When Ohio voters opted to legalize recreational marijuana, Kent State was ready with a study program to meet the demand for jobs in the industry.
The university is offering four online, noncredit, six-month certificate programs in cannabis healthcare and medicine, cannabis agriculture and horticulture, the business of cannabis, and cannabis compliance and risk management.
Kent State offers the certificates in partnership with California company Green Flower. On its website, Green Flower calls itself “the cannabis industry’s most trusted training provider.”
Daniel Kalef, Green Flower’s chief growth officer, said the company had approached public and private universities across Ohio before choosing Kent State in early 2023.
At that time, negotiations centered on career fields related to medical marijuana, but it soon became clear that Ohio’s marijuana landscape was about to shift.
“We were reading the tea leaves,” Kalef said. “We were talking to people who were well connected in the cannabis industry and talking to people who have been behind the legislative efforts. We really thought it was a good possibility that would happen, but even if it didn’t, we knew there was a significant need to serve the medical market. It worked out to be perfect timing.”
Green Flower’s agreement with Kent State has the company bearing 100% of the financial risk, Kalef said. Additionally, Kent State will publicize the four course offerings over social media or via other free platforms, but Green Flower will cover costs for paid advertising.
“We share in the tuition revenue. We don’t charge the school any upfront fees. Students come, and we share the revenue, or they don’t come, and it didn’t cost Kent State anything,” he said, declining to specify the revenue sharing specifics.
Green Flower does not intend to partner with any other university in Ohio, he said, adding that Kent State recognized the need for training in specific areas, was willing to lead the state in marijuana-based education, and had a proven record of success in reaching out to and serving adult learners.
Since most of Green Flower’s students are aged 25 to 36, and envision a career in a marijuana-related industry, serving adult learners is especially important, he said.
The course offerings are:
A Cannabis Healthcare and Medicine Certificate, geared toward healthcare and retail professionals who aspire to deliver accurate information and valuable guidance to clients and customers.
A Cannabis Agriculture & Horticulture Certificate, which will equip aspiring cultivators with the skill set to “excel in the art of cannabis cultivation,” according to Kent State’s website. Students learn about genetics, cultivation techniques, indoor and outdoor growing methods, effective pest management and sustainable practices.
Students enrolled in this 100%-online program receive hands-on experience growing a plant and documenting the process.
A Business of Cannabis Certificate, which is intended to provide enrollees with the knowledge and skills needed to negotiate the “complexities and unique aspects of the cannabis landscape,” the university’s website states. Topics include retailing cannabis, marketing and real estate, all aimed at arming students with the critical business skills necessary for success.
A Cannabis Compliance & Risk Management Certificate, which focuses on complexities surrounding cannabis regulations, licensing and security protocols. Students develop an understanding of industry best practices, legal frameworks and compliance standards.
The most popular of the four courses has been agriculture and horticulture. Commonwealths and states that legalize marijuana for recreational use tend to quickly experience product shortages because there are not enough growers and not enough people who understand how to do it for commercial purposes, Kalef said.
“Because it’s not federally legal, everything that is sold in Ohio has to be grown in Ohio, has to be extracted, products have to be produced, developed, packaged, labeled. It creates its own ecosystem within the state,” he explained.
Kent State launched the first classes this week, but students may register until midnight Jan. 14. The next session will start March 4. Cost for all programs is $499 a month. Each program consists of three eight-week courses: Cannabis 101, plus two more in the focus area of the student’s choice.
Students may study from anywhere on their own time. Kent State’s website estimates that students should expect to devote six to eight hours a week to complete coursework. Visit the program’s website for more information and to sign up.