‘It’s competitive’: East Bay school offers first cannabis education courses in Cal State University system

‘It’s competitive’: East Bay school offers first cannabis education courses in Cal State University system

Cal State East Bay is offering a new educational program to train people to be leaders in the cannabis industry.

The university is the first school in the California State University system to offer the strictly online cannabis certificate program.

“California is the nation’s top market for cannabis and top cannabis employer,” said Kate White, the school’s director of professional and continuing education. “When I saw that this was in demand — and the state is lacking in quality training programs — then it seemed like a great opportunity for us.”

The 6-month courses begin in November and are separated into four disciplines: cannabis health care and medicine; cannabis agriculture and horticulture; the business of cannabis; and cannabis compliance and risk management.

Students will earn a certificate — not a degree — upon completion of the coursework of their choice, and the classes are open to everyone older than 18. Each course costs about $3,000. The first classes begin Nov. 6, with staggered start dates thereafter. Registration is open.

Cal State East Bay is partnering with cannabis education and training company Green Flower to offer the courses, White said.

The courses are aimed at adults who are either looking to move up in the industry, switch careers or gain new skills related to the use and/or business of cannabis, she said. For example, the health care and medicine program is geared toward health care professionals who may want to advise their patients on the safe use of cannabis as part of a treatment plan, White said.

“We’re super excited at Cal State East Bay to be offering the programs,” White said. “We’re excited to the the first CSU doing it, and we’re really looking forward to having people be educated so that they can get in-demand jobs in this growing industry.”

Nationwide, more than 417,000 full-time equivalent jobs were supported by legal cannabis as of early 2023, according to a recent jobs report by Vangst, a cannabis job-recruiting platform. That’s a drop of 2% from a year ago, following “nearly a decade of unbroken double-digit job growth.”

California — where voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2016 — was among the states with the biggest job losses in the past year, shedding more than 12,500 jobs, or 13%, according to the report. The job losses were blamed on several factors, including a drop in wholesale prices, “onerous” regulations, high taxes and a “thriving non-regulated market enabled by local laws that prohibit legal sales in 60% of all municipalities,” the report said.

Max Simon, CEO and co-founder of Green Flower — the education and training company — said the cannabis industry is highly competitive.

“It’s competitive for quality,” Simon said in an interview. “It’s competitive at a price level. It’s competitive at a service level. It’s competitive at a branding and design and marketing level. And so in order to succeed at any of these things, there’s so much nuance to what people need to understand and to know.”

While the cannabis program is new to Cal State East Bay, Green Flower has been partnering with universities across the country to offer such cannabis certificate programs, including at Louisiana State University, Syracuse University in New York and the University of Arizona. The company has 24 total partnerships, Simon said.

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The educational programs are meant to guide industry professionals or hopefuls around the potential regulatory and economic pitfalls that could put an owner out of business, Simon said.

“Having well-educated employees that know those landmines and how to avoid them is critically important,” Simon said. “There’s a dirty secret in the cannabis industry: that people are wasting an enormous amount of money on lawyers cleaning up messes. That’s another area where it’s helpful.”

Simon said he’s had a long, personal relationship with cannabis. He’s been a medicinal cannabis patient for about 25 years, and cannabis has been a “very critical part” of his wellness journey, he said. In 2014, Simon — whose career has been in online education — said he started looking at the cannabis industry.

“Back then — way before any of this legalization wave swept the nation — I saw this incredible opportunity to be a part of building an industry that had a lot of misinformation and a lot of stigma and a lot of misunderstanding,” he said. “And that was going to both need to clear that up with good education and also build a workforce of people that could help work and grow the industry.”