Meet Your Budtenders

Four very different budtenders in various stages of their careers, talk about their experiences in the cannabis industry. 

Aurora Filipski -  Kind Love, Denver

How long have you been a budtender?

My, my... I suppose not a crazy amount of time but I moved to Colorado about two and half years ago and I've been a budtender for over two years now at two different locations.

Why did you become a budtender?

When I first moved here (Colorado) I made sure to note that I did not intend to be the Colorado stereotype, moving here to get into the cannabis industry. It just so happened that I was on a roadtrip and was on my way back to the East Coast. I'm originally from Florida, but I had driven to California, and kind of just ran out of money in Colorado and just didn't have anything for me at home and ended up finding a place to live within 3 days. I had been on the trip with a significant other and it was his car so I had to find a place within walking distance. Turns out, all the dispensaries are always hiring. So, I got into it that way but honestly it came as no surprise to me. I've always been that friend since freshman year of college that loved introducing it (cannabis) to other friends. As soon as I discovered Leafly in Florida and discovered there were sativas and indicas and all these different strains and terpenes, I was kind of just obsessed with it. So it aligned for me quite well that I ended up in this industry. I went into a dispensary on a jog, just exploring my neighborhood the first two days I moved into this apartment. I walked in and they actually just asked if I was looking for a job. It did find me, that's for sure.

Tell us about your current place of work:

I had lived down the street from Kind Love when I first moved to Colorado and as soon as I saw the name from the outside of the building I actually said to my roomate, "I'm going to work there." It's perfect for me because I've always been very passionate about kindness. Random acts of kindness, love, everything like that. It's kind of my purpose here. When I found Kind Love, I didn't know this at the time but in my humble opinion and the opinion of many others, it truly is one of the best dispensaries in the state. That's not just for the service that you receive there, but for the products. We have one location. There are a lot of corporate chains, or "Walmarts of Weed" if you will, and when you have that many locations it gets really, really difficult to quality control. So what I love about Kind Love is that we didn't want to over-saturate and stretch ourselves too thin. We wanted to keep one location and put out the best stuff possible. We flush our weed for at least two weeks. Take our time drying it, curing it and trimming it and really put out the best stuff possible. There are other places that flash dry it, literally put it in oven type of thing, and then put it on the shelves immediately and that stuff is going to burn your throat, it's going to smoke through really fast and it's not going to have much taste. So we tried to change that and hold the industry to different standard for that reason. Beyond that, the people that work there, we really do try to embody kind love.

What is the biggest challenge of being a budtender?

Trying to debunk some of the rumors or myths that both locals and out-of-staters hear before coming into the shop. It's no secret that there is a lot of hype on instagram for the hottest new product or the new "highest testing THC potency moonrocks, cavier" you know - all that. And that stuff, while there's a niche market for those things, I would say the biggest challenge is trying to re-educate or retrain people's brains to not just look for the highest THC numbers. Don't just look for the potencies because there are so many other cannabinoids at play and terpene profiles that dictate the effect and the actual potency that it will have. I'd say one out of every 3 people that come into the shop, are shopping predominantly by number of THC potency and we just know how inconsistent and inaccurate it can be. Our strongest flower might be something like 22% THC, while yes we have some OG that might be 30% but that doesn't mean it's the best bud we have around. So I'd say the biggest challenge is politely combating those strong-minded people that think they know best because of what someone told them once. The real challenge is being personable enough that they don't feel threatened by your knowledge so they are a little more willing to accept the information you are giving them.

What is your favorite part of being a budtender?

We get a lot of people traveling from out of state that have cancer or chronic seizures or even arthritis that's difficult to live with. There's been numerous times I've spent up to an hour or more with one customer or medical patient, just explaining their options. I've cried with my patients, I've cried with my customers, I've held their hands and walked them through steps of different things they can try to help them with their medicinal regimen. I've had the same patients and customers come back months later and thank me and Kind Love for helping them change their life. That's what it's about for me. I really take the approach of as soon as they walk through those doors, I genuinely want to make their day better. Anyone that comes in simply looking to absorb information with an open mind, they are my most memorable customers always.

Do you have any wild customer stories?

At a previous store I worked at (not Kind Love), there was this slightly inebriated woman that came in and asked if we gave out free samples. My manager at the time jokingly said "of course we give out free samples" and this lady straight up plucked a nug out of the jar and plopped it right in her mouth. We were all just appalled. One, because it was consumption on property, which is not ok. And two, we were all cringing at the thought of chewing this nasty nug. She then went on to eat some of our non-medicated brownies in our break room, which was just bizarre. This was just a lady on a rampage. 

