Learning to grow: Midwest Cannabis Institute is cannabis education on a larger scale
For many years, cannabis cultivation was an underground process in Missouri, grown only by those daring enough to break the law in hopes to produce quality medicine.
Today, Missourians can grow medical marijuana, not only in their homes but for large legal grow operations in massive facilities with thousands of feet of plant canopy.
The scale of these operations compared to a typical home grow is drastically different. The grow rooms of the cannabis industry are hi-tech and have large amounts of automation. Not only does one need to know the biological processes related to the plant necessary to perform the job but also the intricacies of the environment and how to operate and maneuver the automation. How does someone gain the experience or qualification to work in these commercial cultivation facilities?
Mike Birkel, President of the Cultivation Solutions Group, and founder of the Midwest Cannabis Institute, Missouri’s first cannabis growth facility training program, with the institute’s Director Josh McNeill, a cannabis plant expert with experience running a massive scale indoor grow operations, are prepared to begin the process of educating and certifying the people interested in learning the skills necessary to work in the cannabis industry.
“The Midwest Cannabis Institute is a state-of-the-art training facility that will prepare students for growing cannabis on a commercial level. The school is intended to take any person, having no knowledge of how to grow cannabis, to a sought-after individual in the multi-billion-dollar cannabis industry,” said Director Josh McNeill.
Normally, it would be difficult to license a facility like this that is open to the public, however, if the plant being grown is hemp, it’s an easier process to license and allow access to the public. But why hemp instead of Medical Cannabis, and is there any difference between the plants?
“We are growing hemp because it was easy to get an industrial hemp license for a good price. (Medical marijuana) license prices are pretty high in Missouri so we decided to go the hemp route. A cannabis plant and a hemp plant are identical in their characteristics, except hemp has 0.3% or less of THC. All other aspects of the hemp and cannabis plant are the same, so growing hemp is no different than growing cannabis besides the fact that if you smoked our hemp plants, you wouldn’t get that high feeling like you would with a cannabis plant,” said Director McNeill.
When asked to explain what kind of training would be included in the program, McNeill responded enthusiastically, “Every part of the growing process is included in the training, starting with the seed and continuing all the way to sale. We focus on growing high-quality cannabis with a focus on patient safety, ensuring all students have a great understanding of how to safely grow cannabis to ensure patients get the highest quality, cleanest, medical cannabis. This course will prepare students with the ability to enter a large-scale commercial grow with all of the knowledge and skills needed to succeed.”
Director McNeill went into detail explaining, “The school is a general program that covers all aspects of cultivation in a 12-week program. Students will learn how to grow from seed to sale. When students begin the program, they will begin by learning how to germinate seeds in the first week of class. The program progresses through the growing process, by getting into the propagation stage, then the vegetative stage, then the flowering stage, and finally the harvesting stage. Students will also learn how to dry/cure the plants after harvest is completed.”
“We also offer one-day classes to learn about specific cultivation topics. We will teach one-day classes on things such as topping, trimming, canopy management, irrigation strategies, IPM strategies, cultivation planning, safety in cultivation, and more.”
McNeill spoke to an added benefit, “The learning in this program will also help you make connections with new people in the cannabis industry with the same passion as you and give you knowledge that can be shared with others.” He continued, “By the end of the program, students will be able to successfully take cuttings, top mother and vegetative plants, flowering, identify and create ideal environments, identify best practices to grow safe, clean cannabis, and much more.”
Improper training and lack of experience have often plagued the early days of cannabis legalization in new states. Although there are many crossover fields, the cannabis plant has a specific demand that requires experience in order to tend to.
Midwest Cannabis Institute seeks to provide specific training programs that will offer certification to provide employers. The Institute is also hoping to work with the State of Missouri to standardize this practice for state-wide use, eventually requiring this type of training, in order to work at a grow facility. This practice is used in many different fields, most notably electrical work.
“The idea came after visiting facilities and it was evident to me that there was a lack of formal training and methodology and specific aspects of safety. That’s when the idea of formalized training came to fit the observed needs in these facilities for the safety of the workers as well as the safety of the patients. This current training platform is utilized in several other trade industries and the idea to have that sort of training in the cannabis industry seems to be the right thing to do,” President Mike Birkel explained.
When asked about the growth of the institute and the direction he thought it would take, Birkel said, “I imagine the result being a more homogeneous type of training where there is a similar baseline among an apprenticeship grower and a grower who already has on-the-job training. We imagine that the methods and procedures implemented by the workers in the grow will result in safety, productivity, and uniformity in the industry. To that degree, we are hoping to engage the state of Missouri to issue a state-approved apprenticeship license that would encompass specified classroom training and on-the-job training. We are hoping this state license can one day become a baseline standard for the cannabis industry.”
With cannabis culture growing every day, certification and education are the cornerstones of the industry in more established states. With the possibility of adult use legalization coming up in two short months, it would seem that Midwest Cannabis Institute is on time to train the next wave of cannabis industry workers and usher Missouri into a new era of cultivation success.