Bars have bartenders. Coffee shops have baristas. Cannabis dispensaries have budtenders.
And one federally licensed cannabis producer out of B.C. is on the hunt for Canada’s best.
Applicants hoping to take the title of Canada's top Budmaster will be tested using challenges like timed product trivia, terpene identification, joint rolling, and an analysis of their “contribution to cannabis culture, locally,” says a release. Then, “the top 10 finalists will be evaluated on customer service and cannabis education during a secret mystery shop.”
As one of the largest licensed producers in Canada, Aurora is required to comply with all of Health Canada's regulations and guidelines. This means the Budmaster’s exclude employees working for unlicensed or unregulated dispensaries—even if they’ve been actively engaged in serving the cannabis community for years.
In B.C., employees at privately-owned legal cannabis shops are managed by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB). Due to strict regulations around the promotion of cannabis, budtenders in these licensed stores are limited in the information they can offer to curious customers and are trained to follow an operational guidebook.
The LCRB's fully developed Health Canada compliant training modules are expected later this year.
“Current and future non-medical cannabis retail store workers will be expected to complete a training program, which will be available in the fall,” writes a spokesperson for the Ministry of Attorney General to the Georgia Straight. “Government is in the process of creating an online training and certification program, similar to what is currently available for liquor sales and service staff.”
The government-owned store in Kamloops, run by B.C. Liquour Distribution Branch (LDB), trains its public sector cannabis employees using a temporary module. A spokesperson says the interim material will be replaced by the new sytem when the LCRB releases it later this year.
Similar to the alcohol industry, anyone working in a cannabis dispensary must be over the legal age of consumption (19 in British Columbia). Under section 18.1 of the Cannabis Act, they cannot give medical advice, discuss therapeutic benefits, or “create an erroneous impression about its characteristics, value, quantity, composition, strength, concentration, potency, purity, quality, merit, safety, health effects or health risks.”
Under the same legislation, neither employees nor customers can come in direct contact with the flower while in the store. Instead, display samples of bud are kept in sealed clear containers with holes to allow only for the aroma to permeate.
All legal cannabis comes prepackaged in childproof containers—limiting case-by-case product selection—and cannot be sold in quantities more than the legally-approved carry limit of 30 grams.
Finally, dispensary workers can only sell or discuss the current classes of federally-approved cannabis products: dried flower, seeds, or oils (not including high concentration tears).
The licensing process opened up in late 2018 and in B.C. there are currently 23 approved privately-owned stores—three of which are already open in Metro Vancouver, with another three on the way. The only government store is the aforementioned dispensary located in Kamloops with several more planned for regions like Port Alberni and Campbell River.
Hopeful Budmasters can apply online through the Aurora Pro portal. The LP says more details on the judging and prizes will be released over the coming month.