On social media,
The patchwork of local cannabis laws, however, forces budtenders to improvise: tiptoeing around certain trigger words and creating exceptionally discreet content on social media platforms.
One misstep and a budtender’s account could be quickly disabled or shadowbanned.
Budtenders Take to Social Media
TikTok — downloaded 3 billion times since its launch — bans words like “cannabis” and “stoner” from being used in posts entirely, making budtenders and cannabis lovers in general get well, a little creative about how they find each other.
Instagram notoriously doesn’t allow people to use the platform to advertise or sell cannabis — regardless of the seller’s jurisdiction. You could get punished if a post appears to be remotely advertorial in nature. But on Instagram,
Other platforms such as the livestreaming platform Twitch or microblogging platform Twitter, now under Elon Musk’s control, have a bigger problem with bullying rather than budtenders and plugs. They are practically tailor-made for bullies, so it’s often up to users to protect themselves.
On other platforms such as Snapchat, getting away with smoking pot and discussing budtending is a bit easier. Still, cannabis remains a challenge for users who don’t want to risk getting their account pulled.
A shadowban occurs when a platform restricts posts and hides them from the hashtags to punish a user. Deleted posts, which are almost always found when they are reported, often lead to disabled accounts.
For the most part, budtenders specifically are mostly worried about compliance in their own jurisdictions, and punishments in the real world. This often means checking for IDs for every transaction and acquiring the knowledge it takes to be informed on decisions in the dispensary.
Budtenders on TikTok
Despite the challenging way cannabis is prohibited on the platform, budtenders find ways to make themselves visible on TikTok. TikTok’s Community Guidelines indicate that “content that depicts or promotes drugs, drug consumption, or encourages others to make, use, or trade drugs or other controlled substances” is banned — including any cannabis trigger words.
“I use TikTok and Reddit as my primary social media,” Piper Johnson tells High There. “TikTok is so random with what they choose to allow — I’ve gotten away with showing edibles, but showing flower itself and smoking usually gets taken down.” Johnson’s nearly 26,000 followers on TikTok @driedapricotlungs is boosted by her gripes about typical #budtender problems. Johnson budtends at
One of Johnson’s posts about the budtender point-of-view gained over 210,000 likes.
Among all major social media platforms, perhaps TikTok is the most unforgiving when it comes to cannabis-related words. Using words such as “cannabis” are completely out of the question. But many people don’t know that using other words and phrases like “DM me” or “msg me” are just as bad and will trigger an algorithm.
Does that stop content creators from using cannabis hashtags? Absolutely not.
This leads people to improvise with hashtags such as #canna #cannafam or #cannatok — or cleverly misspelled words like #ouid. Even within comments, users often use words like sm0king to avoid drawing attention.
“The #stoner has been banned, I believe,” says Johnson, “So usually I use #budtender, #Colorado, #ouid or any trending hashtags to get my videos more traction. I find that the algorithm is really good at showing personalized content so usually stoners just kind of find each other naturally.”
Johnson herself was banned multiple times, using different accounts. “I’ve had my old account banned, as well as this one,” she says. “I’ve had multiple violations of Community Guidelines on this TikTok account and every cannabis-related video I post is risky because they could ban me — at any time.”
Johnson says the most annoying question she’s been asked as a budtender is “Do you have Stevia?” instead of “Do you have a sativa?” The general ignorance about what makes bud good abounds. Indica and sativa are probably poor and unscientific ways to categorize cannabis in the first place, but frequently cannabis store patrons don’t even know the difference between those categories. When budtenders like Johnson correct customers, they don’t always listen.
Budtenders on Twitch
“I love Twitch as it has been a way for me to watch and interact with people in different communities of things I enjoy — be it as a streamer or as a watcher,” Rayven, who is transgender, tells High There.
Twitch is a livestreaming service used primarily for gaming content as well as entertainment, sports and music. Like most other social media platforms, Twitch doesn’t allow smoking pot or any other drug use.
“I have thought of doing some livestreams of events we got to with the podcast via Twitch but it does make me a little worried,” Rayven admits. “While I can talk about it, the Terms of Service does make it a gray area with cannabis. It states that we can’t do anything against local laws, but I don’t trust Twitch enough not to block or ban us for streaming with cannabis.”
Rayven can be found, often playing Pokémon, under her handle @pokemontrainerrayven on Twitch.
Under Twitch’s Community Guidelines, the platform appears to be more worried about trolls and bullying than drugs, however banned topics include “suicide threats, intentional physical trauma, illegal use of drugs, illegal or dangerous consumption of alcohol, and dangerous or distracted driving.”
