A common question that comes up when we dig into dispensary hiring best practices is the question do budtenders need certifications to work legally at a dispensary? The answer is, it depends.
For dispensary owners, it can be tricky to understand the requirements, and depending on where you located a budtender certification may or may not be required to stay compliant.
For a full guide about budtender hiring process, check the ultimate dispensary hiring guide!
Below, we cover the needs for budtender certifications in both US and Canadian locations.
Most US-based states don't require budtenders to hold any certification to legally work at a dispensary, while most Canadian provinces do. Canadian budtender certification requirements are different depending on the provincial guidelines. Employers may also request budtenders take a non-government course to acquire a certification to showcase experience.
Budtender certifications are not mandatory from a legal standpoint in the United States; however, Canada requires budtenders to have certifications. These include CannSell (Ontario), Serving it Right (BC) and SellSafe(Alberta). We will get into more detail and other types of budtender certifications in this article.
Just because certifications aren't required in the states or some provinces, doesn't mean they won't be valuable. A business has the right to set specific requirements for its business. For example, you can get a Google Ads certification to display your knowledge of Google. If you want to hire a Google Ad buying expert, you might expect them to have taken this course before you hire them.
Budtender certificates boost a person's knowledge scope, so if budtenders wish to argue for a higher hourly wage, certifications are an excellent way to do that.
Budtender certifications could work well as an interview question during the hiring process, to know more about the types of questions you could ask, check these 8 types of budtender interview questions!
This link list is by no means an endorsement of the above programs. However, mention of certifications from these bodies should tell you of an employee's desire to educate themselves. These certificates are a good sign of someone being passionate about budtending.
The minimum budtending requirements in Canada vary depending on the province. You can familiarize yourself with these requirements below:
A budtender in BC, Canada, needs to have a Selling It Right certification.
The accepted online certification program for Alberta is SellSafe.
In Saskatchewan, the CannaSell SK Responsible Cannabis Sales training must be completed by an intending budtender in SK.
In Manitoba, a budtender must complete the Smart Choices Cannabis Retail Certification.
A budtender in Ontario must receive a CannSell certification – a program offered in conjunction with Lift & Co Cannabis Retail Training.
A budtender in Quebec must be certified by the Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQDC)
In New Brunswick, budtenders must complete a 3 weeks cannabis program conducted by the partnership of ANBL and Canopy Growth.
In Nova Scotia, budtenders must complete a 5-day Cannabis Retail Training Certification awarded by the cannabis information company – Lift & Co, in association with the NSLC
A budtender in PEI must receive a CannSell certification – a program offered in conjunction with Lift & Co Cannabis Retail Training.
In the Yukon, budtenders must acquire The Be A Responsible Server-Cannabis (BARS-C) program is an online certification course.
To become a budtender in Nunavut, the government conducts a Cannabis Retail Employee Training Program, which certifies the successful candidate to be employed as a budtender for 5 years; after which he has to go for recertification.
In the North West Territories, a budtender does not require a government-issued license; they would only need to pass a background check and be of legal age to work in a dispensary (19)
The United States of America is less insistent on certifications than Canada. However, you'll find that the USA likes to keep tabs on the background of people who join the industry.
There are no certification requirements to be a budtender in California. However, you can't participate in the industry until you are 21 and older. This puts a damper on 18 or 19-year old's desires to join the cannabis industry at a young age.
The "additional badging” requirements refer to extra steps necessary to verify your identity. These change on a city-by-city basis, so check with local authorities if you live anywhere in CA.
Colorado is another central hub for marijuana consumption, growing in popularity after it voted for legalization in 2012. You need to be above 21 to use or sell the product, but additional hoops are required to sell it.
First, aspiring budtenders need to be Colorado residents, proven through owning a Colorado ID or DL.
A budtender license comes in the form of a MED badge. MED, or Marijuana Enforcement Division, is a way for members of this division to track you easily. To get one, you need to follow these steps:
Those who have a history of substance abuse over the past ten years, or any felony within the past five years, are not legally allowed to acquire a MED badge. So if you want to expand your cannabis business to Colorado, keep your police record clean.