What is your current favorite strain?

I'm always a sucker from some solid Gorilla Glue #4. We also have a strain at Kind Love that's called Leeroy TK (Leeroy Triangle Kush) and it's a cross of Triangle Kush and Rare Dankess #2, and it's just one of our tastiest, stickiest, most flavorful OGs that we could possible have and it's rich with that gassy scent. It's strong, it sneaks up on you but for an indica it gives me a light sense of creativity. It doesn't numb my body and I can actually be a little productive with it. I can doodle, I can write. I can have active conversation, it doesn't just shut the mind down. That one's always a staple for me. And we also have a new strain that just launched called Purple Punch and that one is phenomenal. It's frosty and delicious and the perfect anti-anxiety formula for me right now.

What are the tools you use to learn about what you are selling?

Not one in particular to tell you the truth. Probably my most useful tool is simply experience. It's hearing reviews from other people. It's recommending products over and over again and getting consistent feedback. It's talking to people in the industry, not just on the retail side, but talking to your growers, extractors, people that work with it everyday. Consistent word of mouth is probably my best source of information. It gets tricky with the internet, trying to figure out who to believe. Leafly is phenomenal for some things but there is definitely a tourist appeal to some of their articles as well. So when it comes down to it, personal accounts get me the most trustworthy information vs. what you read online.

What are your thoughts on where branding and packaging is headed in the cannabis industry?

I always think it's interesting to see what direction companies take and there's also constant curve-balls being thrown with new ridiculous limitations on the vernacular companies can use. I'm sure you've heard, we aren't allowed to call anything "candy", nothing shaped like gummy bears, etc. There is literally a product for EVERYTHING these days. Gummies, chocolates, massage oil, lubricant, suppositories, beef jerky, barbecue sauce, you name it - they have it already - it's crazy! I would say the most popular and appealing branding are the ones that target cannabis for feelings like energy or sleep. It's been intriguing to see which direction consumers are pulled based on these advertisements. People also seem to jump instantly on anti-anxiety edibles.

If you had to choose between concentrates and flower which would it be and why?

Flower hands down. I feel that I can control the high and dosing more. While I definitely mess with dabs and concentrates so I can experience the flavor and effect profile to tell people, they blast me to the moon.

What is your ultimate goal in the cannabis industry?

While budtending has it's perks, and I do strive to be the most personable, understanding provider of knowledge for people who come in, it's my passion to find THE best way to connect with every type of person out there. While it's brilliant to be able to engage with people on the front end like that of a retail shop, ultimately going forward with cannabis, it'd be ideal for me to be a broad brand ambassador for Kind Love or Comma (extract brand) to educate people on cannabis as it continues to expand. We still get people in our shop maybe once or twice a week that have concerns about becoming an "marijuana addict" and I feel I am good face for them, since I do not embody the stereotypical stoner. Furthermore, I'm looking into going to graduate school for counseling down the road so I can connect with patients on a one-on-one level there and as legalization continues to progress I would love for CBD, or light THC air-infusions to become part of my counseling practice. To have it be an option for cannabis therapy to help people to the extent that they are comfortable with. I've seen a little it of cannabis healing circles, and while I completely support the spiritual, hippy dippy side of it, I would love to be able to market it in a way that would be more broadly accepted by people from all different walks of life. Not just people that believe in spiritual energies. Being able to introduce cannabis as a means of meditation and relaxation to people everywhere. That's where I see myself going with it. Being able to introduce cannabis in a very therapeutic, counsel based setting.

If you had the opportunity to get any celebrity high, who would you choose and why?

At risk of being cliche, Neil Degrasse Tyson. And just for the sake of it popping into my head - there's a two person music group called Silvan Esso and the female vocalist, I believe her name is Amelia, she very much has a vibe that makes me think I would love to kick back and smoke with her.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a budtender?

