Cannabis Colleges Crop Up: New Institutions for 'Higher' Learning

Don't expect to pull an all-nighter at Med Grow Cannabis College.

Michigan's first training center for medical marijuana education doesn't ask students for their homework. There are no final exams.

"We're more of a trade school," said Nick Tennant, Med Grow's 24-year-old founder.

As states loosen their medical marijuana laws, institutions such as Med Grow are sprouting up, looking to educate potential caregivers about how to enter the cannabis industry the legal way.

Tennant opened the doors of Med Grow's 4,800-square-foot facility near Detroit in September, about 10 months after voters approved the state's medical marijuana act.

Video: University teaches students about marijuana.
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Always wanting to be his own boss, Tennant had dropped out of college to manage valet and auto-detail companies. But when his businesses contracted under the smothering recession, he looked to the medical marijuana industry for his next opportunity, months before the measure was up for public vote.

"We knew the law was going to get passed," he said.

In addition to Michigan, 12 states have legalized medical marijuana use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Tennant fashioned part of his business model after California's Oaksterdam University, which claims to be the country's first cannabis college, opening in 2007.

Oaksterdam has three campuses in California: Oakland, Los Angeles and North Bay. Spokeswoman Salwa Ibrahim said the institution, which staffs about 50 employees, has graduated about 5,500 students. Oaksterdam welcomes the country's new crop of cannabis colleges, she said.

"We welcome competition," she said. "Ultimately, what we're trying to do is change laws locally and federally."

Hawaii activist Roger Christie says he connects the high he sustains from marijuana use as a "spiritual" ritual, a practice he believes is legal under First Amendment religion protections. He has been an advocate of marijuana use and legalization for 23 years, he said.

Only recently did he add educational outreach to his Hawaii Cannabis Ministry. After reading a news story about a continental cannabis college, he decided to add monthly seminars to his ministry's repertoire this fall.

So far, he has educated about 60 people over two weekend seminars. A $100 donation covers the cost of classes and a hemp seed lunch.

"We train people to grow the best cannabis humanly possible," Christie said.

Med Grow students cover an array of topics related to the budding industry over semester-long courses or seminars. The curriculum covers proper cultivation and breeding, cooking tips and recipes, how to start a care-giving business and Cannabis History 1010.

"Students should feel very confident that they're going to succeed," Tennant said.

Medical Marijuana Classes Flourish

Tennant's school employs 12 people, he said. About 60 students are taking courses during this cycle. Med Grow's five-week semester program, which offers two tracks convening on Monday or Wednesday nights, costs $475.

Unlike accredited academic institutions, there is no standard of practices for cannabis colleges in Michigan. Tennant provides his graduates with a paper certificate anyway.

It isn't required, but a student could use it to establish credibility as a professional caregiver, proving he or she is "not just some Joe Shmoe off the street," he said.

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