Budtenders have two important jobs: to be the face of their dispensary, and to provide information. A dispensary’s visitors – especially the less experienced ones – often look to budtenders as trusted sources of strain recommendations, along with all the other information a visitor might need. The budtender supplies answers, and acts as a guide to the world of cannabis. But do they really know what they’re talking about?
The Problem with Recommendations
Budtenders don’t always give great recommendations, and the information they provide isn’t always correct. In some cases, this is because they haven’t done as much research as they should have, but not always. Sometimes, their information is just out of date. For example, it’s common wisdom that “indicas give you a stony body high, and sativas give you an uplifting head high.” That general rule is often repeated, but it’s outdated and incorrect.
Another obstacle is the fact that each strain can have multiple phenotypes, which means that different batches of the same strain may have slightly different chemical compositions. As a result, different batches may have different effects. On top of that, not everyone reacts to a strain in the same way, so budtenders’ recommendations are likely to be more useful for some users than others.
Finally, even if budtenders could take all of these things into account, they would still be significantly limited by our lack of scientific knowledge about how cannabis works. We know a lot about how THC works, and a fair amount about CBD, but we don’t know everything. We know that terpenes play a role in determining strains’ effects, and we know the specific effects of a few of the most common terpenes… but we don’t know everything. The same goes for the hundred-plus other cannabinoids.
With all these variables and knowledge gaps, are budtenders’ recommendations actually useful, or are they basically folktales? Sometimes, but not always.
How to Make Useful Recommendations
Obviously, not all budtenders are created equal. Many still use the indica/sativa binary as a starting point, even though it doesn’t really work. Some make recommendations based on their own experiences, which is more likely to be useful, but still doesn’t apply to everyone. And, once again, our scientific understanding of cannabis is currently very limited. So, while we wait for science to catch up, how can budtenders make sure their recommendations are useful?
- Start with your personal experiences. As I mentioned before, this isn’t always accurate since different people may have different responses to a particular strain. Even so, it’s a good starting point – definitely better than just guessing the strain’s effects based on whether it’s an indica or sativa. Plus, you’ll get to count your smoke sessions as research.
- Do outside research. Check out Leafly’s reviews of the strains that your dispensary sells. Find out everything you can about the effects of particular terpenes. Check out Confident Cannabis’ Connect app to see which strains are closely related to ones that you have experience with so that you can get an idea of which strains share similarities.
- Talk about your customer’s preferences. Speaking of similarities, one of the best things you can do to zero in on the best strain to recommend to a customer is to find out what else they’ve enjoyed in the past (assuming they aren’t a complete newbie). You may need to be familiar with strains that you can’t find at your dispensary, but if you can build a large enough knowledge base, you’ll be able to find a strain that’s right up your customer’s alley.
Finally, keep your eyes open for better systems. As I wrote before, the indica/sativa binary is likely on its way out. In the future, in-depth lab results will probably be our primary source of information about how a strain will affect the user, rather than how the plant looks or smells. However, it’s unlikely that there will be a standardized method of interpreting those lab results. Different companies and dispensaries may categorize things differently, even if they have the same data. Keep a close eye on these developments as the industry grows and as scientists uncover new information.