Enthusiasm and a can-do mindset. Frankly, I don't think it's too hard to excel as a budtender in the industry, only because there are a lot of stoner stereotypes that think they can just stand there and sell weed while they're super duper high. People come into Kind Love and say "Wow you guys are so cool. In every other shop I've been to it's like they don't want to sell their stuff." I think that's greatly due to the fact that everyone who works with us is really proud of the product we put out, therefore it's easy to have enthusiasm about it. My face lights up every time I look at a jar of our weed and I get stoked when customers come in and I get to blow their mind and show them what Colorado cannabis is all about. Be ready to engage with your customers, get them excited about the future of cannabis and inform yourself so you can properly educate them. It's important to spread the message that cannabis is more than just getting high. I would say 75% of our customer base is looking for relief for something so know your market, know your people, know your product. Cannabis is about sharing, good vibes, and healing. Project that as consistently as you can and you will go really far.

What is your preferred consumption method?

I'm pretty open, not too picky. When I'm looking to actually taste something a super nice, clean piece of glass with some hemp wick and some good ground bud. I also really enjoy the communal aspect of passing around a joint and being able to collectively do that process together. It's very social, very familial and to me it's the essence of cannabis. It's burning and sharing. The classic pleasures.


Carla Selvin aka Carlacannabis - Oakland and the surrounding Bay Area

How long have you been a budtender?

I have budtended off and on since 2014.

Why did you become a budtender?

I had previously worked as a farm hand and specifically had stuck to “post production and back of house” style positions, but it became clear over time that my passion would slip out during conversations about cannabis consumption with anyone, friends, family and strangers. It became increasingly clear to me that I felt empowered to help change the stigma around an active cannabis lifestyle.

Tell us about your current place of work:

I am currently working on a personal project, compiling a list of venues and “safe consumption” spaces for public cannabis events in the future. I expect to put together more cannabis events where communities can come together and consume in a safe, legal environment all while continuing to learn about this ancient medicine and celebrate its presence in our lives.                

What is the biggest challenge of being a budtender?

Dealing with the constant change in this newly legalized industry has left a lot of budtenders in lurch. We have to constantly explain to new clients the laws and regulations which seem to change often. Consumers who have been used to their 215 rights have had to seriously change their consumption style simply because of the price hikes in taxes. It’s a hard and discouraging thing to explain multiple times during a shift on the floor.

What is your favorite part of being a budtender?

When I can change the opinion of folks who have never even considered cannabis as a medicine. I absolutely believe there is no such thing as “recreational” cannabis use, whenever someone medicates, it is ALWAYS to feel better than they already do. 

Do you have any wild customer stories?

I would see many people from all walks of life during my shifts. I often think of one man, who would come see me regularly. He had had a stroke and could no longer control the volume of his voice, so he would always come into the shop screaming for me. The cannabis he would purchase from me would actually help him regain control of his vocal volume and his stutter. It was an amazing thing to witness.

What is your current favorite strain?

I actually tell people to stop using the term “strain”. It isn’t scientifically accurate and brings the word “virus” to mind. My favorite CULTIVAR or CHEMOVAR, these days changes a lot. I love a good GSC and these days have been pining for a good example of GG4, or any old school Glue cut.

What are the tools you use to learn about what you are selling?   

There are countless books and websites that have important information, but honestly, as budtenders, we collect the best anecdotal evidence of our medicines benefits from our patients/clients. I highly recommend checking out project CBD’s website, they have wonderful articles and supplemental information for people interested in CBD.

What are your thoughts on where branding and packaging is headed in the cannabis industry?

Being the progressive industry that we are, I hope to see more cannabis companies utilizing plastic-free packaging and packaging that has low impact on our environment.

Where do you see yourself a year from now? 

Throwing fabulous cannabis-themed events for all the public to enjoy.

If you had to choose between concentrates and flower which would it be and why?   

I think both concentrate and flower have important roles to play for consumers. The phrase “a little dab will do ya” comes to mind. Sometimes I don’t want to smoke a bowl or a whole joint, sometimes a drop of solventless hash oil takes me just where I want to be. 

What is your ultimate goal in the cannabis industry?

To educate, inspire and help change the stigma around cannabis consumption. You absolutely have the right to medicate, and I will fight until my dying breath to protect our right to safe access AND safe medicine.

If you had the opportunity to get any celebrity high, who would you choose and why? 

My three celebrities I want to smoke with, in this order: Rihanna, Miley and Snoop.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a budtender? 

Smoke weed everyday. Use all of your senses when consuming cannabis, take mental notes of smell, taste, burn, effects. Create an encyclopedia of the cultivars you have consumed, because with hybridization and the way genetics are becoming more and more watered down, being able to distinguish chemovars will be an incredibly useful skill.

What is your preferred consumption method?

I actively consume cannabis in all methods. These days I am dabbing more often than smoking flower, though I still smoke multiple joints a day. 


