenders recommending high-THC strains to patients who said they were suffering from anxiety—which THC can exacerbate; they probably meant CBD, whoops!—and budtenders failing to identify CBD as the proper cannabinoid for anyone afflicted with epilepsy.
The good news is that most budtenders did steer their patients towards the right strain, but this also means there were some others who didn’t. Try to imagine another retail sector in which steering customers to the wrong product—or putting retail staffers out on the floor without adequate preparation—would be tolerated on any level.
Not that you want budtenders offering detailed medical advice. Providing medical training to dispensary workers creates its own set of issues—because by law, dispensing medical advice is much trickier than dispensing just medical marijuana. Dispensary workers are not educated or insured as nurses; it would be silly for them to start acting like it.
But even so, only 35 percent of budtenders said they had any kind of customer service training at all. And only 20 percent said they’d received any kind of training that might have involved learning about cannabis, the study found, including which cannabinoids do what and how even a cannabis strain’s terpene content can determine its effects.
That’s bad. And it’s exactly the kind of poor service that must be identified and overcome by the market.
And that means you, the consumer, are responsible for rooting out bad service and demanding adequate attention.
For this, at least part of the onus rests on you. In a way similar to how only you can tell a server if you’re in the mood for a steak or a salad, and only you can tell a nurse practitioner if you have a headache or a bum knee, only you can really know what you need from a cannabis dispensary.
That said, you should be able to get where you’re going if you provide some basic information—and based on answers or non-answers to a few simple questions that go well beyond differentiating an indica from a sativa, you should be able to know whether or not shopping at a particular dispensary is worth your time and money.
Is it your first time? Be (a little) prepared.
If you go home disappointed, don’t blame the budtender if you wandered into the pot club without a clue what you were after. Be able to verbalize your symptoms or your desires—do you want something to help you go to sleep, do you need pain relief, do you want relaxation without losing any mental focus, or are you looking for the current fire strain to impress your friends? If you know you’re there for stress relief, you should be after some CBD-rich strains; if you know you need an appetite, THC is your friend.
If you have a clear goal in mind, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to get there.
Doing edibles? Remember the rule of 10 (milligrams).
It’s easy to buy an edible that will shatter your reality and leave you mindless all day. If that’s what you’re after, good for you. For the rest of us, especially for newcomers, think of edibles in increments of 10, as in 10 milligrams of THC. Try a 10-milligram portion, wait a while, and then decide if you can tolerate more. This means finding a candy bar or something else that’s clearly labeled and contains uniform portions.
If the dispensary doesn’t have anything—not a cookie, not a chocolate bar and not even medicated coffee beans—easily delineated into 10-milligram pieces, go somewhere else. If they can’t even say how much THC is in the edible at all, go somewhere else very quickly.
But let’s presume you’re a total pro. Here are some legitimate questions you should expect your budtender to be able to answer.
What does this do?
Knowing the THC content of a strain only tells you so much—not the least of which because test results are notoriously poor indicators of total effect. It’s too much to assume a budtender has smoked every strain on the menu, particularly if it’s 40 items long. That said, they should be aware enough of what they’re selling to be able to say if it’s a spicy, punchy sativa great for a morning run or a fruity, couchlocking indica good for a night in. “Stony” won’t cut it.
What is this?
Experimentation and innovation are part of the fun in cannabis. Without mad scientists crossing strain on top of strain, we wouldn’t have the perfect hybrids. That said, if you see “Banana Wrench #4” on your menu, your budtender should be able to tell you what it is. By that, they should be able to identify any well-known strains in its genetic lineage. Knowing if, say, Blue Dream or Purple Kush was a parent will go a long way towards knowing its effects… which, see above.
Who grew it? Whose genetics are these?
All OG Kushes are not created equal. Identical genetics—that is, seeds or clones from the same parent strain—can lead to significant differences in taste, smell and effect depending on the producer. And let’s say there are some Cookies on the menu, or something more exotic like Zkittlez. Is this the legit famous Cookie Fam lineage or is this some boo-boo with a fancy name slapped on the bag? Your budtender should be able to let you know if these are the prized genetics or a pretender. With the advent of branded cultivators, they should also be able to say which farm the strain came from. If they can’t, there’s a problem.
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