Shopping For Legal Cannabis

Ask a Bud: Frequently Asked Customer Questions

Go ahead and ask about cannabis potency, strains, popular products and more — but your local budtender may draw the line at helping to apply your topicals. Three Ontario budtenders share common questions from customers.

We’re a go-to for education in our store.

Alexis Robillard at Northern Helm 

Alexis Robillard
Budtender, Northern Helm

More than just retail expertise, budtenders have a range of cannabis knowledge and experience that can help you make safer choices when shopping for legal cannabis. They understand the formats and products available, and know what’s popular among consumers. We talked to budtenders at Green Merchant (Danforth), The Woods and Northern Helm to find out what customers are most commonly curious about, plus where to find more information about cannabis.

What are customers asking budtenders?

From our conversations with three budtenders in three different Ontario communities, it’s clear that the types of questions being asked depend on the store location. But while the goals and experience levels of customers may vary, their questions commonly centre on the topics of cannabis potency, potential effects, product knowledge and formats.

Cannabis potency: “What’s your highest high?”

The most common potency question you might hear in stores is, “What’s your highest THC percentage?” followed closely by, “Which of your products are THC-free?” All of the budtenders we spoke with say customers frequently ask when higher potency products, especially edibles and beverages, will become available. Current Health Canada regulations allow for no more than 10 mg THC per package for these products.

Edie Eloise, a budtender at Green Merchant (Danforth) in Toronto, says consumers often ask for help in understanding the potency numbers on cannabis packaging. This information can be confusing, as it varies depending on the type of product. “A lot of people don't know how to read or understand the potencies on oils,” she says. “I have to break it down for them.” Budtenders can help you make sense of the amounts of THC and CBD in the product you are purchasing, as well as other characteristics, such as terpenes, the specific strain and how it can be consumed.

Headshot of Edie Eloise 

Edie Eloise
Budtender, Green Merchant (Danforth)

A lot of people ask where the numbers on the packaging come from. 

Cannabis products: “How do I choose a strain?”

We’re creatures of habit: Budtenders say most people are asking for help to purchase a specific product they already know they like. Since every store can’t carry every strain or cultivar, part of a budtender’s job is suggesting a substitute that may feature a similar terpene profile, comparable potency or related genetics. Don’t be shy if you don’t see what you’re looking for — your budtender can steer you in the right direction.

Budtenders should also be up to date on the latest formats and innovative cannabis products rolling onto the market. See something unfamiliar? Just ask. They can fill you in on the different emulsion processes used to make beverages, for example, or how to use a bong.

Cannabis effects: “How long will it take to get high?”

Budtenders can point you broadly toward intoxicating and non-intoxicating products, and offer a general idea of how long the onset of effects will be for different formats. But any budtender worth their bud won’t give advice on how a product will specifically affect you, since effects vary from person to person.

All of the budtenders we talked to say they take the opportunity to educate customers about the endocannabinoid system, which plays a part in how cannabis affects the body and is the reason your reaction to a product will vary widely from someone else’s. Gurm Gurmehar, a budtender at The Woods in Brampton, Ont., notes that she is experienced in responding to diverse questions from the broad spectrum of customers shopping in-store. She’s been asked everything from the differences between indica and sativa to how beverages are infused. “I’ve been in the industry for a year and a half,” Gurmehar says. “In a week, I still get four or five people brand new to cannabis walking through our doors.”

Headshot of Gurm Gurmehar

Gurm Gurmehar
Budtender, The Woods

How the products are made and what goes in them are some of the more prominent questions.

Cannabis formats: “What’s in a vape?”

At the moment, budtenders say the format causing the most buzz for them and consumers is vapes. Customers are curious about everything from how vape technology works to the potency of vape carts.

The sheer number of cannabis products and formats available on the legal market mean staff have to be prepared to answer. “We’re a go-to for education in our store,” says budtender Alexis Robillard at Northern Helm in Kingston, Ont. She says consumers ask questions such as, “How do I consume this product?” and, "Why aren’t I getting a full-spectrum experience?” And Robillard explains unfamiliar terminology to answer questions like, “What is a distillate?”

What should I NOT ask a budtender?

Budtenders can share their personal experiences with products, or tell you which ones are currently popular with other customers. They can explain the specific details about a product, such as its THC and CBD content, where it was produced and the ingredients. But budtenders can’t legally (or accurately) tell you how any particular product will affect you specifically. They aren’t permitted to give advice on questions around using cannabis to treat specific medical conditions or administering it to pets. In these cases, budtenders are likely to redirect customers to seek professional medical advice or consult with a veterinarian.

Where else can I get help for my cannabis questions?

Beyond budtenders and educational materials offered in-store, you can check the Licensed Producer’s website for more information about specific products. But when you’re researching cannabis, keep in mind that not all sources are equal. Some of the budtenders we talked to were reluctant to suggest a specific resource in case the information led to a bad experience for the consumer. Others pointed to sites like HiBuddy and Leafly for detailed terpene profiles and product reviews. For fact-based, unbiased information about cannabis, check out Cannabis Made Clear.

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