Cannabis education drives growth in blooming industry
The cannabis industry has been growing at a rapid pace as more and more states are legalizing marijuana. With this growth, we are seeing new opportunities, with new careers and job opportunities that range from working at dispensaries to working in positions like compliance and inventory control, to even working in cultivation and extraction.
Each of these careers has quite a difference when it comes to what is expected in the day-to-day life of a cannabis career, one of the things many new entrants into the cannabis industry don’t always understand.
Colleges across the state are now offering classes that relate to the cannabis field, being taught by experts in the industry. The courses that are offered in the cannabis program can help one decide what field exactly they want to go into after graduation. Saint Louis is the current hotspot for those in-depth classes that will help you learn the necessary skills needed before journeying off into the industry.
Saint Louis University offers the country’s premier certificate program based online for those who can’t attend in-person classes. Stacy Godlewski is the Program Director for the Undergraduate Certificate of Cannabis Science and Operations.
From start to finish, it usually takes about a year to complete all 6 classes for the program. It takes 8 weeks to finish each course online. The only time a student can double up on the courses is over the summer and according to Godlewski, most students struggle trying to absorb the increased amount of information at the same time.
While the courses are online, they offer students a lot of hands-on experience, with participants performing tailored labs at home.
“Your first class, you could grow tomato plants. The second class, which is the cultivation class, you don’t grow your tomato plants. If you still have them and they’re growing, that’s great. But you have that knowledge of what it was like to take a seed and turn it into a plant. The cultivation course plays off of that. For extraction, you do have to go out and find ingredients. For some a lot of ingredients are in your pantry, but for some things like 100-proof alcohol, you might need to go get that. It is still very hands-on,” Godlewski said.
Paying out of pocket for the classes would be around $7500, but over 70% of students use financial aid to pay for it. It has even helped some students get more money at their jobs while taking the class.
“I have had students who have gone just to become a budtender, and they’ve gotten $3 or 4 extra an hour because they’re in our program and about to graduate. As a student, they have access to Se7en Staffing as part of the resources,” Godlewski said.
Se7en Staffing was named as one of the Best of the Industry by Greenway readers last year, and as a national recruitment agency for the cannabis industry, Se7en can help SLU students find jobs not only in Missouri, but in legal cannabis markets throughout the country. Se7en also helps students perfect their resumes to match the needs of any opportunity they choose to apply for.
The first course at SLU started in 2020 with about 40 students and that number has more than doubled with 146 new students starting this year.
Recently, Saint Louis Community College also launched a cannabis education program.
Billie Jo Voyles is one of the instructors for the Certificate of Specialization in Cannabis and Hemp Production offered at Saint Louis Community College. This course is a 13-hour minimum and is offered in Meramec. Voyles has been involved in the Missouri cannabis industry in one way or another since its inception. Voyles has worked in both the hemp and legal marijuana industries, gaining insight and experience in cultivation, manufacturing, and the processes of production and distribution while learning about participating in a regulated industry first-hand along the way.
“I use a lot of my personal extraction experience and videos and photos to create a lot of the modules for students to review. I think the combination of having the background of understanding the growth of the plant and then working in extraction for 4 years, I can give them more of that realistic, not just theory and book-based knowledge. Or what our regulations are by state, and this is how we implicate that or implement that in the lab and realistic vocations and our hopes and goals versus what we really get in the end result,” Voyles said.
There is a lot of trial and error in getting the formulas just right and that is what Voyles brings to her class; a real-world approach to learning.
Voyles’ classes have had the opportunity to tour different labs and testing facilities near the school, seeing the industry in action first hand. Most recently Voyles’ class toured the EKG Labs testing lab in October. There, Voyles and SLCC students were able to learn about the testing process and were walked through a breakdown of the new rules that were set to become effective November 1.
One of the hopes Voyles has about touring facilities is that it will help students network ahead of program completion.
With the beginning of recreational marijuana in February, it has made for even more opportunities in the industry. With new retail locations and brands launching seemingly daily, the cannabis industry in Missouri has become a beacon in the country, with cannabis education both benefiting from and propelling the growth here.
Cannabis education isn’t just for people wanting to go into the industry.
Voyles is also passionate about being involved in the community, frequently appearing at public events, and teaching people about safe ways to find and consume cannabis. The main thing teaching cannabis education does is legitimize and destigmatize the industry according to Voyles and Godlewski.
“We’re legitimizing an industry. If you put education behind a subject matter, it legitimizes things. And I’m happy that we’re doing that,” Godlewski said.