Samuel Brubaker, owner, founder and head budtender at Prairie State Hemp, 460 E. Washington St., has over 10 years' experience in the cultivation and wholesale supply of cannabis, but is fairly new to the budtender aspect of the business. However, when he opened Prairie State Hemp in April 2022 and had not yet found a budtender to serve customers, he quickly got up to speed and made it happen. Brubaker can now add outstanding budtender to his resume.
The term budtender was first used in 1997, following the 1996 legalization of medical marijuana in the state of California – the very first state in the country to legalize. A budtender is an integral position to the entire dispensary operation. It is the most visible position in cannabis retail and is at the heart of customer service. Each person who walks into a dispensary has a unique reason for visiting, numerous questions to be answered, and they may be there for recreational or medicinal use.
Brubaker said that as a budtender he gets great satisfaction from helping people, especially "when you can increase the quality of someone's life." He said the business side of the dispensary is fun, but his passion is "being able to help people find something that will benefit them, whether it be medicinal or for recreational use."
A competent budtender needs to have a great deal of knowledge. Brubaker said, "We create many of these products in-house. I know what's in there and how it can interact with someone's medications or mental state." Being a budtender, he continued, "is not just about selling the products."
Brubaker said, "We place a big emphasis on local. All products are locally sourced, and the CBD products are grown in Illinois." Brubaker himself grew up in Taylorville.
Plans for the future, according to Brubaker, include continuing his education within the industry, diversifying the product line and bringing new products to customers. As the business hires new budtenders, Brubaker said he will educate them so there's no gap in skills. "We are building a good team of budtenders at Prairie State Hemp."