Navigate to our accessibility widget

Sunday January 2, 2022

By Paul Barach

tip jar at a dispensary 420 Culture

You’re at the dispensary with your cannabis products of choice laid out on the counter in front of you. The budtender tells you the price that shows up on their register and you hand over your cash. Once you get your change back, the transaction is complete. You thank the budtender for their noble service and begin to turn away, but then your eye catches the tip jar.

The glass jar covered in brightly colored product stickers has bills and loose change already in it, so clearly other patrons have thrown in some extra cash for the budtender’s effort. You look back up at your budtender smiling back at you, some would say beatifically. You glance down at the change still in your hand, uncertain of what to do. The question arises: should I leave a tip? Many people have differing opinions when it comes to tipping budtenders, so we’re here to discuss.

Should You Tip Your Budtender?

Look, we’ve all been there when it comes to tipping. The social contract is an ever-changing document and when, where, and how much to tip requires reading the fine print. We tip our server at a laid back diner but not fast food workers flying through the lunch rush. We go off the suggested amounts on how much to tip our Lyft or taxi driver, but what is the correct amount for a cab ride? How come you can’t tip the retail employee who dug through the back room to find you the last item in stock?

Budtender with a customer
Every budtender will appreciate a tip from a customer.

Every budtender will appreciate a tip from a customer.

With budtending, it can be even more confusing. After all, isn’t a dispensary just a liquor shop for weed, and you don’t tip the liquor store clerk, right? If the law would allow you to just walk behind the counter, you could probably just pick out what you need by yourself and take it to the front to pay, couldn’t you? Besides, the budtenders are already making an hourly wage. If they wanted a better pay, they’d get a better job, right? So, is tipping necessary?

While there may be a debate among consumers, ask any former or current budtender about tipping and their answer will be some version of “Yes, please do.”

For one thing, tips help supplement income in what is usually a low-wage service job. The national hourly minimum wage rate hasn’t budged in over a decade and it’s not as though the costs of food, housing, or health care have frozen along with it. While the need for raising all wages up to a living wage is a debate that can be had at another time, the long story short is that making more money is always preferred than making less, and budtenders tend not to be well paid.

Beyond that, tipping is also a way to incentivize good customer service. While we would like to believe that every worker is always giving their 100% to a customer, the fact is that customer service can be exhausting. Getting paid the same wage whether you’re doing your best or phoning it in means a lot of the time that conserving your energy is the best strategy to get through your day. However, if you know that better service equals better tips, you’ll put in that effort for an extra dollar or two from the customer.

Budtending Isn’t as Easy as You Think

Even ignoring these first two points, your retail clerk at a dispensary has a much more complicated job than say your liquor store clerk. Budtending, when done right, is skilled labor. It requires the product knowledge of a sommelier with the customer service of a bartender. That’s not even counting the mountain of compliance regulations and laws they need to know, which is staggering.

A good budtender will ask what kind of experience you’re looking for when you come to their register and help guide you to the best product whatever your experience level is. Since cannabis is such a personalized product and each customer is hoping for a different effect with it, it takes a while to learn about the products in the store, and even then, stock is always changing. A budtender should know which strains do what, which edibles do what, and the various effects of dabs, waxes, shatters, and other concentrates.

Budtender weighing flowering
Budtenders work hard to help you get the right products.

Budtenders work hard to help you get the right products.

After all, you tip your bartender for picking out your beer or making you a delicious cocktail. Imagine if every drink the bartender poured had a slightly different effect, both depending on the alcohol and the person drinking it. In practice, making a good recommendation can entail a lot more than it appears.

If one cocktail gave you an energized focus, another eased your back pain at the end of the day, or a third fixed your stomach problems, you would tip this bartender even more, since this sounds like a bar the upperclassmen at Hogwarts attend. Plus, if your budtender likes you, you’ll have the inside line on the best strains and products that just came into the shop, as well as recommendations that may become your new favorites.

How Much Should You Tip a Budtender?

As a rule of thumb, start at a dollar and move on from there. If they’re fun and friendly and on their game, throw them a tip for making your day a little better. If you spend a lot of time with them as you two narrow down the right product for you, or if they’re going above and beyond with their time as you max out your daily cannabis limit for a party, tip accordingly to that effort. They may have given up other customers and their tips making sure you got everything you needed. Remember, these people don’t work on commission and their hourly wage is low. If they are taking extra time and care to help you, it’s a meaningful effort, and one that deserves some recognition.

On the other hand, bad service is bad service. If you feel like you got $1 worth of service, feel free to put that in. If you feel like you got less than that, keep your money. 

While it is a fun job, budtending at a marijuana dispensary is hard work that often doesn’t pay great. Tips are a way to show your appreciation for the work a good budtender does, for all the knowledge they bring to the interaction, and for being good at their jobs. It’s more than appreciated, and will pay you back in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Have to Tip Your Budtender?

You should tip your budtender. You don’t technically have to, the same way you don’t have to tip your waiter, but it's the  socially conscious thing to do . Budtenders have to be equipped with a lot of knowledge and product familiarity. If they imparted some of that knowledge, or used it in the course of providing excellent service, give them a tip to show your appreciation. If you get some awful service, then by all means, your tip amount can reflect that as well.

How Much Should You Tip a Budtender?

For a basic transaction, a dollar is a good standard. For anything more complex $2-5, depending on the extent of the service and size of the purchase, and if you’re really making them run around for a large order, consider throwing a $5-10 in the tip jar.

How Much are Budtenders Paid?

Budtending tends to make a few dollars over minimum wage, but that’s not always the case, depending on the market. Sometimes it’s just the minimum and sometimes it can be a bit higher, but regardless of what market they are working in, assume the pay is on the lower end in general. Low pay for budtenders is a sad truth of the industry, but it’s pervasive enough to ring true to most any budtender you encounter.

Do you tip your budtender? Why or why not? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Sam Dan Truong (license)


Paul Barach Paul Barach

Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.

More From This Author

Related Articles