Amy "Skittlez" Koum -  Nectar, Portland

How long have you been a budtender?

Less than a year!

Why did you become a budtender?

I became a budtender because cannabis completely changed my life and I wanted to show others the wonders of this awesome medicine. Last year I turned to cannabis to help me recover from surgery and my budtenders were amazing! The experience I had with them inspired me to want to do the same and give that incredible feeling back to others. 

 What is the biggest challenge of being a budtender? 

I think that the biggest challenge is learning not to take the job too personally. Sometimes we can get customers on their worst days and sometimes they can take that out on us. We just have to remember why we love budtending and keep on smiling. Our kindness can be what makes their day get better.

Tell us about your current place of work:

My store is amazing! We are on a busy street so we get so many tourists. I have been able to budtend in my native language of French plenty of times. We are all different people with different backgrounds who together make up a fun and awesome family. 

What is your favorite part of being a budtender? 

Being able to connect with customers on many different levels. I have a regular customer who is hearing impaired so I learned some sign language to help make her shopping experience more enjoyable. The second time I signed to her, she inquired about how to get involved in the industry. We are the face of our industry and we can help shape it.             

Do you have any wild customer stories?

Not really. We are located in a pretty chill part of town.               

What is your current favorite strain?

LA Confidential               

What are the tools you use to learn about what you are selling? 

Phylos & OCERC (Oregon Cannabis Education and Resource Center)         

What are your thoughts on where branding and packaging is headed in the cannabis industry?

I’m happy to see that branding is starting to be a focal point for cannabis companies. The more we can incorporate various forms of media into our branding, the more open other industries will be to including cannabis. I hope we work towards a more eco-friendly approach in regards to packaging. Sadly, we WASTE so much in regards to packing. This industry has a huge opportunity to reduce carbon footprints.             

Where do you see yourself a year from now?

I see myself pursing a career with branding and public relations within the cannabis community.        

If you had to choose between concentrates and flower which would it be and why?

I would go with good ol' flower! There's just something about picking up a jar of flower and smelling it.                

What is your ultimate goal in the cannabis industry?

I would love to end up being the Oprah of cannabis.            

If you had the opportunity to get any celebrity high, who would you choose and why?

I would smoke out Anderson Cooper. He has experienced so many monumental moments of history first-hand, I know his stories (while high) would be amazing!              

What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a budtender?

I would tell them that this industry isn't for someone who is just trying to pay the bills. We need people who want to save our industry and help it thrive. We are the future of cannabis.           

What is your preferred consumption method?

It's a tie between edibles and flower.


Brian Monahan - The Reefinary, Los Angeles 

How long have you been a budtender?

4 years

Why did you become a budtender?

Helping people is my passion.

What is the biggest challenge of being a budtender?

Not owning my own business, I wish I could help the sick patients more with deals.

Tell us about your current place of work:

I currently work at The Reefinery. Great facility, medicine, and team.

What is your favorite part of being a budtender?

Living a dream come true!

Do you have any wild customer stories?

My best stories come from my previous place of employment; TLMD (Timothy Leary Memorial Dispensary). It’s tough to choose a story and individual since there are many to draw from but one that left an impression was the time a patient came in trying to give everyone acid for Christmas. It was the end of the night and the patient came in and right on the counter he started dosing up sugar cubes and no one could believe he really walked in and was doing what he was doing. Immediately we had him stop and leave the premises with the LSD and while doing so we discovered the old hippie was tripping himself and he apparently just wanted to spread the holiday cheer. Definitely gave us all something to talk about that holiday season, haha

What is your current favorite strain?

Do Si Do 

What are the tools you use to learn about what you are selling?

Magazines and other literature on the internet as well as conversations with vendors. 

What are your thoughts on where branding and packaging is headed in the cannabis industry?

I think it’s going in the wrong direction. More regulation and compliance means less freedom and more plastic waste. 

Where do you see yourself a year from now?

In a good position, by all means. 

If you had to choose between concentrates and flower which would it be and why?

Flower. It’s a more complex experience with potency and cannabinoid/terpenoid profiles. 

What is your ultimate goal in the cannabis industry?

To create something new and bold and FREE.

If you had the opportunity to get any celebrity high, who would you choose and why?

The late Steve Irwin. I would love to go catch critters with that man while medicated.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a budtender?

Study constantly and check sources. People's lives will depend on as much accurate information as you can give them.


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