Why Are Marijuana Retailers Struggling To Keep Budtenders?

Turnover is rampant at cannabis stores, study reveals.

Why Are Marijuana Retailers Struggling To Keep Budtenders?
Photo by Heath Korvola/Getty Images

For most cannabis consumers, your friendly neighborhood budtender is somebody you want to know on a first-name basis. He or she will clue you in on sweet deals, hot new products and other important shopping decisions. Need sleep? Pain relief? Help with stress? A good cannabis guide can be very useful in helping you find the right product just for you.

But according to a new study conducted by Seattle-based cannabis data and analytics company Headset, retailers are having a difficult time hanging onto workers. “Budtending is an amazing job. … But it’s not all sampling product and shooting the breeze,” the report found.

According to the study, “budtenders are the core of any retail business, being the most customer-focused employees. Though they might technically be the lowest people on the totem pole, smart cannabis business owners know that they’re really the foundation. Thus, keeping them around is key.”

Headset found that turnover in the industry is higher in cannabis than in most industries. The study looked at retail outlets in Colorado and Washington, the two most mature markets in the U.S. The report found the two states had very different turnover profiles. In Colorado, only 38 percent of budtenders stayed with the company for more than a year. In Washington, 47 percent stayed for 12 months.

The report also found:

The highest-performing budtenders have the highest retention rates. Obviously, it feels good to be good at what you do, but they’re probably also making a killing in tips! It’s easy to forget that budtending is a tipped industry, so there’s an element of revenue sharing going on for high performers.

Headset’s data-crunching revealed that 58 percent of budtenders overall did not last in the job two months; 40 percent quit or were let go in less than 30 days.

Is this turnover seasonal? Headset discovered that August was a big month for turnover in both Washington and Colorado. But Washington also had a spike in October and Colorado had an uptick in December.

So the next time you visit your favorite budtender, you may want to toss a buck or two in the tip jar. It could make a difference for the both of you.

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