Budtending is an art form. Every day, fearless cannabis aficionados do what they can to mitigate the void of substantiated cannabis research, to keep track of countless strains and products, and to understand the wide array of patients’ requirements – all to provide what still amount to very subjective recommendations. They have to; the industry depends on them. Maybe even more than you know.
California’s medical marijuana movement surely owes plenty to its budtender community. But now, as we witness increasing numbers of new patients and 7new products, budtenders may find themselves in a position of disproportionate influence. This is not ideal. If the cannabis market is to expand profitably and safely, the budtender – an often excellent but sometimes equally transient dispensary employee - simply cannot be expected to be the be-all, end-all to everybody. Let me explain.
The more time I spend talking with four key stakeholders of the cannabis ecosystem – patients, doctors, retailers and product manufacturers – the more I realize that all roads lead to the budtender. Amazingly, they’re all very dependent – each for their own purposes – on a group for which there is yet no real standardization nor recognized accreditations.
Patients: Cannabis reacts differently for all patients, and patients each come looking to solve very different problems. Yet they all depend on the budtender to have answers
Doctors: As doctors are limited in how specific they can be with their cannabis patients, the onus lies with the budtender to decode what the doctor told the patient and in turn suggest the right solution
Product Manufacturers: Short of places to advertise or educate prospective patients about their products, they lean almost exclusively on budtenders to tell their story and ideally recommend their products
Retailers: They’re in business to help patients and to sell products – to pay their bills. This too puts pressure on the budtender and can impact judgment, even if not intentionally
While patients may find themselves too dependent on one source for advice, it’s the brands (product manufacturers) who are, in my opinion, most at risk in the current model. We’re fortunate to have so many well-intended, large and small product manufacturers busy creating new formulas, revising dosing approaches, expanding delivery methods and doing what they can to match products to individual needs. And yet so many of them find themselves deploying more and more resources to gain the mindshare of the budtender in the hope that their finished product gets into the right hands.
For the cannabis industry to grow we need new patients. Lots of them. More importantly though, we need new patients to succeed with cannabis and for them to tell others. Other more mature, successful market segments tell us that to get there, we need well-informed, confident consumers.
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It is no coincidence that these dynamics in part led HelloMD to create a community platform that allows patients to connect directly with cannabis experts. It is our effort to empower patients with more influence over their cannabis decisions, and – as part the solution - to give a much stronger voice to the people behind the products you find on dispensary shelves. Think of it as community-powered advice.
What we have found, beyond a doubt, that while there may be a void of substantiated research, by medical standards, there is no void of expertise in the community. And no lack of desire to share it with others.
Patients: On our home page, on any of our product manufacturer business listings, on a particular product listing pages, or on a condition-specific page -- feel free to ask (anonymously) any questions you might have. We will let the experts know immediately, and you can soon after expect doctors, product experts and – this is important – other patients to offer you their opinions
Doctors: Come show off your knowledge. These are opinions, and opinions are always more valuable when there are more than one. And, with the absence of the patient/doctor relationship, you are welcome to add in the details you might not otherwise share
Product Manufacturers: If your brand is not already listed on HelloMD, let us know. Setting up takes only minutes. When a HelloMD member inquires about your products, we will notify you instantly. You can quickly share your insights with them, and grow a centralized but dynamic knowledge base around your products. Help patients gain the confidence they need to ask for your product by name
Retailers: If you have a budtender (or many) whose expertise is just not getting out to as many patients as you would like, enroll them as an expert on HelloMD. Every time they contribute answers, patients will see that they come from your amazing budtenders – empowering them to choose your dispensary because of it.
Budtending as a profession is not only here to stay, I suspect it will become a more valued role as standardized training and accreditations make their way into the market. But if we continue in a model where all stakeholders are so dependent on the budtender, something will give.
Let’s work together to empower patients to take a more active role in their cannabis decisions – and in doing so, support rather than gang up, on the budtender nation.