New York Community Colleges Get $5 Million for Cannabis Courses

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced funding to create cannabis industry-relevant courses at community colleges in the SUNY and CUNY systems.
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  • New York state legalized adult-use cannabis in March 2021.
  • The SUNY and CUNY community colleges will use the funding to create cannabis industry-relevant credential programs and courses.
  • The programs aim to get students jobs in New York's fast-growing cannabis industry.

Thousands of community college students in New York will soon have access to new programs preparing them for jobs in the state's fast-growing cannabis industry.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul last week announced $5 million in funding for cannabis credential programs for community colleges in the City University of New York (CUNY) and State University of New York (SUNY) systems.

The money will be spent on the "creation or enhancement of short-term credential programs or course offerings that provide pathways to employment in the cannabis industry," according to Hochul's announcement.

"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," Hochul said. "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."

CUNY's Borough of Manhattan Community College will receive $2 million. Three SUNY community colleges will receive $1 million each and partner with other nearby community colleges to set up the programs: Schenectady County Community College, Niagara County Community College, and Orange County Community College.

CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said the system "is proud to be at the forefront of creating innovative courses and degree programs that position our students to leverage the opportunities that the nascent cannabis industry presents."

Deborah F. Stanley, SUNY's interim chancellor, called the cannabis credentialing program "an exciting new field of study for those seeking a competitive edge when applying for careers in dispensaries, grow labs, or CBD and THC sales."

“The system is proud to be at the forefront of creating innovative courses and degree programs that position our students to leverage the opportunities that the nascent cannabis industry presents.”
Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, CUNY Chancellor

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The New York State Department of Labor and the Office of Cannabis Management will connect businesses to the community colleges' new cannabis industry programs to help students land jobs, according to the announcement.

"By investing in quality accreditation programs on SUNY and CUNY campuses, we are empowering New Yorkers to achieve their career goals," Roberta Reardon, commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor, said in the release. "This is a win for cannabis employers and a win for workers looking to move into in-demand careers with untapped potential in New York State."

New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut each legalized adult-use marijuana last year, and each state is in the process of developing regulations and licensing for cultivation operations and dispensaries.

As a result, cannabis courses are cropping up at colleges in this tri-state region.

In New York, CUNY's Medgar Evers College last year became the system's first campus to launch a cannabis minor.

Equity is a major focus of that program.

Dr. Alicia Reid, chair of Medgar Evers College's chemistry and environmental sciences department, said at the time that "the central tenet of this entire program is to achieve targeted outcomes that will elevate a community that has been sidelined, blocked out, stifled, alienated and even forgotten because of the devastating and adverse impact of the U.S.'s historical war on drugs and associated cannabis policies."

While cannabis remains illegal under federal law, states continue to legalize recreational and medical use of the plant, creating a patchwork of laws and markets across the country. Adult-use cannabis is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and medical use is legal in 37 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.