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Formal Training Needed For Budtenders As More States Become Legal

Do you trust budtenders? Should you?

A new study released earlier this month revealed that only 55 percent of staff at cannabis retailers receive formal training.

The report, titled “Training and Practices of Cannabis Dispensary Staff” and published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, was conducted by a team of California researchers and found that a mere 20 percent of the employees who received training were taught specialized medical or scientific information. But nearly all (94 percent) of staff gave dosage recommendations to patients.

Dr. Nancy Haug, the lead researcher of the study, says the industry’s employee training requires closer examination. She warned that some of the budtenders’ recommendations have not been shown to be effective. More alarmingly, the advice could even cause a patient’s condition to worsen. 

Most states that have a regulated market have discouraged or, in some cases, banned employees from making medical statements in regard to the cannabis sales.

As the industry matures, more and more sophisticated retailers are creating a new taxonomy or language for consumers.

Sean Miller, managing partner at Origins, a Seattle cannabis retail store, is hoping the dynamics change soon. His company is moving in a new direction.

“At Origins we recognized there is natural bias for cannabis recommendations without structured cannabis guide training and product categories,” Miller said.  “To limit the traditional recommendation bias where cannabis guides recommend their favorite strains rather than a strain that best fits the clients’ needs, Origins has organizing their strains by cannabinoid profile and ratio, which are then categorized into “Lifestyles.”

“Once we have established a strain’s Lifestyle, cannabis guides receive training on each Lifestyle and strains within the Lifestyle.  With these tools we have found that cannabis guides are empowered with relevant data and information to make educated recommendations versus relying on personal favorites.   Origins goal is to provide relevant recommendations thus creating loyal and educated clients,” Miller added.

The “Lifestyles” created at Origins include:

  • Self discovery
  • Adventurous
  • Social
  • Holistic
  • Party-goer
  • After hours

“We have found that this approach takes a lot of the bias out of the recommendation,” Miller said.

The study agrees with Miller’s assessment. It revealed that the indica/sativa distinction may be a irrelevant:

“While observations related to strain recommendations are interesting, due to extensive hybridization and variations in growing conditions, the differences between cannabis strains do not seem to play as large a role in determining subjective effects as cannabinoid concentrations. This has led some to argue that distinctions among cannabis chemovars labeled as ”Sativa’ or ‘Indica’ are relatively meaningless unless accompanied by detailed accurate assays of cannabinoid and terpenoid content.”

The results of the small-sample study clearly demonstrate that marijuana retailers should provide training to their staff members, according to Haug.

The report concludes:

“Although many dispensary staff are making recommendations consistent with current evidence, some are recommending cannabis that has either not been shown effective for, or could exacerbate, a patient’s condition. Findings underscore the importance of consistent, evidence-based, training of dispensary staff who provide specific recommendations for patient medical conditions.”

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