Twitch’s toxic aspects, such as fat-shaming or female-shaming are enhanced by the way gamers and users interact with each other. This doesn’t stop Rayven from using the platform.
Smoking Out the Closet “can be found on Spotify, Anchor, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, and Amazon music,” co-host Alex Greer tells High There.
“I am one half of Smoking Out the Closet. We are a queer cannabis podcast,” adds Rayven. “We try to focus on cannabis and LGBTQIA+ topics, but we do talk about some other stuff we find interesting. We upload every Tuesday night around 8 p.m. EST.”
Budtenders on Instagram
About 2 billion people are Monthly Active Users on Instagram, and anyone in cannabis knows how often cannabis-related and cannabis-adjacent accounts get dropped daily — with no exceptions for big followings. The main Instagram accounts for Jungle Boys, MJBizDaily and High Times, for instance, were all disabled at one point.
But being one of the most-used social media platforms makes Instagram a tempting choice despite the risk of losing an account at the drop of a dime.
“I’m most active on Instagram for sure, but I also post on
“The only one I have to be careful with is Insta,” Vazquez says. “I’ve noticed that if I post about the daily deals and promotions we’re having at work, my posts will be taken down.”
Instagram bans any posts “offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms, alcohol, and tobacco products between private individuals, and buying or selling non-medical or pharmaceutical drugs are also not allowed.”
Instagram goes further banning posts with any sort of link to drugs. “We also remove content that attempts to trade, co-ordinate the trade of, donate, gift, or ask for non-medical drugs, as well as content that either admits to personal use (unless in the recovery context) or coordinates or promotes the use of non-medical drugs,” the platform continues in its Community Guidelines.
But IRL, Vazquez also faces issues as a budtender, due to the lack of respect that’s getting better but still remains a problem within the cannabis industry. “It can be frustrating when people ask me questions or my opinion and then just dismiss what I say because it’s [not] what they want to hear,” Vazquez says.
In addition, the obsession with THC percentages without a full knowledge of cannabis can be disheartening. “I think a lot of times when people are fixated on percentages, it’s mainly because of a lack of education, I try to be patient and listen to customers needs, but in my experience if someone is fixated on THC percentage, then that’s all they’re going to care about and nothing that myself or anyone else has to say is going to convince them otherwise.”
Rayven agrees with the censorship that’s rising on Instagram. “On Instagram, showing cannabis — even in a neutral setting, more than once a day — is a guaranteed shadowban,” Rayven says. “It’s worse on TikTok where anything cannabis or smoking-related — even papers — can lead to a ban.”
Budtenders on High There
You don’t have to put up with strict terms of service or Community Guidelines. In some cases, an account that is disabled can be reinstated if the user adopts all of the appropriate steps. One option is to try an app that actually allows you to promote cannabis awareness and education.
High There provides a sense of community and the best part is that you won’t get your account banned or shadowbanned for posting content about cannabis. Since High There caters to people living in states with legal adult-use or medical cannabis, there is no risk.
“I’ve made some good friends on here!” Vazquez says about joining High There.
She continues, “I love the sense of community, and how welcoming everyone has been. I definitely use it for connecting with likeminded people, but there’s also a lot of good resources and information here as well.”
You don’t have to put up with strict Community Guidelines on certain social media platforms that don’t respect state cannabis laws. High There does not discriminate against users who choose to smoke on video, or use cannabis-related terminology. Instead, sharing cannabis-centric content is highly encouraged.
Budtenders in the Modern Era
Budtenders today boast competitive wages, and likewise demand to be treated with respect, no different than a person in an executive position. Gone are the days of exclusively female, often objectified budtenders—a toxic relic from days past that most dispensaries and cannabis stores abandoned years ago.
Organizations such as the
This is even more important for budtenders on social media, given the hordes of keyboard warriors and trolls. But despite opposition on both ends, from algorithms and trolls, budtenders find ways to work around these setbacks.
Budtenders and a Livable Wage
Due to the rise of inflation and the rise of minimum wage, budtenders are earning more nowadays, and some are paid on salary. Competitive wages in the marketplace are providing more dignity for budtenders behind the counter.
Others have taken steps to explore unionizing. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) runs the Cannabis Workers Rising campaign, which includes people who work at dispensaries and cannabis stores. Offshoots like the BC Budtender union cater exclusively to budtender members.
Budtenders are increasingly finding ways to keep their accounts on social media platforms active. By using creative ways to get around hashtag bans and trigger words, budtenders can find each other. Creators should do a little research and avoid using words and other actions that will likely get your accounts disabled.