Legal cannabis has produced dozens of unique jobs, yet the face of the industry has always been the budtender. For those consumers who already know what they want, the budtender may simply be a middleman — but for the inexperienced, budtenders are modern sherpas, here to guide us through a new world of strains, vaporizers and other cutting-edge ways to enjoy cannabis.
Not every budtender is so willing to educate customers, but don't tell that to Scott Yoss. A nine-year veteran of Colorado's cannabis industry, Yoss uses his vast cultivation and dispensary experience to consult with customers at the Clinic on Colfax. Casual but bluntly honest (his advice on Durban Poison and certain OG cuts has changed my own consumption habits), Yoss chatted with Westword about his favorite strains, annoying customer questions and more.
Westword: What are the questions you're asked the most as a budtender?
Scott Yoss: Most shoppers are concerned about price, and when they're not focused on prices, they're concerned with the potency. Because we have this legal platform with cannabis, people have become much more informed on what they want. CBD is what people mostly come in for when they have independently researched effects in relationship with pain, inflammation and the pangs of getting older. The other side of that fence is the "I've come in here for the 'Panama Punch Sauce.'" That shopper is the stoner — someone who wants the most flavor and knows exactly what they want.
What are some of the most annoying questions you're asked by customers?
The most annoying question is "What is the percentage?" To me, this just sounds like someone ordering an Everclear at a bar — and, honestly, when was the last time you heard someone order a shot of Everclear?
You want some good flavors on that shot? Well, let's suggest some, and that will provide to the cannabis experience much better than going by those potency numbers. Rumor has it there is a 15 percent range allowed for differential on the actual total of cannabinoids present.
Are you a flower or concentrate guy?
Overall, I would consider myself a flower guy. I smoke three-quarters of an ounce a week, mostly Kush and OG strains. I love, love, love the Clinic's Jim OG, Kosher Kush and Fall of ’97; Phishhead Kush is why I became a Clinic member. I sure am a fan of Ghost Train Haze — à la Rare Dankness — and OG 18, of which there's not enough in this city! For years I have bought water extracts from Essential Extracts. If I had my choice, I would smoke three or four grams of bubble/full-melt hash a week over concentrates from any other extraction processes.
What do you look for in a cannabis strain? Do you have any favorite strains or qualities?
What I ask myself when I look for a cannabis strain is: What is it doing to my body and perception of time, pain management and euphoria? Flavor is super-important, and I will track down those flavors as well as I can to fit my needs. I want rubber and gas! That gritty Diesel nose and a sweet, vinyl-rubber exhale. Denver Relief grew an Ultimate ’91 Chemdawg that had the most wonderful bergamot-Earl-Grey-tea flavor profile that I would give my left hand for. When spending my money on cannabis, I look for trichome development and solid bud structure. Bud structure is specific to that flower and can show off the lies even before you smell it.
What doesn't get enough love commercially? Are there any strains that you think are overrated?
I'd sure love to see more OG 18 from the Reserva Privada collection, as well more Skunk#1. And I miss seeing Super Silver Haze; the Pink House grew a really nice one years ago that tasted like buttered popcorn.
The answer to the most-overrated question is Blue Dream or Golden Goat. I have a real hard time thinking anything is overrated if it's something that makes you feel better, so I can sit here and think of some quality or benefit to any of those neat flowers. That being said, Blue Dream tastes like pencil shavings, never made me giggle or happy (the complete opposite, in fact) — but it also makes me stare in a cool way. I call Golden Goat "mother-in-law weed" because it makes me very compliant. Plus, both are very susceptible to powdery mildews. If I have to throw some under the bus, I'll go on record with those.
What are some misconceptions about cannabis that still exist, even among regular consumers?
I truly feel that the belief that sativas makes you energetic and that somehow vaping is a part of a health trend are both misconceptions. It's super-awesome to get high and do yoga or ride a bike, but I think that is more within the person before smoking a joint.
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Maybe the the biggest misconception is that we budtenders all get free weed. Time after time, folks from in state, out of state and even our medical clientele seem to think that we all get free weed, or that you only get paid in cash if you work in a dispensary. Neither are true!
Do you think budtenders are educated enough overall? What can the industry do to arm them or consumers with more information?
The budtenders that represent the industry overall get it, judging from serving others and talking with other budtenders when I'm buying something from another shop. The state says this and that, and this is what it has seen and so on and so forth. But adult cannabis consumption is for the individual to start slow and develop a relationship with any of the styles offered.
In a perfect world, we have owners that are getting their employees educated with Sell Smart classes and communication leadership classes, like those offered by Maureen McNamara and others. There are plenty of METRC classes you can sign up for, and my employers have all encouraged staff to read the Cannabist, High Times or other cannabis sites. All of us inside this industry recognize the importance of what is happening and the privilege to provide this service as an adult or medical card holder — not as a criminal.