On Thursday, a survey course will begin at the private, for-profit online Dunlap-Stone University called “The Modern Cannabis Industry.” The school also plans to implement degree programs in areas of the budding weed business, including a Bachelor of Health Administration with a specialization in cannabinoid therapies, and a Bachelor of Business with a specialization in cannabis operations.
“A lot is happening in the marijuana industry, and education is needed,” says university President Donald Burton. “We see the demand for a quality education program. We are looking all the way toward programs at the doctorate level.”
The six-week elective course costs $990 for three credit hours and is open to anyone who meets its general requirements, which include having a high school diploma.
As an online school, headquartered at 19820 North 7th Street, Suite 100 in Phoenix, Dunlap-Stone University primarily is known for degree programs in international trade compliance, and also offer bachelor's and master's degrees in areas including healthcare and management. The university is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
While some community colleges have offered programs in marijuana growing, Burton says the course is the first covering the business of marijuana to meet national accreditation standards.
“It’s not just about growing weed anymore,” Burton says. “It’s a very specialized science. It's very exacting getting the various strains needed for treatment . . . It’s become a burgeoning industry with jobs in medical research, biology, chemistry, and medical [treatment].”
Gerry Bedore, a former horticulturist for the state of Georgia and a leader in the cannabis industry, is the primary educator for the class. He says students will explore the history of cannabis in the United States, myths and stigmas associated with the plant, recent medical uses and scientific discoveries, and legal issues.
“The class will offer an in-depth look at the industry as a whole,” Bedore says. “People can really expect to get a good understanding of how we got to where we are now, including a little about the history of cannabis and the legal realities.”
Cannabis education is just one aspect of the field that is likely to experience a boom in 2016, as Arizona further adjusts to current medical-marijuana legalization and anticipates a likely referendum in November calling for legalization of adult-use marijuana, as voters in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia already have done. While the course at Dunlap-Stone is rare because it's an online school adding marijuana-business education to its current curriculum, dozens of local classes are offering instruction in various aspects of the cannabis business. Most of the courses are designed to help students secure jobs in the field.
In 2013, THC University introduced Colorado's first professional marijuana-cultivation training program. Next year, the school also will offer an online program specifically covering
Arizona’s law regarding medical marijuana, says Dane Volkel, a counselor at THC.
“A lot is happening in the marijuana industry,” says online university President Donald Burton. “We are looking all the way toward programs at the doctorate level.”
“People don’t want to hire someone who doesn't know anything about [marijuana] except that they like smoking it," Volkel says. “It’s a tough industry to get a job in, but education and certification can be very helpful.”
Tara Brown, staffing coordinator at Herbal Risings Cannabis Career College in Phoenix, teaches a six-hour course for people looking to find work at medical-marijuana dispensaries.
“It’s just an unusual industry,” she says. “Arizona is so early in the game. But there are so many business opportunities for people to get out and start something in the industry.”
Educating individuals employed in the marijuana field is essential for the growth of weed-based businesses, Brown says. Although some students initially express trepidation about working in the marijuana field, she says, once they learn about the benefits of the drug, they often have a change of heart.
“So many people are so nervous to come to these classes because it’s cannabis,” she says. “The more people get educated about it, the more they’re not ashamed anymore. They’re proud of what they’re doing.”