As of October 2022, data firm Cannabis Benchmarks indicates that licensed adult-use cannabis stores across Canada keep coming, with over 3,290 stores coast-to-coast.
That’s a lot of opportunity for job seekers who want to repurpose their existing retail experience for a new industry, and those curious about entry-level roles in the burgeoning cannabis industry.
But before bailing on your current job, know that most budtender jobs require a basic knowledge of cannabis, and all require a certification that shows you understand cannabis basics and the laws regulating it.
Several supplementary courses have been designed to educate on cannabis. Here’s what to expect from them.
Get your province or territory certification
CannSell standard certification covers cannabis basics, the federal and provincial guidelines, common compliance issues, and the potential risks and harms associated with cannabis use. They also offer an expert-level course in cannabis history, genetics, growing, packaging, and how cannabinoids work in the human body.
The number of students who have taken Ontario’s required course CannSell has tripled in the last year to more than 26,000, according to co-CEOs Jonathan Carley and Andy Deonarine.
Since they acquired the course from Lift & Co. about two years ago, they said they’ve been smoothing out bugs and payment processes on the online delivery platform and updating evolving regulations.
“We aim to provide the best user experience for the education that we’re providing, and having it be up-to-date, and bridge the gap between brands and budtenders,” said Deonarine in a phone interview.
“At the end of the day, there are many other companies entering the space, or have been around for a little bit, but there’s only one that is a sole mandated training program of the AGCO.”
PEI and Nova Scotia also use CanSell, but otherwise, each province has its own requirements. In Alberta, the training program for budtenders is called SellSafe, and Saskatchewan uses the CannaSell SK Responsible Cannabis Sales Training program. In BC, Responsible Service BC hosts Selling It Right.
Manitoba’s Liquor, Gaming, & Cannabis Authority requires a Smart Choices Cannabis Retail Certification prior to starting work. Quebec has the Société Québécoise du Cannabis training program. The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation takes care of training through SkillsPass.
For those looking for budtender gigs up north, the North West Territories covers employee training internally. The Yukon offers a Be A Responsible Server- Cannabis (BARS-C) program and Nunavut uses its own Cannabis Retail Employee Training Program.
Educational add-ons will set you apart
Beyond provincial requirements, budtenders can pursue additional education for more niche, hands-on knowledge. Tabitha Fritz launched her online course, LevelUp, after developing in-store budtender training programs and seeing an opportunity to help staff better understand cannabis.
“You can present facts to someone and say, here are all the facts about cannabis, cannabinoids, terpenes, your endocannabinoid system and concentrates,” she explained.
“But that doesn’t necessarily mean that someone’s going to digest that and internalize that. [This course] takes the learner on a journey through cannabis, how it works with our bodies, and why it is so unique to each consumer.”
There are many non-mandatory online courses, like educational modules by CannaReps, Cannabis Training Canada, the Cannabis Institute of Canada, and others, available online. Many universities and colleges across Canada also offer degrees, courses, and certifications in all aspects of the cannabis industry, from science to engineering to hospitality.
But these courses have a price, and you may find that they aren’t worth it pre-employment. Consider looking into a program once you’re employed, and seek out employees who can attest that they took their skills to the next level.
Once hired, you can also ask your employer to coordinate and invest in additional education, or investigate group rates.
Don’t forget customer service and soft skills
Krista Raymer, the co-founder of retail consultants Vetrina Group, said budtender training and education will continue to evolve in the coming years. While cannabis concepts and products are one set of skills, she said soft skills should emphasize budtender training.
“One of the biggest trends that I would like to see continue to develop is that we become less about transactions and more about the opportunity to sell and share product information that is relevant to the customer.”
– Krista Raymer, co-founder of Vetrina Group
Rather than focusing on making a big sale, Raymer says conversations should be broader and deeper, with more focus on the general needs a shopper hopes to address.
“Our budtenders can elevate that experience,” she said. “There is a big gap in the industry in that space right now, and it’s because it’s really hard to execute and takes a lot of time, a lot of training. And since we’ve seen a really high turnover rate with budtenders, it’s hard to make that kind of investment.”
Talk to your local budtenders
Some of the most valuable budtender education comes from hands-on product workshops with brand reps and trying products for themselves, according to Alex Pollard, one of the founders of union organizers United Weed Workers.
Some stores offer employees product discounts, but it can be expensive for budtenders, who, according to Payscale, make $16.03/hour on average.
“Each store and brand tends to do things their own way, but stores that encourage the brand reps and territory managers to interact with budtenders and foster those relationships is really something special,” shares Pollard.
Before signing up for a course, talk to existing budtenders to find out what they wish they had known before starting out in the industry and whether or not a course was worth the money.
And remember, employers should invest in their workforce—always ask your employer to coordinate training on your behalf.
With files from Ashley Keenan.