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New York will spend $5 million on ‘seed-to-sale’ cannabis college programs

Programs will emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion in the marijuana business

The Empire State will spend $5 million to fund programs and courses at community colleges that will help students train and find employment in the cannabis industry.

“[Niagara County Community College] is excited to receive this infusion of capital from SUNY. With it, we will purchase a ‘first of its kind,’ self-contained growing container to offer hands-on instruction in growing cannabis here on our campus,” Brian Michel, the administrative lead on Niagara County Community College’s cannabis education program, told The College Fix in a July 25 email.

The campus initiative “will expand course offerings to truly embody a 4-phased ‘Seed-to-Sale’ model where students are educated on cultivation, harvest processing, retail sales, and also the legal implications of such work,” Michel told The Fix.

The program’s courses include “Cannabis Production,” “Cannabis: Society, Policies, & Compliance,” and a culinary class titled “Cannabis & Edibles.”

“New York’s new cannabis industry is creating exciting opportunities, and we will ensure that New Yorkers who want careers in this growing sector have the quality training they need to be successful,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul stated in a June 18 news release that announced the investment.

Four colleges, including three SUNY community colleges and one CUNY community college, will receive funding to “support the creation or enhancement of short-term credential programs or course offerings that provide pathways to employment in the cannabis industry,” according to the announcement.

Cannabis training programs are already underway throughout New York state.

Farmingdale State College offers a “Cannabis Production and Management Certificate,” according to the “Cannabis Training and Education” page on the New York State Department of Labor website. Medgar Evers CUNY in Brooklyn offers a cannabis minor. Over a dozen New York State colleges offer relevant majors, minors, certificates or courses.

Adults 21 and older can legally possess small amounts of cannabis for “personal use” in New York, according to the NYC Health website.

“Licensed Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries” are expected to start selling recreational marijuana in New York “before the end of 2022,” according to the New York State Office of Cannabis Management.

Diversity and inclusion are a priority for lawmakers, cannabis control board

Governor Hochul’s news release emphasized a goal of diversity, equity and inclusion in the state cannabis industry.

“Diversity and inclusion are what makes New York’s workforce a competitive, powerful asset, and we will continue to take concrete steps to help ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate in the cannabis industry,” Hochul stated in the June 18 release.

Tremaine Wright, New York’s Cannabis Control Board chair, praised the governor in the news release for “developing programs that will help develop a diverse, equitable and accessible New York cannabis industry.”

“Colleges will serve social equity candidates as defined by the Office of Cannabis Management in their local communities.”

Licensees of conditional adult-use retail dispensaries are “establishing businesses owned by justice-involved individuals at the bedrock of New York’s adult-use cannabis market,” according to the state Office of Cannabis Management website.

The College Fix reached out twice to the New York State Office of Cannabis Management to ask what criteria they were using to identify “social equity candidates,” but it did not receive a response.

MORE: Schools move to offer marijuana studies degrees

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About the Author
Jacob Shields -- University of Maryland, College Park