Aspiring entrepreneurs and workers in Ohio’s upcoming legal recreational marijuana market have a new path to success with the launch of cannabis certification courses at Kent State University. Designed to give students a solid educational footing in the ins and outs of regulated adult-use cannabis, the first classes in Kent State’s cannabis certification program began this month.
Ohio voters legalized recreational marijuana late last year with the passage of Question 2, a ballot measure that passed with 57% of the vote. State lawmakers are currently debating how and when adult-use cannabis sales will begin in the state, with some legislators calling for a quick launch of recreational weed sales at existing medical marijuana dispensaries.
Kent State is offering the new cannabis certification program to prepare workers and potential business owners to fill job openings and open new businesses as the industry expands to serve a recreational market. The program was developed in collaboration with Green Flower, a California-based company that specializes in developing cannabis education programs.
“This is an important opportunity for Kent State University to collaborate with a recognized private education provider for training related to the emerging cannabis industry,” Peggy Shadduck, Kent State’s vice president for regional campuses and dean of the College of Applied and Technical Studies, said in a statement from the university. “These on-demand online certificate programs will enable individuals to develop specialized knowledge and skills related to the cannabis industry at their own pace.”
“Trained professionals are needed to fill the jobs that are being created now and that will be created in the future,” Shadduck added.
Kent State’s cannabis training includes four different non-credit certification programs, each consisting of about six months of instruction. All classes are asynchronous and held online.
The Cannabis Healthcare and Medicine Certificate educates healthcare professionals and retail workers so that they can give accurate and helpful information to medical marijuana patients. The Cannabis Agriculture and Horticulture Certificate trainers students who wish to gain employment in weed cultivation.
The Business of Cannabis Certificate gives aspiring business owners and employees knowledge about the particulars of operating an enterprise in the regulated cannabis industry. The Cannabis Compliance and Risk Management Certificate is designed to train regulatory compliance professionals, who are responsible for ensuring businesses follow all relevant laws and regulations. Each program costs $2,950, with enrollment in the programs available online.
Students who complete the program will receive a digital certificate and badge, as well as membership in a cannabis industry employer network. Benefits of membership in the network include virtual career events, priority for new job postings, and other networking opportunities, according to a release from the university cited by the Akron Beacon Journal.
Ohio’s Growing Weed Industry
Ohio’s medical marijuana program currently has about 179,000 patients, according to data from state cannabis regulators. According to the Vangst 2023 Jobs Report, which tracks cannabis industry employment trends by state and nationwide, Ohio’s legal medical marijuana industry grew by 24% last year, creating more than 1,300 new jobs in the state.
“Even before legalization even took place, Kent State said this is an industry they wanted to help develop the new workforce,” said Max Simon, CEO of Green Flower.
“If you want to play a role as an entrepreneur, a manager, or if you want to play a role servicing these businesses,” Simon told local news media. “I think the timing is perfect for this Kent State program. It’s six months, entirely online. And they will allow people to have an enormous leg up when this industry shapes up, which is planned for next summer.”
Daniel Kalef, chief growth officer at Green Flower, said Kent State is one of the first nonprofit universities in Ohio to offer a cannabis certification program.
“There’s been a tremendous response already,” he said. “More than 40 students have enrolled already after launching two weeks ago. We talked to a lot of schools. Kent State was tremendous. They understood it could be controversial, but they understood the need in the industry.”
Kalef noted that with cannabis still a federally illegal substance, businesses are not allowed to order products produced outside of Ohio. Because of the ban on interstate cannabis commerce, production availability and selection may be limited when the regulated recreational market opens in the state.
“If I sell anything in a dispensary in Ohio, I have to have everything grown and made in Ohio,” he said. “I can’t get marijuana from Kentucky or gummies from Illinois. … It’s a complicated process to take a plant to turn it into something else.”
Last year’s passage of Question 2 made Ohio the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. And as more states take the same step, the regulated cannabis industry will continue to grow.
“There are over half a million people working in legal cannabis today [nationwide],” Kalef said. “With the state of Ohio, this will grow even more.”