Cannabis Microcredentials Can Boost Budding Careers

Green Flower, a company offering certificate courses at 27 universities nationwide, explains how cannabis microcredentials can give people a leg up in the industry.
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Published on March 25, 2024
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  • Green Flower offers online cannabis courses in medicine, risk management, business, agriculture, and horticulture.
  • According to Green Flower's Chief Growth Officer Daniel Kalef, cannabis industry leaders are looking for business people, healthcare workers, accountants, and more who understand cannabis.
  • Students who completed Green Flower courses report boosts in their careers, Kalef said.

The budding cannabis industry wants more experts in retail, business, medicine, and more. Universities now offer microcredentials for prospective students, adult learners, and industry workers who want to learn more about the plant.

Green Flower offers training and credentials for those looking to enter or move up in the cannabis industry. Green Flower is currently partnering with 27 universities on courses covering everything from business and risk management to medical education to agriculture and horticulture.

BestColleges spoke with Daniel Kalef, chief growth officer at Green Flower, to understand how it works. Kalef has been in higher education for over 16 years with online program managers (OPMs) and at Green Flower for almost five years.

Since it launched its first university partnership in 2020, Green Flower courses have helped students start businesses and get jobs and promotions in the cannabis industry.

Kalef said the Ventura, California-based company was founded to combat misinformation around cannabis once it became recreationally legal in California.

So our founders thought, What could we do to make sure that everybody's got a level playing field and truly understands what's happening? Kalef told BestColleges.

Then, they had a theory: Could they reach people nationwide through university cannabis courses?

Teaching Cannabis From 'Seed to Sale'

After spooking some universities afraid of losing federal financial aid with a for-credit course on cannabis, Green Flower pivoted to noncredit certificates through colleges' continuing education programs.

The courses teach cannabis on a federal level so students can apply knowledge to any field in the industry without getting too far into the weeds of state legislation.

Green Flower took input from over 600 cannabis experts to find the industry's most significant problems. They told Kalef, We can't find people to work on the business side who really understand anything.

Very few people — I don't care how well you grow tomato plants in your backyard — understand, commercial agriculture and horticulture is a whole new world.

So Green Flower came up with five six-month online courses:

  • Cannabis Healthcare and Medicine: A program for retail and medical professionals who want a better understanding of the medical properties and benefits of cannabis.
  • Cannabis Compliance and Risk Management: For students who want to understand the risks of operating a commercial cannabis business and learn how to mitigate them with a proven “Cannabis Risk Management Framework.”
  • The Business of Cannabis: For students who want to understand seed to sale. The program covers topics from human resources to marketing and retail.
  • Cannabis Agriculture and Horticulture: For students who want to learn cannabis plant growth techniques, botany, and genetics.
  • Cannabis Product Development and Design: A program that teaches how to extract cannabis, make it into different products, and market a brand.

Today, students can take Green Flower's cannabis courses at 27 universities and workforce training programs at several community colleges. Kalef said nearly 6,000 students have enrolled in Green Flower's programs since they launched in July 2020.

Kalef said doctors and nurses can benefit from these courses since they receive minimal cannabis education in school.

If you're in a state where suddenly it's legal, and you've got patients saying, Hey, this is great news. I don't need my blood pressure medicine anymore because the guy at the dispensary told me just eat this chocolate bar! What is the doctor going to say if they don't really understand? Kalef asked.

Kalef said Green Flower surveys students midway through the program, right after completion, and six months after completion. Students who've taken these courses told Green Flower the courses have helped them get jobs, start businesses, treat patients more efficiently, and earn promotions.

According to Kalef, turnover in retail cannabis is upwards of 40% nationally. A study from Seattle-based data company Headset found that budtenders — staff members at dispensaries — have a 55% turnover rate.

People entering the roles have never worked in cannabis, so they don't know what they're talking about to customers. Kalef said if you can come in with a cannabis education, you're leaps and bounds ahead of others and have greater opportunities to retain and grow within a job.

We get a lot of people who are like a budtender at a dispensary, and then they take our business program, and they move into management, Kalef told BestColleges. The industry loves to hire from within. So, when you level up your knowledge, you can level up in the industry.

Kalef said people always think of growing and manufacturing cannabis first. But companies in the field also need people who understand marketing, sales, banking, accounting, and cannabis.

The Future of Cannabis in Higher Education

Kalef said Green Flower is seeing more schools realize that cannabis programs are not going to run them afoul of the federal government.

Kalef said Green Flower has been seeing cannabis degrees pop up nationwide. Some partners are beginning to offer Green Flower's courses for credit, like at the University of California, Riverside's extension school.

Last year, the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) announced a new cannabis and dietary supplement online master's degree program, and California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, launched a bachelor of arts in cannabis studies.

Since 2017, bachelor's degrees, associate degrees, certificates, and minors in cannabis have popped up all over the country. Right now, Green Flower is seeing growing interest from adults with some college education who either want to get into or who are already in the industry.

He predicts as the industry matures, teenagers growing up in cannabis-legalized states will want to find careers in the industry and consider cannabis majors, minors, and specializations in college.

But today, the vast majority of people that are in the industry are adults who are career-changing or career-building, Kalef told BestColleges. And so the microcredential, these noncredit certificates, make the most sense.