There are fewer hoops to jump through in order to start budtending in Oklahoma. All you need is proof of residency and a clean criminal record. No one with a felony conviction over the past decade is permitted to participate.
You can feasibly walk into an Oklahoma dispensary without prior knowledge and apply for a job. However, not knowing the subject usually results in a struggle.
Missouri residents are still not among the states where marijuana is not legal for adult use. However, medical marijuana is legal, requiring access through an appropriate form of medical allowance.
However, all owners and employees must have a Missouri Facility Agent ID, which is the blanket term for a budtender license. This is not to test your knowledge of products and the safety of suggestions but just to make you easily trackable.
You don't need to meet a residency requirement to become an "agent." You need an active form of government ID. Also, you can't have any disqualifying felony offenses under 19 CSR 30-95.010(8), which excludes the following:
The adult-use cannabis industry is very loose for employees in New York. However, NY residents need to work for a business approved by the OCM.
OCM-approved businesses in NY are approved to grow and process products containing 0.3% THC. Notice, I did not use the word sell. Each city must determine the recreational legalization process, one by one.
At this time, there are no legal weed shops in NY due to governmental delays. So you need to work for a state-approved medical dispensary. This is likely to change over the next few years, given the recent legalization of recreational use.
Las Vegas, Nevada, is run by the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB). To participate in the industry in any capacity (budtender or otherwise), you must have a Cannabis Agent Card.
You can find the form here but must comply with fingerprinting and background checks to get it. The process can take a few weeks, similar to how Colorado handles it. Nevada also allows you to check to see if your employer is licensed (which is a requirement).
While writing this, Texas has no recreational industry and is does not have a strong presence in the medical industry. They are only just starting to integrate low THC treatments for people who have PTSD and cancer.
Because of this, budtending jobs are few and far between. So the regulation is non-existent. But since most low-TCH businesses (like those who operate with Delta-8 THC) work in smokables, they choose to use the general laws for smoking (21+ or older).
Recreational use requires you to be 21 or older. Some businesses like a criminal background check, but this is not mandatory for companies in the state.
Those working as medical budtenders need to complete a 20-hour training program, CPR certification, and a Medical Marijuana Consultant Certification application.
Applying costs $95, with renewals $90. The courses are intended to familiarize you with the science of marijuana and state rules.
Illinois has a unique approach to giving jobs to budtenders. Their first two requirements (background check and proof of age) are pretty standard.
What's different is the need for you to seek out vendors through the Illinois Responsible Vendor Training program. Fellow vendors who want to start a business need to learn from their third-party trainers.
With training handled by fellow commercial providers, be sure to stick to the approved list. This way, your budtending license will stay valid.
Alaska requires all employees of marijuana facilities to acquire a Marijuana Handler's Card. The Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office passes these requirements down.
To acquire a card, you'll need to select one from a list of approved courses to complete, provide a DOS background check, give your photo ID, and fill out this cover sheet.
You'll need all of this and $50 to provide to the Robert B. Atwood Building in Anchorage, Alaska. All employees (not just budtenders) must have this card to work in the cannabis industry.
Michigan legalized marijuana recently, alongside a litany of regulations that mainly affect the business owner. Since 2018, the Michigan Regulatory Agency (MRA) has overseen results from the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana App.
The MRA requires employers to ask employees to submit to a state background check, evidence of their Michigan residency (typically through state-issued ID), and give their agreement to being tracked by a statewide monitoring system.
Alongside this, current employees must provide up-to-date information on all criminal charges. This is part of the onboarding and hiring process, ensuring full disclosure.
We hope this was helpful in understanding the in's and out's of budtender certifications. If you are looking for a great way to stay compliant during the hiring and onboarding process, consider a people management solution like KayaPush. KayaPush allows you to use applicant tracking tools to only hire budtenders who pre-qualify based on their certifications. You can also store certifications in your KayaPush HRIS, and set alerts for when certifications need to be renewed!
“KayaPush has it all in one platform where you can kind of build what you need. Especially as a start-up, that’s important to us to be cost-friendly. You have the best price for what you’re offering. ”
-Marry Ann from Riverside Wellness-